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It's the Shoes!

As I was writing last month’s article, I got to thinking about running shoes and the importance of having the right running shoe. So, I’ve been thinking about this post for a number of weeks. : )

Now, as a rookie runner, I just went to the store and found a pair of shoes in the “running” section that weren’t too overly expensive and felt good to walk in — and tah-dah, my first pair of running shoes. I think they were a low-end Adidas or something like that. Well, I was only running a few miles at a time and I didn’t know squat about running shoes except that these were a lot more cushiony and comfortable than running in my Nike hightop basketball shoes (note to runners: don’t go out for cross country when your only pair of athletic shoes are a pair of basketball shoes . . . especially if the course happens to run through a beach and has standing water in other sections . . . not that that’s a particular nightmare from my high school days or anything — yes, it WAS a nightmare! : )

ANYWAY…, as I started to run regularly, my low-end Adidas seemed to wear out pretty fast, even though I was only running 8 to 10 miles a week at the time. And then I started getting weird foot and ankle/shin pains, so I decided to get serious about picking out a decent pair of running shoes. Now, lucky for me, my uncle was a serious marathon runner and was co-owner of a store that exclusively sold running shoes. Yeah, he knew his stuff and helped me figure out what I needed.

But what about those who don’t happen to have an uncle like mine? Here’s my recommendation to get the best fit and best shoe for you . . . and I want to say right off the bat that if you are looking at running long distances and/or putting in long training miles (especially if you exceed 20 miles a week, which isn’t that hard to do), you need to STOP thinking about shopping at places like Walmart, Kmart, Sears, Dillards, J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, etc. Why? Well, typically those stores may carry your brand, but they carry the mid- and low-end styles . . . not to mention, the staff typically wouldn’t know pronation from supination and their evaluation would be pretty much limited to, “So, how do those feel?” . . . that is assuming you can find anyone to ask about the shoes.

So, instead of box store, do you go to the Runners' Boutique? Uhhh, if the store has the name “boutique” in it, you’re already paying 25 to 50 percent more for the store’s name. Now, “Running Barn,” I’d check it out. : )

All right, so the best thing to do is talk to local runners — successful, long-distance runners — about what their favorite local running shoe stores are. That will narrow things down for you. Ask them why they like it and if they think they have the staff with the experience to help a “newbie” find the right pair of shoes for them. Ask them if they know what kind of things they do to determine the proper shoe for runners. Finding the right shoe is more than feel. Oh, feel is important, but your foot structure, how you run, the distances you run, what you run on, etc. all play into what shoe is best for you.

Okay, so you walk into a running store in the mall (which is like the second tier…first tier is your independent running stores because they are usually staffed by people who love to run), but either way, when you walk in, who do you seek out? The cute young guy or girl with the captivating smile and runner’s body? Although you may be tempted to, my advice is find the middle-aged runner no matter what store you go to. Why? Younger runners’ bodies can recover much faster and put up with a lot more than the bodies of older runners. By the time a runner is middle-age, fads aren’t going to distract him or her much, but they’ll still be up on the latest trends. A younger runner simply doesn’t have the years in (or the older body) to know what is what. They still typically have the “I’m invincible” thing happening or at least the belief their body will recover from whatever they do to it. They haven’t experienced the “pain” or learned from their mistakes (they typically haven’t had enough years to have made all the mistakes yet : ). Oh, they may be able to evaluate stride and your feet, but they don’t have the personal experience that long-time, middle-age runner does, who will more likely be able to recognize and explain things that the younger runner can’t simply because they haven’t done or seen it yet. It’s just a matter of time, true, but not a whole lot beats experience. : )

And yeah, if there’s an older guy, sitting asleep in a chair at the store… just let him sleep. : )

Now, once you find that pair of shoes and pay a fairly premium price for all that evaluation, fitting, and advice, then you hit the road and start putting in your miles. If the shoe performs well and your feet (and body) respond well, then I’m a big fan of buying my shoes online (Ebay for example or searching the Net for stores carrying my brand and style at a discount price, especially the last year’s model). I typically save 50 percent (and more) by buying the older model or one that has been worn briefly, but returned and/or has little sign of wear.

Oh, and you know, SOMETIMES you’ll even find some pretty good deals on clothing and now-and-then on shoes at the expo that typically occurs during packet pick-up for the bigger half and full marathons. Just know your prices (what is a good deal and what is not) before going.

Well, just thought I would get a little practical with you all this month. Hope it helps. Of course, understand, that there are always exceptions to the rule, but what I’m talking about here (above) is that in most cases, the odds of you getting what you need are better when placed in the hands of a runner with decades of experience. : )

Have an awesome run today!



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