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Giving You an Excuse for Buying That New Pair of Shoes…

Mike Wright PT, DPT, OCS, ATC

A shoe is not only a design, but it’s a part of your body language, the way you walk. The way you’re going to move is quite dictated by your shoes – Christian Louboutin

So this guy makes heels – expensive heels – but I feel like his outlook is right where it needs to be when discussing shoes, our bodies, and running. Shoes are the platform in which you build.

Let’s make the assumption (a large one) that you have the right style (stability, cushion, etc) of running shoes in your closet or garage as you read this. That is a whole ‘nother topic that truly lends itself to one on one analysis (we do that by the way). What if I told you that you should entertain buying another pair of shoes right now, even if you have only put 150 miles of the 400-500 miles that most shoe manufactures recommend? Scoff, sigh, laugh, or maybe already have add to cart on your favorite brands website? The last thing you probably need is to try to explain away why you need to spend another $100-150 on a pair of shoes to your significant other. People break up for less. But what if it’s truly the right thing to do and doesn’t actually cost you more in the long run?

First: it doesn’t actually cost more. 500 miles is 500 miles right? While buying an extra pair now does speed up the initial investment cost, you still are running the same miles per pair that you would have. So it all comes out in the wash (except that random lost sock).

Second: it actually may be better for your body. Say you are someone that runs in a stability shoe. After 200 miles, that shoe will have lost its ability to perform the same amount of stability due to wear. Think tires right? Less grip and stability on tires as the tread wears. Shoes do the same, not just on the bottom grip, but also within the structure of the shoe. If you have ever ran in the same shoe for 4 months and then changed to a brand new pair of the same shoe, there is a huge difference in the structure of the shoe. So the idea is this: wear a pair for 200 miles, then start switching back and forth with a new pair. Your body will have to adapt and use different muscles and structures with each shoe due to the difference. This can help reduce overuse injury, the crucible of every runner.

Third: what about changing the shoe type? When I look at running gait/styles, large deviations related to shoes have to be addressed. One thing I keep in mind is that the longer your run, the worse those deviations tend to lead to trouble. Most shoe recommendations (i.e. stability, neutral) are made with the long term in mind. However, there is some commentary out in the shoe and PT world that doing short, speed workouts in a shoe a notch lower on the structure spectrum (using a neutral instead of stability for example) may be helpful to encourage increased intrinsic foot muscle activation and control. This use can actually be a benefit because your body can develop new strategies for control and support. While a long run isn’t appropriate in these shoes, perhaps your 2-3 mile interval training is perfect.

So maybe it’s time to go shopping. Everybody likes a new color choice (plaid shoes anyone?), but there might just be more to it than being a shoe-aholic.