Choose the right shoes

By Fred Deckert


What’s the most important part of a runners body? Heart, lungs, legs, feet? Of course they’re all vital, but only the heart, lungs and legs are amenable to training. The feet do a lot of work and take a lot of shock, but all you can do for them is to protect them from injury. That’s more important than it sounds, since foot problems can easily migrate to leg and even back problems.

It’s not only Imelda Marcos that has trouble picking out the right pair of shoes. Since we don’t run barefoot on the grass, shoes are the interface to our world and they are critical. With all the makes and models on the market and the large range of prices, even veteran runners are often confused. Many look for shoe ratings in magazines or trust the clerk in the store to steer them right. Sometimes that works, but many shoe salesmen have a primary interest in selling, not protecting your feet. You can get good advice, especially in a running oriented sports store, but it’s wise to research the source.

A little common sense does help a lot. First, don’t look for really bargain basement shoes, the odds aren’t good that you’ll be happy. I tend to look for sales, but on known, reliable brands. Often you will find particular brands to feel and fit better than others. When you find the right one/s it’s important to realize they won’t last forever, or even more than a few months if you run a lot. I repair my shoes, but only to the point that the cushioning hasn’t broken down, then they become yard shoes, no matter how good they look. Since it’s difficult to tell when the shoes have passed the point of no return, you need a way to tell you. The best way I’ve found is to keep a pair of fairly new shoes always in reserve. When you suspect the old ones aren’t quite what they were, switch and compare. In some cases you can even wear an old on one foot and the new on the other. This will give you an answer in short order.

Lastly, although those racing flats really feel great and are light as a feather, don’t depend on them for much training unless you are blessed with a feathery footstrike. The name tells all – racing flats! Many training shoes are now quite light too, but will still give your foot the protection and support it needs. For some of you even that may not be enough and you’ll find orthotics to be the answer for you. But, don’t be cheap about your shoes, remember, a good pair is cheaper than a golf club or tennis racket, or even a couple of days worth of golf fees.