Friday, March 5, 2010

It's the Shoes, Money

This entry discusses the critical importance of wearing the correct shoes while running and gives you advice at how to go about buying the right shoes (something I found to be daunting when I started running because there are so many running shoes to choose from).

When I started running, I asked many of my friends for advice. What to wear, what to eat, how fast to run, when to run, when to rest, etc. etc. etc. Every single one of my experienced running friends stressed the importance of wearing the correct shoes when running. "The right shoes?" I said. "Does it really make that much of a difference?" My friends told me that every person is different and therefore needs different shoes. When I told them that I didn't run much because my right knee always hurt during running, every one of them said "I bet it's your shoes. If you get the right shoes, I bet your knee won't be sore anymore." I was skeptical.

My friends told me to go a store called Super Runners Shop on Amsterdam and 78th street in New York city. The store is owned by Gary Muhrcke, who won the first New York City Marathon in 1970 when the marathon was 4 loops of Central Park. When I went to the store, the guys in the store asked me to walk so they could watch me walk to determine my pronation (i.e. the way my foot strikes the ground on the outside of the heel and rolls from the outer edge to the inner edge). I learned that some people pronate, some don't, and shoe companies make shoes to support the way one pronates (or doesn't). This was great, because a good salesperson can tell what type of shoe you need by watching you walk (or run). It turns out that I don't pronate and have high arches, so I need a neutral shoe with lots of cushioning, since my foot strikes the ground and doesn't roll. This means that I need more cushioning to handle the impact that people that pronate get naturally. Being the skeptic that I am, I asked a few people in the store to watch me walk (and then run when I was trying on shoes) to confirm the first salesperson's pronation conclusion.

My advice - go to Super Runners Shop (or a like running shop) and have them watch you walk and/or run. Some shops, like Asics on 42nd Street between 5th and 6th avenue, have a video camera set up next to treadmill to take video of you running. This will allow the salesperson to recommend the right shoe for you. I recommend going to a store that sells multiple brands, as I tried on at least 10 pairs of shoes and ran in front of Super Runners Shop to the corner (yes, they let you do this) to figure out what shoe felt the best for me. I wear a size 11 shoe for walking, but wear an 11.5 shoe when I run (the extra room around the toes feels great for me). I strongly recommend taking your time and trying on many pairs (and sizes too). Also, ask the store about the return policy. Super Runners Shop lets you return the shoes after you try them out a few times if they don't work for you for a full refund. I actually returned a pair of shoes that hurt after a 6 mile run, and they refunded my money no questions asked. I love the fact that Super Runners Shop allows you to return the shoes. This should ensure that you get the right shoe, even if it takes a few times to get it right. For me, I wear the New Balance 1063 shoes. I love them and only wear these shoes (in fact, New Balance recently discontinued this line in favor of the 1064 line, so I stocked up on the 1063s by buying 10 pairs of shoes at 50% off (around $50 each) from, which also allows you to return shoes after you wear them and they don't charge shipping and provide a return form in every order. I have ordered a ton of stuff from them and love them). New Balance also has a website that allows you 30 days to return shoes for a full refund ( While it wasn't easy for me to find space for 10 boxes of shoes, I know that at least I'll have the shoes I love for a while. I get about 300 miles out of each pair of shoes. After that, the soles are so worn down that my knee twinges, and then I know it is time to throw away my old shoes and buy a new pair.

I recently read a book called Born to Run ( Great book, I recommend it (although it took me a while to get into it). The book talks a fair amount about runnning shoes and barefoot running. It talks about how some running coaches believe that the most expensive shoes are actually the worst for your running because they have too many frills. The book says that less cushioning and support may be better for you (particularly barefoot running) as it allows your foot to get stronger and run naturally.

I'm certainly not recommending barefoot running - my point is that when deciding what shoe to buy, don't think that more expensive is better. Take your time, try on a lot of shoes, run in those shoes (if the store doesn't let you run with them go somewhere that does), and buy the shoes that feel the best for you. Make sure that you can return your shoes for a full refund (not just a store credit), and you will eventually find the right shoe for you.

Since I bought the right shoes for me (, my friends were right. I haven't had any knee problems and my feet feel great. I'm no longer skeptical. In my mind, without question, wearing the right shoes is critical to a runner's long term health and happiness.

For the motivation of the title of this blog entry, see the video below

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