in the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway american dream
May 23, 2011 12:06 PM   Subscribe

[RunningFilter] some new runner questions, mostly regarding shoes.

I'm a late-20s female, ~26BMI, but in pretty OK shape from a couple of years of karate. I'm away from my dojo for the summer and have decided to take up running, with the dual goals of (a) not getting fatter, and (b) not returning to karate with no cardio stamina left.

Reading a lot of the older threads, I'm doing the much-recommended Couch to 5K, starting slow to prevent injury. I'm running on a treadmill, which I like, because I like numbers. About a year ago I had some problems with patella femoral syndrome, but my knees haven't hurt in many, many months thanks to some corrective exercises from my local sports medicine clinic.

My questions are in regards to shoes. I have orthotics that a podiatrist gave me for my very flat feet a couple of years ago, and I'm currently running in a pair of sneakers that must be about 18 or 24 months old. Of course, these sneakers haven't got a lot of wear in those years, because karate is done barefoot.

So, my questions are:

1. Given that I'd have to take the insoles out of any new shoes I might get, do I still have to buy new sneakers?

2. If I do have to buy new sneakers (arg, the expense!), do I still need to go to my local running shop and get a gait analysis, or should I just pick up whatever neutral pair in the massive chain sports shop in my area, which would probably have lower prices?

3. I've never found the orthotics comfortable (even after adjustments), and can't run on pavement without getting massive blisters along the arches of my feet. The runs that I'm doing now aren't giving me blisters, but I feel like I'm getting close, even with double-layer anti-blister socks. Would switching out of orthotics into a pair of sneakers from my local running shop (based on a gait analysis) be a good idea or a terrible idea?

4. Bonus, non-shoe question: in the couch to five K programs I've seen for the treadmill, they recommend alternating running with walking. My goal speed for 5K is 10K/hour (as a starting point). So at what speed should I be doing the "run" part of my run-walks? Currently I'm at 8.5K/hr and it feels pretty easy-peasy -- I can converse normally at this speed -- but everything I've read says "start slow, start slow!". So how slow is slow? Can I run at my goal speed already, or do I have to work my way up to it? Alternative phrasing: at what week should I be at my goal speed, but still alternating walking with running?

Many thanks in advance for the wisdom, hivemind.
posted by monkeymonkey to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
1. I would say yes. You need running shoes, and you might not need the insoles if you get the right running shoes. You need to go to a running store and ask.

2. Gait analysis. Do not buy neutral shoes if that's not right for you.

3. Go to the running store.

4. Don't worry about the speed. Your slow is not my slow. You should do your runs at a comfortable pace. Maybe not easy peasy, but you shouldn't be struggling to breathe.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:11 PM on May 23, 2011

My background: I'm a track coach when I'm not at my day job and a 60 MPW marathon runner and am doing my 10th marathon next weeked, FWIW.


1.) YES. It's not necessarily the support, but how the treads wear. You can seriously risk injury running in old beaters. I also wear orthodics from a podiatrist. The rule of thumb is to get new kicks every 350-400 miles, and depending on the shoe, can sometimes squeeze 500 out of them.

2.) I would suggest going to a running store and checking out different types. Different shoes will obviously fit differently even if they are neutral - some have wider toeboxes, narrower heels, etc. so it really depends on personal preference. I highly suggest supporting your local running store, but if you're concerned about cost, go check out the shoes at the store, write down the make/model/size of the ones you want then buy online. The downside is that many running stores will accept an exchange for different shoes, say, if you run a few miles and decide that you don't like them; you really can't do that online. A good pair of running sneakers will give you quality running though, and will usually run you about $80-100, depending on the shoe.

3.) I'd stick with the orthodics and buy some body glide to put on your feet, then socks over, then the shoe. Don't run in cotton socks because they'll rip your feet apart.

4.) Run at an easy pace for you and what feels comfortable. Mileage is important to build before speed. It's better to build up a solid mileage base before wracheting up the intensity or else you could fight injury.

Happy running! :)
posted by floweredfish at 12:28 PM on May 23, 2011

1. Yeah, midsoles wear out too. Treat yourself to come comfy running shoes. If you don't care about what color they are you can get good ones for as little as $40.

2. I don't know if you need the full gait analysis, but I find the staff at running shops to be very helpful. Once they help you find a make and model that works for you, you can search the internet for bargains on that model when the original pair wears out.
posted by ladypants at 12:30 PM on May 23, 2011

1. Yes, get some designated running shoes.

2. You don't necessarily need a gait analysis, but it will be helpful to try and test run on several different pairs of shoes. Any running shop worth its salt will let you do this -- a jog around the block is usually enough to determine which shoes are most comfortable for you. You are not obliged to buy shoes at the store where you do your gait analysis/test run, so you could always get a recommendation and look for better deals or similar shoes elsewhere. (Having said that, I always buy my shoes at the running store, even though I know they're possibly more expensive; that's probably the more polite way to go.)

3. Talk to a knowledgeable person at your running store. My husband has flat feet and wears orthotics with all of his other shoes, but, with the help of a very good running store associate, he found a pair of running shoes with built-in arch support sufficient for him to go without the orthotics. He has not had running-related blister problems since.

4. "Slow" is just slow enough to carry on a conversation comfortably. Running on pavement is very different from running on a treadmill, so you may find yourself slowing your gait a bit when you're not on the treadmill. Build up mileage first; when 5K feels easy, start to work (incrementally) on speed.
posted by Spinneret at 12:38 PM on May 23, 2011

I just started with a beginners running group and last week I realised that my old shoes were likely to cause me an injury, due to lack of support around the ankle, so I went to a specialist running shop, had a gait analysis and bought some decent shoes. They feel so much better than my old, cheap, bought-on-sale shoes.
posted by essexjan at 12:53 PM on May 23, 2011

According to these reviews of the research, the widely accepted theory of "gait analysis," in which experts at shoe stores look at how you run and recommend the "right" pair of shoes, is not supported by any evidence. Rather, you should simply choose what feels comfortable.

That doesn't mean that old sneakers are just as good as new, just that when choosing a new pair, you should go by comfort.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:02 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yes and yes to the first two. Not only did I find the right shoe at a specialty running store, but I learned my correct size and how to lace my shoes to support my ankles better.

It's possible to find a pair of shoes that work well for you on your own, but going to a specialty store (and replacing my shoes regularly) made such a difference for me that I strongly recommend it.

I'll buy the shoes from the store if I'm getting my gait analyzed, but for future purchases I'll search for a deal online. Sometimes a color will get marked down, or the style will be updated and the old style will go on sale. It's not always easy to find a bargain, but you can usually save about 25% if you're patient enough.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:27 PM on May 23, 2011

Just as a data point, I bought running shoes at a running store yesterday (where they analyze your gait & make recommendations and whatnot) and the shoes were the exact same price there as they were on (and several other big-box retailers I expected to be cheaper).
posted by mattbucher at 1:58 PM on May 23, 2011

came here to say what Metroid Baby said: get some expert advice on the style/model of running shoe, then buy online, looking for last season's leftovers for much cheaper. while shoemakers do tweak their model lines frequently, the basics of support and structure tend to be the same, which is why people who run a lot tend to be quite loyal to a particular type and brand of running shoe.
posted by wayward vagabond at 2:12 PM on May 23, 2011

I would echo a lot of what's been said. In particular, I used to wear orthotics in my running shoes, but when I got fitted at a running store I found I didn't need them anymore (for running, at least).

Not sure whether you have rigid or soft orthotics, but I thought I'd note that when I was trying to decide what to do re: orthotics and shoes, I read (on runners world?) that running in hard/rigid orthotics can be worse than not running in orthotics at all, so that's what convinced me to try running without them. (I didn't want to spend additional money to go get a soft pair. But if you have soft orthotics, you shouldn't be prone to whatever injuries running in hard orthotics could cause.)
posted by Terriniski at 3:01 PM on May 23, 2011

I'm gonna pop in here as an advocate for barefoot shoes. I'm an early 40s long-time non-runner who recently took up running. I don't run much, but when I'm out for a social jog in the morning with friends 10km/hr sounds about right or a little slow. I've tried cushioned sole shoes and Vibram Five Fingers, and for running I'll never go back to a padded sole. The thin soled no support shoes force me to run more smoothly, I come home from runs with less leg pain, my knees feel so much better. It's anecdotal, and like so much of running "science" most of the writing is suspect, but I'm a believer.
posted by straw at 3:10 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

1. Definitely get a new pair of running shoes. I get a new pair every 6 months if I'm running a lot, and maybe every 8-10 months when my mileage is down. I learned this lesson the hard way- I developed plantar fasciitis from running in old shoes :(

2. To cut down on costs, I get shoes at a local sporting goods outlet (New Balance). I try on about 10 pairs or so and pick the one that feels the most comfortable. I know some people swear by gait analysis, but I'm not one of them. I think that replacing running shoes before they wear out is more important than finding the perfect fit for your gait (but obviously you still want said shoes to be comfortable). I also don't think there's a need to buy expensive running clothes. Cheap shorts/jogging pants and t-shirts will do just fine (but if you're female, a good sports bra is worth the price!)

3. Maybe try replacing your custom orthotics with something less rigid? I've used these for years and love them. You can use them in regular running shoes (take out and replace the flimsy insole that comes with the shoe). They aren't very expensive and it might be worth giving it a try for a few easy runs to see how it feels. As for the blisters, bodyglide (it looks like a stick of deodorant and you rub it on areas that are prone to blisters) or something similar can help prevent them.

4. Unsolicited advice- try to run outdoors at least occasionally- you can get a special watch or download an app onto your phone to track the numbers. I find it to be a better workout (you'll utilize fine muscles related to balance much more due to changing surfaces and the fact you're not strictly running in a straight line) and much more enjoyable. Plus, if you end up signing up for a 5K you'll be more prepared.

best of luck! I used to hate running, and now it's one of my favorite things to do. I hope you enjoy it!
posted by emd3737 at 6:28 AM on May 24, 2011

Response by poster: Many thanks to all for your helpful responses and for the encouragement. I didn't know that there were ranges of rigidity in orthotics, and I'll be visiting my local running shop tomorrow morning. I'm in London, so everywhere is very expensive, but hopefully if I find the right shoe I can shop around in the future.
posted by monkeymonkey at 7:46 AM on May 24, 2011

I'd recommend Runner's Needs at Churchill Place in Canary Wharf. That's where I got my shoes and the service was very good and the shoes were what I'd expect to pay in a chain like JD Sports.
posted by essexjan at 9:46 AM on May 24, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks essexjan -- I ended up going to a Runner's Needs a bit closer to me. They guy was helpful and I picked out a shoe that I can (at first, anyway) run comfortably in without the orthotics!
posted by monkeymonkey at 4:20 AM on May 25, 2011

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