So many shoes, so little time. Let’s get to the point then shall we? What is the ‘BEST’ shoe for you? The answer is simple. Your best running shoe is that which ignites your desire to move, bolsters confidence in your ability, and elevates the experience of striding farther and faster. Your target should be a good sensation, not a hard and fast single-shoe prescription. Remember that what’s best for your running buddy might not necessarily right for you. The common denominator is reliable comfort and performance. After all, running is your play time, and play time should always bring about a smile.
So if the best shoe for me is not a singular prescription, then how will I ever find what suits me? Great question. First, it’s important to gather some basic information about your intended activity, foot shape, and general stride mechanics. Locally owned running specialty stores are chalked full of attentive experts who are willing and able to lend a helping hand to those in need of an assessment. For best results, share as much pertinent information about your running as possible. For instance, you could say… “I walk-run 35 miles per week on the treadmill at a pace 8:00-15:00 minutes per mile, my outer left knee can be a bit sore after runs, and I’ve generally had a good experience with Mizuno running shoes.” That’s plenty to allow your fit specialist to curate an appropriate selection.
Following a detailed discussion and stride assessment, your fit specialist can guide you to a broad cushion level and category of support containing 3-4 shoes that make the most sense based on the information provided. At this point, take several minutes to walk, jog, jump, and run on the shoes. Provide feedback on what you like and dislike about each option. This constructive critique is essential to melding your desired shoe alchemy. For instance, if you said… “I like the way option ‘X’ has a high-arch feel, but I like the roomy fit of ‘Y'”, your fit specialist may bring it all together with option ‘Z’ that brings the underfoot experience and forefoot accommodation all together.
It’s a red flag if your fit specialist initially offers you more than four shoe options. Realistically, three shoes are sufficient to maximize selection without overwhelming your decision making. Also know that it’s encouraged to question your fit specialist as to the differences in price point, cushion feel, support features presented by each option. For example, your $150 price point premium cushion shoe presents greater emphasis on plush padding and impact protection, where as your $120 price point cushion shoe presents a firmer, energetic, more connected feel for improved balance sense. Remember your fit specialist cannot step into the shoe with you. Use visualization to consider what sensation integrates best with your activity. You could be the runner looking to reduce pounding on your legs, or the guy who could afford a little more bounce and firm energy return. Each shoe presents a different feel.
Once you’ve made the purchase on your new lace-laden companions, it’s time for a test drive. Most shoes take time to conform to your feet. Use caution when casting judgement on the first run. Give the shoe 4-6 trial runs. The desired effect is love at first run, however some shoes simply don’t play nice with all feet. Just know that locally owned running specialty stores will stand behind their products. If you’re simply having a poor experience with a pair of shoes, simply discuss this with your local retailer. There is likely recourse in size adjustment or simply swapping for a different model. Remember your local retailer are your friends and fellow runners who’ve likely experienced similar issues when they arise. Be courteous and respectful, and they will return the favor in-kind.
In order to maximize the life of your running shoes, simply taper down the frequency with which you use your most dated model. For example, let’s say your shoes have 400 miles on them, you run 5 days per week, and you just bought a new pair to rotate. Reduce the number of days your oldest trainers are in use by one day every two weeks. Most training shoes have a lifespan of roughly 400-500 miles. At 15-25 miles per week, that’s 6-7 months with the fresh cushion, support, and energy return as it was straight from the box. Incorporating a fresh option mid-way through the shoe’s lifespan is a great way to seamlessly transition into a new shoe platform.