Posted on May 6, 2015 at 6:00 am
I love shoes. Some days picking out which pair to wear is truly the best part of my day. My husband recently made a pointed remark about the number of shoes in my closet. I quickly reminded him that different occasions call for particular types of footwear. Some events I need high heels or sandals, while other activities require flats or loafers. With all my shoes, the one pair that I have been remiss about replacing is my running shoes. I put a lot of miles on them over the past three years. Not too long ago, I bought a new pair on sale but after a few runs quickly realized that they were not working for me.
I headed over to Runners Soul to talk with the owner, Curt Kinghorn. Curt has been in the sporting goods industry for over forty years, and opened Runners Soul in Spokane in 1999. He’s a familiar face around town, volunteering at races and lending his expertise at various events. We’ve even had him talk about finding the right footwear at an annual wellness event for the library. Curt was gracious enough to sit down with me to talk about how to find the right pair of running shoes.
What should I be looking for in a running shoe?
Fit is the most important thing, and there are really two parts to a good fit. The physical fit is really about finding a shoe long enough for your foot with room to allow your foot to expand. The other, and more critical factor, involves meeting the biomechanical needs for the feet. Everyone has some biomechanical issue ranging from hyper rigidity to hyper flexibility. A hyper rigid foot doesn’t absorb shock well, and requires more cushioning, whereas hyper flexibility leads to pronation without the right support. It’s good to take a look at the runner’s old shoes, to see what the wear pattern looks like. Old shoes tell the story. Then I’ll have them do a couple of exercises: first, stand with their feet together so I can see the tibia’s structure; second, stand on one foot so I can watch how things settle while they balance; and third, watch how they walk and place their feet. These exercises give me enough information to find a shoe that is going to make the runner happy and injury free.
I was able to watch Curt in action when another customer came into the store. The young lady ran track at a local high school. She didn’t have her old shoes with her, but Curt had her go through the three exercises so he could help her find the right shoe. She prefers a lighter, racing-style shoe, but for everyday training Curt recommended something with more support. It was interesting to watch the negotiation, as he never pushed a particular shoe on the runner, but rather brought out several pairs and helped her find one that they could both agree was a good fit.
What’s the most common mistake people make in choosing a running shoe?
Shoes tend to run small, so people buy too small a size. That can result in having some numbness or tingling as their feet swell. You should get a shoe that’s half to a full size larger than you normally wear. The longer the run and the hotter the weather, the more your feet will swell. Also, people will often refuse to accept the idea that they might have a biomechanical deficiency that needs to be corrected.
How can you tell if you’re running in the wrong shoe? What are common indicators?
If the shoe is too short or too tight, you might experience some numbing or tingling. It could also be laced too tightly. Other indicators, like heel pain at the bottom of the foot or in the ankles, knees, or hips, or undue fatigue could indicate that the shoe is a poor fit or worn out and needs to be replaced.
How often should you replace your shoes?
I use the rule of 10. Divide the number of miles you typically run in a week by 10, and that’s about how many pairs of shoes you’ll go through in a year. For example, if you usually run about 9-10 miles a week, you’ll want to replace your shoes once a year.
After chatting with Curt, I handed him my old shoes to get his take on things. He looked for signs of wear on the sides and heels, and agreed that the wear pattern (down the center of the tread) of my old shoes indicated they were a pretty good fit for me. It turns out the reason the replacement shoes I’d previously bought weren’t working for me was because they were a size too small. A little while later, I walked out with a new pair of shoes that fit and felt fantastic. There was something about having a new pair of running shoes that made me feel like a little kid again. I wanted to jump up and down, skip, hop, and bounce all day. So what did I do? I went for a run.
Spokane is a spectacular place for runners. Once you’ve found the right running shoes, pay a visit to the library. We have a great collection of books to inspire and motivate you while improving and perfecting your run.