It’s gotta be the shoes.
Runners have opinions about everything. Strong opinions, about silly things like socks, energy gels, and water bottles. I’ve witnessed arguments over whose GPS watch was more accurate.
There’s nothing runners feel more strongly about than their shoes…and for good reason. Just think for a moment about the abuse your feet take on a long run. The pounding. The swelling. The rubbing. If you’re going to wear running shoes (and not everyone does), you might as well put some thought into it.
So, here’s my little common-sense guide to finding the right shoe:
Do a little homework (but not too much): There are plenty of resources out there to help you research and select running shoes. There are blogs that geek-out on sneakers and online tools to help you narrow your options. Just one word of caution…don’t go too far down the rabbit-hole, because researching shoes online is no substitute for getting them on your feet and taking them for a run.
Consult an expert (but listen to your feet): I’d suggest visiting your local running store to talk to an expert. I do not recommend going to a store that also sells hunting gear, or one that makes its employees wear a referee uniform. Go to a place that knows runners and their feet. A good store will measure your feet, look at them carefully, and analyze your gait. They’ll recommend an option or two, but ultimately you must decide. Just remember, if you’re not comfortable jogging around the store, you probably won’t be comfortable at the end of a long run.
Spare no expense (at first): This might be hard for some, but you need to choose the proper shoe without looking at the pricetag. Don’t let a few dollars steer you towards the wrong shoe. You’ll regret it. That said, if you buy a pair of shoes and truly love them, stock up. Buy a second pair and find a sweet deal online, on sale or at an outlet. Running shoes are constantly being updated, so there’s a good chance that by the time you need a new pair, your old favorite style will be on sale.
Never change (unless you need to): Once you find that perfect pair of shoes, stick with them. Be sure to replace them every 400-500 miles, but stick with that specific brand and style. There may come a day when injury, a change in your running style, or the availability of your favorite shoe necessitates a change, but until then, resist the urge. Forget about what looks cool, or what the running magazines are saying is the next big innovation.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to comfort. Whether you’re running 1 mile or 26.2, it’s really just you and your shoes.