This is part 2 of “The Perfect Shoe” where I interview shoe expert and owner of Coastal Sole on shoes and finding the best shoe for YOUR feet! If you haven’t read part one yet, you can find that here! You can listen to the interview here!
As far as durability goes, from the performance side, most companies recommend 500 miles or 10 months, which ever comes first for running shoes. For aerobics, tennis, and basketball shoes, the life of the shoes is roughly around 100 hours of usage. The life of the shoes is based on the foam material, the midsole composition and how much rebound or cushioning the shoe has left in it. These are rough guidelines because there are even more variables than just what the shoes are made of. For example, a person that weighs 250 pounds is going to break a shoe down faster than a person that weighs 180 pounds. It also depends on where you are training as well as if you are running or walking. There is also the question of how much you use the shoe. If you use the shoe every day, it’s not going to be able to rebound from the last pounding you gave it, so it may break down faster. Lastly, how old is the shoe? Think of the cushioning in the shoe like a marshmallow. If you squish the shoe, every time it’s squished it does not rebound as much. Additionally, if you leave a bag of marshmallows in the cupboard for 6 months they are going to be as hard as rocks. That’s what happens to the foam material in the shoe. It oxidizes and hardens and becomes much less effective. About 25% of the shoe is worn down every 12 months. The glues start to deteriorate and the shoe just becomes stale and falls apart.
Some companies are beginning to put dates on the shoes now so you know when the shoe was made. This is because many discount retailers will put a shoe on the shelf a year after it was made at a 25% discount, and some people will look at the shoes Todd stocks and say, “I can go to this discount shoe retailer and get last year’s model of this shoe for 25% less” and that is because you are buying 25% less of a shoe. If you are looking to buy a weekend shoe, like something just to wear to a barbecue, then that works fine. However, if you are looking for a shoe to perform in, you’ll want to get the new shoes.
The dangers of wearing a shoe that is old or worn out are that you just won’t get the same shock absorption. Over time, you may begin to develop joint issues in your ankles, knees, hips, and even your back because you’ve been running without any good support. Every person will develop a wear pattern in their shoe, and what can happen is your foot may begin sitting at an angle. Your hips follow your knees, your knees follow your ankles, and if your ankles are not sitting right, issues can develop all the way up the chain. Now instead of supporting your body and joints, your shoe is over-exaggerating the issues in your body and this can cause damage over time.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when purchasing your shoes is buying a shoe because of the way it looks. Just because a shoe looks the way you want it to does not mean that shoe was made for your particular foot shape or the way your body moves. Remember that when you are buying shoes for performance, you don’t want to cheat yourself. You want to buy a shoe based on the way it feels.
Another mistake people make is buying the wrong size. Many people will think that the shoe size they wore when they were 25 is the same shoe size they should wear when they are 45. This just is not true. Our feet change as we age. Our feet get wider, things begin to spread out. As we gain weight or lose weight our feet will change along with the rest of our body, so that might change your shoe size. Todd says one of the most important things you can do when shoe shopping is to get sized. If there is no one there to size you, size yourself or find somewhere that will. It is immensely important that you buy a shoe that fits. When you buy a shoe based on how it looks rather than how it performs, you won’t always get the right fit.
Normal gait, or walking pattern, is called pronation. Normal pronation is an outside to in motion with the ball of your foot. The arch in your foot is the body’s natural shock absorb-er, so if you are compressing out to in, your arch is absorbing shock. If your foot does not do this due to a high arch, your foot is not compressing out to end, so you’ll want a shoe with more shock absorption to compensate for your high arch. If you have a flat foot, then you may pronate excessively, so now you need a shoe with less cushioning and more support because there is too much mobility in your gait. If you buy a shoe that is designed for the opposite of what your foot does, now you are accelerating damage in your joints.
Shoe types are getting more and more specific. Running shoes used to be called athletic shoes, but now there are running shoes, walking shoes, cross-trainer shoes and shoes that are more specific versions of those. For example, cross training shoes are now being subcategorized for weight lifting, CrossFit, cardio, and even shoes made specifically for the elliptical machine.
Running shoes are going to be made of a more mesh material so it is lighter, more flexible, and breathes better. A walking shoe is made of more leather material. A running shoe has about 3 times more cushioning than a walking shoe. You can certainly use a running shoe for walking as the movements are similar, but Todd does not recommend running in a walking shoe because the walking shoe is going to have much less cushioning and support in it. Most walking shoes are not made for different foot shapes like you can find in a running shoe, so sometimes, just because you don’t plan on running and don’t need a running shoe, it may still be a good idea to buy a “running shoe”. Running and walking shoes are still made for the same forward and backward motion, where your cross training shoes are made for more side-to-side motion. Cross training shoes are generally lower to the ground. Stability becomes more important than cushioning, and you are more stable when you are lower to the ground. Because of these differences, you are more likely to roll an ankle if you go play basketball in a running shoe instead of a cross trainer or basketball shoe.
Basketball shoes are actually becoming more flared to the lateral side so they can be lower to the ground. The previous idea was that the higher the shoe, to more support to shoe had, but really what would happen is that after the heel counter, you weren’t getting much more support, so all that was being added was fabric, which would make the shoe heavier. If you looked at the bottom of an old basketball shoe from the 70s and 80s you’d see that it was a pretty flat shoe whereas now the shoe will be more flared to the outer side like a c-shape. This is done to help prevent ankle sprains by keeping the ankle from rolling to the outside.
Another category is the “barefoot shoe”. You might think of finger shoes when you think barefoot shoes, but barefoot shoes do not necessarily need toes to be barefoot. There is no difference between a classic running shoe and a barefoot shoe. The barefoot shoe is a shoe is going to have a zero drop. Back in the 80s they began putting these air bubbles in shoes which gave the shoes a higher heel. That gave the front of the shoe a “drop”. Running shoes began to have a 12-14 mm drop in the shoe, so the heel was 12-14 mm higher than the toe. Most people tend to strike with their heel, so this gave the heel more cushion. This also gave a propulsion when you ran.
Barefoot running became popular after the book, “Born To Run” by Christopher McDougall was published. The author followed a tribe in Mexico that had to walk or run for miles and miles every day for food and things. These people did not have shoes, at best they had old car tires to protect their feet. What was found is that these people were a lot less prone to injury. This gave birth to the idea that due to the supportive shoes we wear, we have atrophied the muscles in our feet and this has caused us to become injured more easily.
The issue with this idea is that it motivated many people to follow the example of this lifelong runner that has an efficient gait. People who had never really ran before or those that are overweight. Todd cautions that if you chose to try this style of running, there is a break in period, not only for the shoes, but for your body. If you are not prepared for this style of running, you might injure yourself, which defeats the purpose.
So what is barefoot running? Barefoot running emphasizes a mid-foot strike and a running cadence. This means that if you run 100 yards and it takes you 75 steps, shorten your stride and take 80 or 85 steps instead. The shorter, choppier steps encourages you to take advantage of your body’s natural shock absorb-er.
You can run “barefoot” in any shoe. The idea is to take advantage of a mid-foot strike instead of a heel strike. Todd mentioned that he believes this style of running has actually helped him with his knees and back.
Things to consider when shoe shopping: Get shoes that fit. Just because you wear a size 10 dress shoe does not mean you’ll wear that size in a performance shoe. Performance shoes can run anywhere from a half size to a full size different than a dress shoe. You want to be able to “play a piano” in your shoes. Get the shoe for your foot. If there is no one available to analyze your gait like Todd, then have someone video you walking without shoes on or do a wet foot test by getting your feet wet and walking, then figuring out how your foot is shaped. If you are an over pronator, you’ll want a shoe that will correct that. The most important thing is to try a few different shoes on. Different brands as well as different price points, that why you are getting the best shoe for you foot.
As far as picking a brand, once again TRY THEM ON. Just because you’ve had bad luck with one model of a shoe from a certain brand does not mean that next year’s model will be the same. They change every year. Get the shoe that feels good on your foot. Everyone’s foot is different. Everyone’s wallet is different. You have to try a few different shoes on to find the best one.
I hope this helped and if it did, be sure to share this blog in the place it is that you share things, don’t forget to check out the podcast! Be sure to give my Facebook page a like as well as following me on Instagram, and most importantly, thanks for reading!