Running Shoes For The Fat
March 7, 2006 10:02 AM   Subscribe

Returning to running after a long stay in the comfy chair. Fat old fart needs shoe advice.

To set the stage - I was a distance runner for much of my life. As such I've gained a good deal of respect for the comfort and utility of good running shoes. Now flash forward to the present - I haven't run or worked out much in years and I'm grossly over weight. So here I am at 260 lbs and wanting to ease myself back into a habit of regular and strenuous workouts. Yes, I'm well educated about taking things slowly. I'm walking daily, transitioning to a healthy diet, and making sure I don't push it very hard. Slow and steady.

My first challenge is finding the right shoes. At 260 pounds the "cushioned" running shoes (New Balance) I bought are leaving me with very sore feet. They're very comfortable, and for walking around normally they're perhaps the most comfortable shoes I've ever owned. Yes, I broke them in for a few days. But after vigorously walking for a mile my feet end up feeling like they've been caned.

1) Does anyone have some advice on what sort of shoes I should be buying? Maybe running shoes are just a bad idea at this point.

2) My gut feeling is just that I haven't spent much time on my feet for the last year due my World Of Warcraft addiction. So maybe I just need to get my body used to the idea of not being in a comfy chair.

3) Does anyone have any experience going from a 30 minute 10K runner, to a 260 Lb couch potato, and then back to being in reasonably good shape? It would be nice to run a 10K race again, some day. And frankly I'd be happy with even sub 36. But right now I'm literally incapable of even running half a mile at any speed. And at 43, perhaps I'm being unrealistic?
posted by y6y6y6 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (19 answers total)
I honestly would suggest going to your local running store. Most stores, in my area at least, are staffed with people who love running and have answered this question a thousand times.

They will have you walk, and maybe run on a treadmill and determine how much your feet pronate, and recommend a shoe.
posted by dead_ at 10:09 AM on March 7, 2006

i definitely second going to a running store and getting advice. everyone is different as far as biometrics, foot fall, stride, etc so it is hard to recommend a particular thing without seeing the person.
i would imagine they may suggest a trail running shoe for now as they are usually more cushioned though.
posted by annoyance at 10:13 AM on March 7, 2006

After the death of Kirby Puckett I'd start by getting your blood pressure checked. I would buy a pair of walking shoes like Clark's or Rockports to start. I'd walk a minimum of 3 miles a day everyday rain or shine. I wouldn't even dream of running for about 3 months.

I've been running for thirty years and have only gone under 40 minutes for a 10K once. Anyone who could break 30 minutes has to weigh next to nothing so you must have added over 120 pounds. It's going to take a while to lose that sludge.
posted by Xurando at 10:26 AM on March 7, 2006

Since your question is about running shoes, I third the recommendation to go to a good running store. Any store worth their salt will watch you walk/run and give you a variety of shoes to try that should work for you.
posted by szg8 at 10:32 AM on March 7, 2006

Best answer: I'll take the second part of the question. 30 min 10k is fast, but you know that already. I mean, it's very fast. The world record is only 26 minutes and change, and the American Masters record for your age group, set by a 40 year old is 30:04. In the 45-49 year age group, the record is 31:48 set by a 45 year old. I think sub 36 may be doable, but is probably very ambitous.

My experience, which is in some ways similar, is that I was reasonably fast in HS (sub-16 min 5k), and then got fat and slothful. I run a lot now, mostly for distance rather than speed, but it's been close to impossible to recapture any of my former speed. My 5k time, which I will not sully my username by posting here, would have been a (very) comfortable training pace back in the day. Now, this is partly because I now run ultramarathons (where my times are decent, with two sub 24 hour 100 mile finishes), which do not require nor benefit as much from speedwork. But, there are other reasons as well.

1) I'm just slower. Everyone gets slower. Although I live in a different place from where I went to HS, I occassionaly run with someone who was on my team with me. He and I were essentially the same speed, trading second and third place runners on our team. He went on to a Division 3 school where he ran cross country and track, he's the same weight he was in HS, he's continued to run all these years (we're in our mid-30s), and he's just a bit faster than I am now. Well, ~4 min for a 10k, which is a lot, but can be explained by the other factors I'll list. My point is that he's slowed down too, without any of the intervening slothfulness.

2) When I started running again I weighed about what you weigh, and I lost a good 60-80 pounds depending on the scale. But it's hard as hell at 35 to get down closer to my weight from HS. I'm still 15-20 lbs off my race weight then, even when I put in 60-70 mile weeks. This explains some of the slowness, for sure. There was an article in Marathon & Beyond two issues ago which argued (correctly, I think) that each extra pound of weight adds 1 min to your marathon time, all else being equal.

3) It takes a long time to come back. Losing the weight takes time, getting your body to respond to training takes time, inculcating the desire for the punishment of training takes time. I know you say you're going easy on yourself, well, go easy. Your chances of injury are pretty high right now, and injuries just set you back. I went through several injuries caused by an excess of ambition when I was getting back into running. The time then affects what you can expect from your times, as illustrated by the examples I gave above. It wouldn't be unreasonable to think that it'd be two years (and another age group) before you're ready to run at your best, by which point 36 mins would be only 4 mins slower than the national age group record. Still, with your former speed you're likely to be able to win a lot of age group awards.

4) Finally, distance (by which I mean marathons & up) is what God made old age for! (And I don't even believe in god.)
posted by OmieWise at 10:43 AM on March 7, 2006

Response by poster: I weighed 160 in my running days. I'm big boned, so my times were based more on my ability to run through pain more than having an ideal physique. I ran a couple marathons and couldn't get under 3 hours.

But I started lifting weights later in life, so much of the weight came from that.

And while I certainly appreciate any advice the helpful folks here have to offer, can we please leave out the "go ask someone else" suggestions? I don't have a problem going to local shops and asking, but it would be nice if I had some basis for subjecting what they say to critical evaluation.

Xurando - Thanks for the "walking shoes" comment. For some idiotic reason I'd been doing all my research and Google searching on running shoes. Silly me. Brain fart. The articles I'm finding now on walking shoes are much more helpful.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:46 AM on March 7, 2006

Response by poster: "I think sub 36 may be doable, but is probably very ambitious."

Well, yes. On further thought that might be more than a little unrealistic. How about if I retract that goal? I did run a 39 minute 10K when I was 35. But I'd been doing mostly weight lifting at that point, and 10K was the furthest I'd run in years. I was sort of extrapolating from that.

Don't mind me.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:51 AM on March 7, 2006

I think that a lot of runners who were once really fast get bogged down and discouraged by setting time goals for themselves when getting back into the sport. A six-minute mile for 6 miles is way fast. It might not be unrealistic, but I've seen so many friends who are former cross country stars burn out, thinking "If I'm not fast anymore, why bother?" Instead of focusing on that number, I would just focus on getting better. And you will get faster, but don't worry about how fast.

Sorry, I don't have advice about the shoes. Could you have an injury from getting back into exercise after abandoning it for a while?
posted by Airhen at 10:57 AM on March 7, 2006

Thank you for posting this. I keep drifting in and out of running but there is no doubt that it is *by far* the most efficient way of getting 40 something weight off. The key thing is little and often. Even if you only run for ten minutes every other day to begin with, it's massively better than nothing.
posted by unSane at 11:03 AM on March 7, 2006

Agreed with many comments above...

I hear new balance is really the best for weight. I would start by finding out from a running club what the "best" running stores are in town. Here in KC, they put you on a treadmill and really give you a good analysis. Shoot, in my case, they wouldn't even sell me shoes yet. Made me goto a foot doc they all love to get orthotics. Expensive as all get out, but totally worth it.

TOTALLY agreed with what the poster said above about age/distance. Granted at 26 i'm not exactly old yet, but i can feel the pain of at least getting a _little_ older having your metabolism slow down a tad... I'd be interested in seeing what someone that used to do freakyfast ~short races like that could do over ultradistances years later.
posted by joshgray at 11:04 AM on March 7, 2006

Somewhat applicable to point 3: [url=]Couch to 5K[/url]. I know a number of people in various phases of the program and have just started it myself. (See basic and advanced methods for creating an interval stopwatch with an iTunes playlist - it's a real help in the early weeks). I have a friend who, upon completion of the 9 week program, went out and ran and completed a 5K without substantial agony, and this is someone who has never been a runner before. It seems like
posted by Lyn Never at 11:07 AM on March 7, 2006

I gormed that link, sorry. Couch to 5K
posted by Lyn Never at 11:08 AM on March 7, 2006

A little backstory, when I was younger, I didn't run distance, but I could regularly run 5min miles during PT tests in the army (Best two mile time: 9:46). I weighed about 165. Fast forward 8 years, I'm 320lbs of blubber.

In the three years since then, I've lost 120lbs and done 3 marathons, 10 triathlons, and umpteen road races. My fastest 5K is 19 and change, my fastest marathon is 3:30. For my shoes, I always wear Nike, one size bigger than regular footwear. I experimented a bit with various brands, even went to a running store, but ultimately, I went with the shoe that doesn't hurt or give my feet blisters. The model of Nike doesn't seem to matter too much, I just choose one of the mid-priced models when I need shoes. Always the same size.

In regards to speed, I'm 33, and I'm usually one of the fastest racers in my age group. You slow down as you get older and for me, it's just hard to fit in 70+ mile weeks. That's a lot of time that I just don't have. I don't run to be fast, if that was the case, I'd give up. I run because I love it, because I like how my body feels and responds to running. I also love to race, for me racing pushes me, gives me something to work towards, I try to race once or twice a month.

Change shoes often, as a bigger guy, you won't get as much mileage out of them as you would otherwise.

And listen to your body. For me, I can always tell I'm running too much in my shins and Achilles. Take it slow, work the mileage up, it will come.
posted by patrickje at 11:19 AM on March 7, 2006

Regarding your #3 question, it's never too late to get back into top form.
posted by knave at 12:31 PM on March 7, 2006

Not sure a specific brand will be better than another; most major brands have decent models that fall into a few categories: stability, neutral-cushioned and motion control. You'll probably want to identify your foot-type so you have an idea of which shoes suit you. With your weight, you'll probably spend a little more for more durable shoes.
posted by jessemellon at 1:31 PM on March 7, 2006

I never ran more than a mile till I turned 35. I had just quit smoking after fourteen years and wanted to lose a chunk of the 230 pounds I had acquired. I remember vaguely wanting to run a marathon within three years. I could barely jog half a mile that first day, and even though I felt horrible, I knew somehow in my bones, that I was getting better with every step. It's now six years later and I run about 15-20 miles a week, rain or shine. I can't imagine not running. I've run three marathons and a host of shorter races.

I am not fast, I run for pleasure. Sometimes a pleasure born of pain. I never scrimp on my shoes. It is a runners only true piece of equipment. I started out with New Balance 850 series and then the NB 1120s. I liked NB because they offered a variety of widths and they seemed to fit my broad flat feet a bit better than anything else I tried. However they did not seem to last very long. I think it's important to track your mileage and get new shoes every 2 or 3 hundred miles. For me this works out to about twice a year. Running shoes do wear out, probably more quickly for heavier runners. Getting them wet seems to hasten their demise. I currently run in Aasics Gel Kayanos which are very good shoes, albeit a bit on the expensive side. It's also important to note that shoe companies never seem to be able to leave a good thing alone. They tend to slightly tweak shoe designs every year and not always for the better.

The truth is that any good pair of running shoes will be good enough. Even the best won't make it easier to get out on a morning when it's 20 degrees and the wind is blowing the rain sideways. For that you need a desire to run. Get any decent pair and start running. See what you like and what you don't. There are endless discussions at online running shoe purveyors about which brand or model is the greatest. Read them if you like but take them with a grain of salt. The important thing is that you get out the door.

One last thing....if you ever need inspiration try Dr. George Sheehan's book Running and Being.
posted by coevals at 5:28 PM on March 7, 2006

I'll second that idea to get your blood pressure checked before doing any strenous exercise. As for shoes, if your feet are really giving you problems, consider getting custom orthotics. If your insurance doesn't cover them, they'll be about $250. (Best $250 I ever spent.)
posted by neuron at 10:33 PM on March 7, 2006

My brother, who doesn't have a MeFi account asked me to post this:

I thought I might chime in here since I am in the middle of trying to cut off my slothfulness and JoshGray had mentioned he'd like to hear from someone who did shorter distances. I was a sprinter and middle-distance runner during high school and college. Though I ran cross-country too; it was just for training. I primarily ran 200M, 400M, 600M, 800M. I wasn't Olympic or anything, but I got a lot of first places.

These days, my weak point is not so much my extra weight or even lack of muscles (though I've lost a lot). It's my cardio. My breathing and lungs get tired before my muscles really ache (at least when it comes to running) --and I'm not getting any cramps, I know how to avoid this through years of running. This does a few things for me. In the meantime I have become more of a distance runner, at least in my training. Slower speed, longer runs. Once I get my endurance up I plan on putting some prints in my training. But I don't see that happening in the next couple months. Slow and steady for me as well....

As for shoes. It's REALLY IMPORTANT to realise that we all have very different feet. My feet are a little wider than the average person's feet (my right one especially). This means a number of things to me. First off, I destroy regular shoes VERY quickly. And they hurt a bit too. Secondly I find certain types of shoes of certain brands work better with my feet/body. For example, Ido better with Asics running shoes than they do with the walking or cross-training shoes of the same brand. There are some types of saucony shoes that I can wear as well.

One more important thing to think about:
Your walking/running style: concave, convex, or flat. Meaning, do the insides of your feet dip in or tip out when you run/walk. Mine dip in. Again, some shoes support this better than others, and some shoe inserts can help with this, a lot.

This is where going to a good athletics store would come in handy. A good athletic store will examine you and try to notice your walking/running style to see if you need certain types of shoes with extra support. I know you wanted us to list some brands to you, but because all our feet are so different, you would need to go out and buy a LOT of shoes to try them all and see how they do. A good store with good workers would be able to tell you what you need much more quickly (and cheaper too). At least you can take the knowledge of what types of support and worries you need to keep in mind.

Them's my thoughts. I hope they help.

posted by soplerfo at 7:08 AM on March 8, 2006

How's the running going?
posted by OmieWise at 11:42 AM on August 29, 2006

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