Friday, April 12, 2013

If the Shoe Fits

I was browsing on good ol' Facebook a short time ago and found an interesting discussion about shoes and running.  The person who posted was unsure what to do; wear her older shoes or wear a newer pair for an upcoming half marathon. She was concerned about no having worn the new shoes long enough to break them in.

The idea of breaking in shoes is a source of debate in the running world. Some people say you must break them in. They say that at first shoes fight tightly, may cause blisters, or other issues if they're worn before they are broken in.  After talking with different running "experts" and reading articles online, I have come to the conclusion that breaking shoes in is not something that you should have to do.

A new pair of properly fitting shoes will fit.  Some experts say that they should be good to run in, straight from the box. If the shoes fit properly, there is no reason to break them in. Having been fitted for new running shoes and trying on various pairs in the store just a few months ago, I agree with them. It's my opinion, as well as my personal experience. 

A few things about shoes...

If you're able, go to a running store and have your gait evaluated by a pro. They're trained in knowing what to look for as far as pronation or supination. Some may just have you walk as you naturally do and others may have you walk or run on a treadmill. In both cases they'll watch you. Don't worry though, they're just watching your feet. I just want to stress that you will need to go to a store where associates are specifically trained; don't expect your local Wal-mart shoe department associate to do this. I've found that specialized running stores have the most knowledgeable people. They can also have you stand on one of those fun little gadgets that adjusts to your size. Interestingly, you may read one way but when you try the shoe on, it may fit differently. For example, when I got my shoes recently, the gadget read 9 1/2. When I tried them on, my toe was right at the end, uncomfortably so. I went up to a 10 and it was a perfect fit!

While on the subject of special shoe stores... Don't buy your shoes at Wal-mart. Cost does matter when it comes to good quality shoes. I'm not saying go buy some shoes that cost 200 dollars. I'm also not suggesting that you buy a pair that you can find at the dollar store. Shoe design takes so many factors into consideration. There are various features that not all shoes have. You need to try on several good pair and determine what works for you.  Try running in them if the store has a treadmill (or even just a large open space) to see how they feel. Jump around up and down and see how they feel. Do whatever it takes to simulate your activity to know if the shoe will work for you.

If the shoes are tight when you try them on, then they don't fit properly. Don't buy them. Shoes being too tight does not mean that you need to break them in or stretch them out so that they fit properly.

Obviously as you wear them, shoes will stretch a little. Some more than others... Particularly those made of leather. I think people sometimes make the mistake of buying their shoes too tight, intentionally, because they know that the shoes will stretch.  I say buy a pair that fits you at the time.

As much as style and color might be important for those of us who are fashion-oriented, you have to let that go. Seriously. If a shoe fits but is not available in the color you want, they may be able to order something similar to what you had in mind.  If you've found the perfect shoe, don't settle for something that doesn't fit properly because it's in the right color. 

I've always had some shade of pink on my shoes... Pink and black, pink and silver, pink and gray... Whatever. I love pink; it's my favorite color. I like flashy shoes.  The shoes I bought are not pink. They're a gray-silvery color with a little purple and a turquoise color on them. They're mostly the gray-silver color. They're boring, actually.  There is a fun, super wild style available, but to have them ordered would've taken longer and I needed them immediately. Seriously, the tread was gone from the bottom of my other shoes. The rubber was pretty much rubbed off in some places. They were not safe. They were not even in decent enough shape to donate. They went to the trash.

Shoes that don't fit properly can result in blisters. People say that they break in their shoes to avoid this.  Proper fitting shoes should not cause blisters.

I got blisters often in some of my old shoes. Since I got the new shoes, I've gotten blisters once. That was when I did the half-marathon and I'm pretty sure that was because of such a great distance increase between my last run and the half. I've done a 5K, a 10K, and several runs of other distances while wearing those shoes and did not have any issues.  In my old shoes, a toenail or two would lift and pop-off due to the impact of my foot against the shoe.  I've not had this happen at all. I did get one bruised/black toenail after the half-marathon, but it did not lift and pop-off. My feet have been just fine, aside from usual wear and tear like callouses (that have been there for a while, I'm sure).

I also want to be clear... I'm not saying buy a brand new pair of shoes and go run ten miles. Obviously they may feel differently when you run in them than when you're just walking around a store. I wouldn't call this breaking them in though. I'd call this testing them out. You're going to know after a run if they fit properly or not. If they don't? Take them back and try something else. Personally, I would prefer to run in new shoes for at least a few weeks before a long race. This isn't to break them in, but to adjust to them. I was running in shoes that weren't right for me... A change to running in proper shoes could've been an adjustment. I want to make sure they're correct before a long race.

Improper fitting shoes can not only cause things like blisters, but they can also cause more significant issues like shin splints. Have you had those? They hurt! Horribly! Some people get them for other reasons, but the wrong shoes can be a cause. The wrong shoes can cause more severe injuries too. If your foot is striking awkwardly because of the wrong shoes, you could do some damage.  It is amazing how much your shoes can make a difference in your safety as well as your running performance.

The bottom line? Buy shoes that fit properly when you try them on. Make sure they're comfortable. Test them out. Also make sure to buy new shoes when you need them - don't wait too long. Old shoes, even those that fit properly, get worn out and that can also put you at risk for injury!

Have a great weekend!!!


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