What shoes for a treadmill?
October 25, 2012 4:38 PM   Subscribe

What kind of shoes should I get for walking -- and hopefully eventually running -- on a treadmill?

A few years ago, I started walking/running on a treadmill, but within a couple of months my knees started to feel perpetually sore and I reluctantly abandoned the whole endeavor. At the time (pre-Metafilter membership!) I asked my doctor about it, who shrugged and said that's not uncommon in people my age (50ish at the time). It occurs to me that perhaps that was a bad answer and that the solution lies in getting better shoes. What do you recommend? Any other suggestions for using a treadmill without pain? (Note: I'd like to buy online. To put it mildly, I do not have a runner's body and the idea of going into a running store is too terrifying.)
posted by Wordwoman to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (If it's relevant, I'm overweight but not obese, and have no health problems other than being out-of-shape.)
posted by Wordwoman at 4:43 PM on October 25, 2012

Are you taking glucosamine/chondroitin supplements? I have found these and fish oil to help a lot with knees.
posted by kindall at 5:02 PM on October 25, 2012

It's likely to depend on whether your feet rotate out or in, and how much.

This guide from Zappos might help.
posted by jaguar at 5:05 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with jaguar that it depends on how your feet rotate, as well as other factors such as your arches. I don't think there are any specific shoes that work for all people (personally, I've had success with buying New Balance running shoes). I know you would prefer to purchase online, but the people selling athletic shoes are often able to help you find the shoes that are right for you based on your foot shape, gait, etc. If a running store is too intimidating, maybe try a store that specializes in comfort shoes.

Also (apologies if this is too far from the question you're asking), have you tried using an elliptical machine instead of a treadmill? I'm susceptible to knee pain and find the elliptical causes less pain than a treadmill.
posted by ersatzhuman at 5:20 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

There is nothing exclusive or intimidating about a running shoe store, I promise. Go on a Saturday and it'll be 200 children and maybe 20 real-world-shaped work-all-week people (I don't know why they have so many children, maybe they are bringing in the entire league) and nobody's going to give the tiniest poop about what you look like. The salespeople work on commission, they just want you to buy some shoes.

All the terrifying people go there on weekdays so they don't have to mix with the masses.

But you'll get your feet scanned and analyzed and get to put the shoes on and feel them. There are things that are going to matter to you, like weight and arch and whether they're a pain in the ass to get tied, that is very hard to figure out online.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:29 PM on October 25, 2012 [5 favorites]

If you have decent insurance, you might want to visit a podiatrist, and see if orthotics would be recommended. Otherwise, try a running store. I'm a plump girl so I know what it means to be intimidated, but most of the time they're great - because, let's face it, they're trying to sell you something. Bite the bullet and get fitted for a great shoe. It may be quite expensive. But after you determine if it's a great shoe for you, you can, in the future, buy that same model online for much less. I've had great luck buying last year's model, which usually just means last year's colors, for a fraction of the price.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:34 PM on October 25, 2012

Go to a podiatrist, they have real degrees in this stuff and real experience. If you get a good one, they will recommend a range of options for ranging in cost. I strongly recommend it; a podiatrist was very helpful with my running issues several years ago now, and there was nothing "woo" or dodgy about what he was saying.

A good running store will have some solid advice, but they are also naturally disposed to recommend the latest and greatest - both in shoes, and somewhat faddish science (see: barefoot running. Nothing wrong with it, but in the lab, certainly doesn't exhibit the rhapsodic qualities you'll hear from converts or down at the store).
posted by smoke at 5:35 PM on October 25, 2012

This article might also help, although I think you should bite the bullet and go into a athletics shoe store to get properly fitted. You can expect a trained salesperson will help you and be encouraging with your "get-fit" plans, all in all it should be a positive experience for you. Take a friend and or go midweek as others have suggested!

Also seconding the elliptical, I much prefer to use that at the gym, once you work up and adjust the weight resistance you find you'll burn more calories with much lower impact than the treadmill!!
posted by Under the Sea at 5:35 PM on October 25, 2012

Also, magnesium supplements can help assist with exercise related muscle soreness and building stamina, (in addition to glucosamine)! Good luck!
posted by Under the Sea at 5:37 PM on October 25, 2012

I am overweight and closer to 50 than I am to 40, and I chose to go to a running shoe store to get the right pair of shoes for walking and eventually running on a treadmill. They measured my feet very carefully every way from Sunday and videotaped me (from the ankles down) walking on a treadmill to analyze my gait to make sure I had the shoes that would correct most adequately. There was no judgmentalness and no fit-person-superiority. Also, this particular store was not preachy about barefoot vs. traditional running shoes.

I would suggest finding an independently-owned running shoe store, especially one that has lots of events and clinics for runners, as I think they will be more customer-service oriented than a typical mall store.
posted by matildaben at 5:51 PM on October 25, 2012

I hate to give you another 'go to a running store' answer (though that is what I would recommend-- not a mall store but something like a Fleet Feet) so I will give you my opinion on the second-best thing.

Shoes generally come in 3 categories: Neutral, stability, and motion control. Neutral has the least amount of gait control, motion control has the most. I have found that I have had knee problems whenever I am even slightly in the wrong category of shoes-- wearing shoes that have too much, or too little, stability for me always cause me knee trouble. I would recommend a site like runningwarehouse.com, they have good information on different shoes in different categories, as well as a 90-day return policy.

You could buy a shoe in each category, take each for a short treadmill run, see what works best for you, and return the ones that don't work out.

If you have flat feet (I don't know if you do), you will often overpronate, which indicates that either a stability or motion control shoe might work better for you than a neutral shoe. If you have high or normal arches a neutral shoe might work better.

It is impossible to recommend just one shoe model; different ones work for different people. I ran happily in Brooks Adrenaline (a stability shoe) for a couple years, going through several pairs, before my knees suddenly decided they weren't OK with those shoes anymore. Now I have been running happily in Mizuno Wave Inspire for about a year. They are also a stability shoe, just slightly less stable/more flexible than the Adrenalines. That's why people are giving you the 'running store' advice-- there is no way to recommend a best shoe for you, without you actually trying them on, and preferably, walking or running at least a little in them.
posted by matcha action at 6:25 PM on October 25, 2012

When I first started jogging (I can't really go fast enough to call it running) I went in to REI. Knowing nothing about shoes and very little about exercise, I found only affirmations and help. I think if you go in, not looking like a typical runner, the only response you'll get is, "good for you." Whatever running or fitness store you have nearby, I think it's worth going in and getting advice for which shoes will work best for you. (Also, I tried on something like ten pairs before I found one that fit just right.)

And if you still have knee problems, possibly a physical therapist to get some knee exercises to make the running work better -- my knees are definitely worse when I slack off on knee exercises.
posted by Margalo Epps at 7:29 PM on October 25, 2012

I wear Vivo Barefoot shoes when walking on a treadmill. They work well for me.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:14 PM on October 25, 2012

A running store will know what your arches and ankles need in terms of support, and which brands are best for your needs. This page explains the factors they look at before pointing you at a brand.

The treadmill is intimidating. They can't see what you need properly from 5 feet up while you're in motion, so they have you on a treadmill to get a couple still pictures. You can walk instead of run, because that's where you're starting from. If you feel you can do it, it's worthwhile.
posted by BigJen at 6:19 AM on October 26, 2012

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