Saturday, July 25, 2015

Running 101: 5 Dos, Don'ts, and Tips for Buying Running Shoes

I realized something this week.  This blog is Read, Run, Teach, right?  I talk about reading and teaching plenty, but I really don't talk that much about running.  So . . . I thought I'd fix that!  I'm starting a new Saturday series that will hopefully get - or keep - you running.  If you're so inclined.

Now, let me start by saying that I am NOT an expert.  I don't have personal training certification, I'm not a running coach, and I'm most definitely not qualified to offer medical advice (beyond the standard Dr. Mom variety).  And, as with any exercise program, always consult your doctor first to make sure that running is okay for you.  That being said, I've been an avid runner for more than 10 years, and I've done everything from jogging for fun to running marathons, so I can offer some insider tips, words of wisdom, and share my own mistakes so that you can learn from them.

When people find out I run, and they decide they want to start running regularly, the first question I get is, "Where do I start?"  And the NUMBER ONE place I think you should start is with shoes.  Even if you're not sure if you'll stick with it, you should invest in good shoes.  First, if you do end up loving running, you definitely don't want that sidetracked by an injury caused by a bad shoe fit (trust me).  Second, good shoes are the foundation of running.  Sure, there are barefoot running proponents, and to each his own, but I personally need good shoes.  And third, even if you end up not liking to run - you've got a good pair of comfy shoes that are good for your feet!

So, let's talk shoes.

Here are the top 5 things you SHOULD NOT do when buying running shoes:  
  1. Buy the cheapest pair you can find.  You will hurt yourself.  Believe me.
  2. Buy the most expensive pair you can find, thinking that they're better because they're pricey.  Totally not true.  
  3. Choose a pair because they are:  cute, match your clothes, a "cool" brand, something everyone else has, feel super cushiony.  All can lead to injury.  Injury is not your friend.
  4. Buy anything from a discount shoe store.  I'm not saying that these stores are bad, but you don't want to go there for your first pair.  Wait until you know what works for you, and THEN keep an eye out for bargains.
  5. Go to a large chain sports store and think that they know what they are talking about.  Often, their sales people are high school or college kids who know how to fit shoes, but not necessarily for running.
So, now that you know what NOT to do - and, admit it, you were thinking about doing one of them - here's what you SHOULD do when buying your first pair of real running shoes:
  1. Get thyself to a specialty running store.  If you have a Fleet Feet in your area, that's a good one.  If you have a small local running store, that's awesome, too.  Here's why:  They know what they are doing!  They are runners, they know runners, and running shoes are their jam.  Tell them that you're a beginner, what your goals are, and how much you are realistically planning on running a week.  Also tell them if you're planning on running mostly outside (asphalt or sidewalk), on a treadmill, or on trails.     
  2. Take them out for a quick test drive.  A good store will let you do this, either on a treadmill in the store or on the sidewalk outside the store.  Be honest with your salesperson about how they feel - any pinching, tightness, or sliding?  Let them know!
  3. Try on as many pairs as you need to!  They are there to help you, so don't feel bad if you need to try on 6 or 7 pairs.  They love running, and they want you to love running, too, and it's hard to do that if your shoes hurt you.   
  4. Wear comfortable clothes.  Most running stores worth their salt will put you on a treadmill during the fitting process to analyze your gait and get you in a pair that works for YOU.  Don't be intimidated, but do wear something you're comfortable moving around in.
  5. Listen to the sales person.  Depending on your needs, the softest, most cushiony pair of shoes may not be for you - they can actually lead to injury.  Likewise, the thinnest, lightest pair may not have the support you need.  Your sales person will lead you in the right direction, and will give you a range of options to choose from.  Listen to them, and you'll be happier in the long run.  Pun intended.  :)
You'll very likely find that you end up walking out with a moderately priced pair of shoes that you may or may not like the looks of.  That's what you want.  

Now that you've got them home, here are 5 tips for taking care of them.
  • Try not to get them wet.  That really reduces the cushiony quality in them.  If they do get wet, give them a full 24 hours to dry out well.  If you're running outside, avoid puddles!
  • Ideally, you want to give your shoes a 24 hour break between runs to totally "spring back."  As you get more into running, you'll want to consider having two pairs of shoes and rotating them.  But for now, just try to run at about the same time every day.
  • Know that the optimum mileage for a pair of shoes is about 300 to 400 miles.  Some are more, some are less, but that's a good rule of thumb.  So, keep an eye on your mileage or for obvious signs of wear, especially on the heels.  Replace them before you think you need to - you don't want to try to get an extra month out of them if the heels are worn down, because you will get injured.
  • Do not wash your shoes in the washing machine.  Or any other way, for that matter.  If they get really dirty, just brush them off as best you can.  Washing them pretty much ruins them.
  • Do not wear them for anything but running and walking!!  I repeat.  Do not wear them to run errands, go to spin class, go to the mall, or as a comfortable pair of shoes on vacation.  These are specially designed for running, you probably paid a pretty penny for them, and every extra step you take in them is decreasing their life span.  Get another, less expensive pair of shoes for doing all that other stuff.  These have one purpose.  Honor it.
We'll come back to talking about shoes periodically, because they really are the one MUST HAVE piece of equipment for running.  Which is why I love the sport.  No expensive equipment, memberships, or class schedules are necessary!  Just lace up and head out the door.  So, take your time, choose wisely, and take care of them.  Because your shoes will most definitely be taking care of you.

Check back next week for tips on how to get started running with my favorite schedules and running programs for beginners!

Happy running.

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