What’s in a shoe?

The first thing I do after signing up for my next race is take a good hard look at my shoe situation. Finding the right shoe and keeping up with replacing your shoes will go a long way in running performance, avoiding injury and comfort level during training. I have tied the laces of Nikes, Asics, New Balance, and Brooks before hitting the pavement. After a few years of trying to find what suits me best on my own, I went to my local running store and got a professional opinion, which lead me to my favorite brand and the shoe that works best for me, after the jump.

The associate at the running store had me run about 20 seconds on the treadmill, recorded by a computer for review. After I hopped off the machine we were able to take a look at my stride, gate, posture, foot position, etc. I was deemed to be a rather neutral runner. The associate then asked me what shoes I have worn in the past and how I have felt wearing them. Honestly, up until this visit, I had been all across the board…going for brands based on colors, price, and what they claim to be able to do for a runner. I had already run a half in Asics, but ended that race with a great time and a stress fracture. I can’t blame the shoe entirely for my injury, but I know whenever I put a pair of Asics back on I can feel pain in that same point on my foot. So scratch my Asic game! Then I tried Nikes. Nikes are known to run narrow. I have a very narrow foot, so I thought grabbing a pair of these off the shelf would do me well. I grabbed a Nike Free, after reading it was “light and comfortable, almost like you weren’t really wearing a shoe.” This shoe worked for me for shorter runs, but was terribly uncomfortable when I had to do more than a few miles. Nope, Nikes were not for me.

The associate recommend that I try Brooks. While these shoes were more costly than what I had typically worn, when I tried them on my foot felt great. I can’t tell you how much support I felt compared to the Nike Free (well duh, I went from running on “nothing” to a shoe meant to give your foot what it needs to accomplish your goal). I wasn’t reminded of my previous stress fracture from the Asics and bonus– I really liked the color selection. I put down the extra money and bought my first pair of Brooks (the Ghost 7). I had the best training that first season with my new shoes. I had a personal best 10 mile time for the Solider Field 10 Mile Finish on the 50 race in Chicago. I enjoyed my Brooks so much, that when the time came for a new pair I beelined for their section at the sporting goods store.

Now that I know which shoe works for me… it’s important to note how IMPORTANT it is to regularly replace your shoes, as any shoe (even one that works best for you) can end up making your runs miserable and your joints ache when it has reached the end of its lifespan.

A good shoe should be replaced every 350 to 500 miles, with things like the type of surface you run on affecting the longevity of your laces. So what really happens the more you run on a shoe?

  • Shock absorption decreases
  • Cushioning capacity decreases
  • Stability of shoe decreases
  • Risk of injury increases
    • Runner’s knee
    • Shin splints
    • IT Band

Just look at the difference in a newer shoe with a few weeks worth of runs on it, versus the one I had last season with several months. The pink-bottomed shoe is much more compressed from having more miles put on it over time than the newer white-bottom shoe. The black treading on the right shoe is also worn down and less visible than the yellow treading on the left.


Heres a side-by-side look at the over all shoe to see general wear and tear that occurs over time and miles. You can see there’s cracks in the pink shoe that haven’t yet appeared in the blue one. Also, there seems to be way more to the bottom of the blue shoe when compared to the barely-there, worn out bottom of the pink! Lastly, the midsection of the pink shoe is muchhhh more flexible than the midsection of the blue shoe. While this may not be obvious from the photos or from just looking at your shoes, if your knees are starting to hurt during your runs it could mean your midsole has mellowed out (not a good thing). You can test the flexibility of your midsole by turning your shoe upside-down and seeing how far you can twist the top and bottom of the shoe in opposite directions. A shoe should not be flexible here, and if you’re able to get the toe past the heel, it’s time to retire those runners.


Just researching for this post helped me learn two more interesting facts

  • Runners who run more than 3 days a week should have at least two pairs of shoes and rotate through them to create less wear and tear on their shoes and their bodies. (didn’t know that.. guess it’s time to go back and buy some more Brooks :D)
  • Taking off your shoes properly can help them achieve a longer lifespan (those of us who kick off our shoes after running instead of untying the laces and sliding them off gracefully are actually shortening the lifespan of the shoe… great.)

Hopefully this post will give you a little more insight into your shoe situation and you can research further to see if it’s time to say sayonara to those sneakers.

Happy Running!

3 thoughts on “What’s in a shoe?

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