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Monday, September 10, 2012

On Shoes

Last week, Kathee asked a significant question: "If you are running THAT many miles, how often are you changing shoes??"

Short answer: I'm not changing my shoes.  AT ALL.

I've been running in my current pair of Brooks Adrenalines for more than 1,000 miles.  Holes are literally wearing through the tread.  But...I think they still have some life in 'em.

LOOOOOOOONG answer:  I no longer buy into what shoe companies have long led me to believe about how I should change my shoes every 300 miles.  And, in that vein, I'm not really sure there's any benefit, at all, to wearing "running" shoes.  Yes, I've gone hippie in my thinking.  Kinda.

For the longest time, I made fun of my beloved runner friends who decided to ditch their shoes, either for minimalist shoes, Vibrams, or for full-out barefoot.  I dismissed barefoot or minimalist running as a trend, and often joked that for each pair of Vibrams, they should sell a vial of patchouli.

Then I read Christopher McDougall's "Born to Run" and I had to admit: He had a well-reasoned argument against running shoes, especially the typical stability shoe that most of us run in.  So, I went experimenting.  Earlier this year, I tried two different minimalist shoes: Brooks PureConnects and New Balance's Minimus.  I feel a gave each one a fair shake, but in the end, neither really worked for me.  I pretty much flat out hated the PureConnects, and while I think the Minimus are comfy for everyday walking around and some light running, ultimately, they felt too flat to me.

So I went back to the pair of Brooks Adrenalines (my stability shoe, brand and model, that I'd been wearing for years), and it was like slipping back into a pair of comfy sweat pants: Ahhhhhh!

Arguably, there are MANY other pairs of minimalist shoes out there that I could test out, and there are always the Vibrams and the totally barefoot approaches, but here's what I think about that: Nah.  Why keep testing new shoes when I have shoes that I like and that work well for me?  Same with barefoot running.  I love to scamper through grass barefoot as much as anyone, but I couldn't imagine setting out for a 6 miler on the suburban sidewalks where I run without any shoes.

And here's the lowdown for me: I haven't had any running-related injury in more than 6 years, and when I did experience injury (ITBS), I attribute that more to inconsistent/inadequate training than I do to any shoe failure.

But, all that being said, I return to what I said before: I don't necessarily think I need to frequently replace my shoes; I think they can hold out much longer than what shoe companies prescribe (clearly, their motives are questionable in this debate).  And, I can't say that "running" shoes work well for every runner. 

So the long and short about how I feel about shoes?  Wear what works, for as long or as short a duration as they work.  Only time and experience allow us each to find what works best for each runner.


Christina said...

Wow, that's awesome. You are pretty small, right? I think it's likely that some of us bigger folks need to replace shoes more often because a) we really need the padding and b) we wear it out faster. I really notice a difference when I start wearing new shoes- the minor aches and pains I had in my legs are gone.
When you do go to replace them look on ebay-I never spend more than $60 for a pair of adrenalines.

Nobel4Lit said...

I truly believe that how often one should change their shoes varies a lot, contrary to those advice tidbits you mentioned. Maybe shoes wear down more as a function of gait and weight. For me, sometimes I can wear a pair for way over 1000 (my current short-run pair, for example). Besides me being too cheap to buy another pair yet, I just don't have a need to always be wearing brand-spanking new running shoes. Of course, since I'm practically flat-footed, I do think I need shoes and support to run.

TNTcoach Ken said...

OMG! There's the Madden jinx and then there's the blogging jinx. Jess you wrote that you haven't been injured. The running gods read your blog............ Yeah, I put in more than 500 miles on shoes too.

MCM Mama said...

I have to say I've had more trouble with injuries since I started messing with my shoes than I ever had before. I seem to have found something that works, but I have no idea on the mileage as I've sort of stopped tracking mileage all together.

Erin said...

This is timely as I have been pondering whether I should buy some new shoes. I haven't worn mine out but they are a few years old and at the rate Nike creates new shoes, I am living with outdated technology on my feet.

I was thinking my recent knee pain might be to my shoes and was thinking about getting fitted for a new pair. Having spent $$$$ of my parent's hard earned dollars on ice skates over the years, I do know what a good fit means (or lack of leads to several surgeries).

Sounds like most people agree, if it isn't broken, don't fix it. I think I will hold off a while longer before I venture down the path of new shoes.

Lee said...

I think it just differs for each person. I replace mine maybe once a year, maybe twice if I am running a lot, but that's more just because I sort of want new shoes!

Carolina John said...

I get the same question from minimalist shoes. I love my Mizuno Musha's (minimalist), but how can they wear out? if the midsole deflates, isn't that just more minimalist?

Eventually they crossed the 500 mile mark and got replaced when I picked up some new pains that went away under the new pair.

James said...

I feel the same way. I've switched shoes a few times over the last several years, but none of those were because the shoe hit the magical 500 miles. I simply wanted to try a new shoe, or came across a great deal that I couldn't pass up. I did pick up a pair of minimalist shoes when there was an internet deal for $25. I've worn them once. I could see their use in the future for adding variety into my training, but throughout the fall and winter I'm in training for several marathons, so they'll wait until the spring. As for old shoes, I believe that as the shoe ages, it creates a mutualistic relationship with your foot. AN old pair always feels comfortable to me, and I've never developed a running injury with old shoes. It's always been when I try something new. As long as the tread works for your needs, and it's not falling completely apart, I say run on!

Matt said...

Yes, absolutely nail. on. the. head.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. There may well be a load of new thinking about injuries and minimalism, but if you're ticking over just fine, go with it. It's a bit like upgrading Windows OS!

Personally, I did get injured, and kept getting injured. Would I have changed my shoes and form if I had not? Not a chance. For people in my boat, the minimalist thing has meant that I keep running. Otherwise I believe I may have quit.