Shorts, socks, shirt, watch, a pair of shoes and you’re pretty much ready to go – that simplicity is one of the great appeals of running. But simplicity can also lead some runners to keep only one pair of shoes at a time or avoid trying different shoe brands as years go by. Don’t do it! Variety in your training and the shoes you train in is important for any runner. We spoke with San Francisco Running Company founder and Ultrarunning Magazine columnist Brett Rivers about the benefits that come from having a quiver of shoes. He told us how having the right tool for the run can benefit your training or racing and even prevent injury.
So what makes one pair of shoes different from another?
Brett listed off some of the many factors: heel width, instep height, toe box width and height, level of cushioning, last of the sole and of course tread. “What I really encourage people to do is go into their local community focused running store,” Brett advised.
These shops exist because they are staffed by passionate runners and we want to get runners into the shoes that will help them get the most out of the sport.
If you want to get another pair of shoes to expand your quiver or are just looking to replace a worn out pair, your local running store can help you find what you need. Though there’s no silver bullet shoe and Brett was skeptical of the idea that a different pair of shoes would totally change someone’s running performance. The benefit of having different shoes is the variety of training it provides.
Variety is what’s going to keep you healthy and running.
Brett said, “That comes in three ways. One is variety in types of training: faster speed workouts, race-pace runs and long, slow distance runs. Variety in terrain is also what’s going to work the body in a ton of different ways. Getting out on the trails or running hills works different muscles and will help to prevent overuse injuries. And variety of footwear. That’s also going to work the body in different ways so your feet don’t develop specific weaknesses.” For example, running your speed workouts in a lighter-weight pair of shoes will allow you to complete the workout at a faster pace and running a measured distance in less supportive shoes will help develop the muscles in your feet. And getting a pair of trail shoes and running your long runs on softer terrain will reduce muscle fatigue and help to ward off impact-related injuries.
Once you’ve got a number of different shoes in your rotation, it’s important to keep track of how worn out they are. Brett said the industry standard is 350-400 miles on a pair of trainers, but they can vary widely based on how sturdy or lightweight the shoes are, how heavy the runner is, the terrain you’re running on and how hot it is – for example, the same shoes on the same runner are going to last a lot longer in San Francisco than they would in Arizona in the summer. The best way to measure wear is to keep an eye on the tread and notice if the cushion of the shoe feels lessened. When in doubt, take your shoes by your local running shop.
Strava’s gear locker can also help you keep track of the miles you’ve put on your shoes. You can easily track the miles you’ve put on each pair and get notified after you’ve put a chosen number of miles on them. For now you’ll need to add a new pair of shoes and set up a mileage alert from the web, then you can easily tag them in any run from the web or from the app.
While there might be a romantic simplicity in running, racing and wearing through one pair of shoes at a time, there are so many reasons to keep a few pairs in your quiver. And the more you try, the more discerning you might become. Some shoes won’t fit right when they’re taken up to speed in a race while other models might become a reliable stand-by, with two or three pairs in rotation at a time. So much of how a shoe fits is personal choice, but if you’ve tried dozens of shoes, let us know which ones have worked best for you and how you found them!