Why You Should Expand your Quiver of Running Shoes

Why You Should Expand your Quiver of Running Shoes

1,2,3,4? How many pairs of running shoes do you have?

How many pairs of running shoes do you have? More importantly, how many pairs of running shoes do you run in on a weekly basis?

Your answer should be... "at least two but it could be more, depending on what kind of running you do on a regular basis," says Chris Healy, Manager of Running Fit in Ann Arbor, Michigan.No, that’s not an up-sell gimmick to boost sales in the store; he’s trying to help you become a more balanced runner, improve your gait, avoid injuries and actually get more life out of each pair of shoes.

"Most recreational runners typically buy a new pair of running shoes every 6 months or so, run the heck out of them and retire that pair to less strenuous activities—mowing the lawn, going to the mall, shuttling kids to various activities, walking the dog or simply wearing them with jeans with casual clothes. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but there are reasons that can be doing you a disservice," Healy says.

Chris Heney - man with the running shoes

ROTATE YOUR RUNNING SHOES, BUILD YOUR RUNNING STRENGTH

"Having multiple types of shoes in your quiver can allow you to match a pair of shoes for the specific type of running you’re doing or the terrain you’ll be running on, and also allow your feet and lower legs to ever-so-slightly alter your running gait and foot-strike pattern," he says.

Instead of having your feet hit the ground the same way on every stride on every run of the week, alternating between two or three pairs of shoes during any given week can help you mix things up enough to build neglected micro muscles in your feet, ankles, lower legs and that can lead to becoming a stronger and more agile runner in the long run.

A new running shoe for every occasion

BALANCED STRENGTH FOR LONGEVITY

By alternating your shoes you’re going to be able to maintain more balanced strength in your legs. In your rotation, you might have one or more pairs of high-mileage trainers, a pair of lightweight trainers for faster workouts and medium to long races, a pair of trail running shoes, a pair of racing flats (for very short and fast workouts and races) and a pair of gym training shoes for CrossFit, OrangeTheory, TRX or traditional weight lifting sessions.

“Every different shoe works on different muscle groups,” Healy says. “So when you run in the same shoe over and over again, you’re only strengthening one set of muscles in a specific pattern. And that means you’re not strengthening other muscles, so you’re creating a strength imbalance that can affect your gait.”

TRAIN LIKE A PRO

Elite level runners do this all the time—typically running in different shoes for long runs, recovery runs, tempo runs, speed workouts and races—but the benefits are the same for recreational runners too.

"It’s partly about having the optimal proprioceptive interaction with the ground—the ability for your brain to sense the ground and allow the rest of your body to react accordingly—and partly about what you prefer (the cushioning, shape, height off the ground and weight of shoes, for example) for various kinds of running," Healy comments.

Trail Running - mix it up

MIX IT UP, HEAD TO THE TRAILS

Trail running a few times per week is another way to accomplish that result. When running on trails, you’ll benefit by be wearing shoes specifically made for the types of routes you’re running instead of your road running kicks. It’s not that road running shoes won’t work sufficiently on many trails, it’s more that trail running shoes offer better traction and smartly placed protection against sharp or awkward obstacles on the trail. Trail shoes will help you run better, reduce the chance of injuries and provide a better overall experience when you’re running off the beaten path.

“When it comes to running trails and trail running shoes, the biggest factor is the right balance of proprioception and protection—or the idea of how important it is it to feel the ground versus keeping your foot from feeling some of the things on the trail,” Healy says. “Trail shoes have reinforced uppers, rock plates and a fit that will keep you inside the shoe when you’re on more rugged terrain.”

You’ll be able to extend the life of each pair of running shoes and become a healthier, stronger runner if you increase the number of shoes in your weekly rotation, avoid wearing a single pair too often and hold off on wearing your running shoes for non-running activities until you retire them from active duty.

"If a shoe is completely worn out, it could increase your odds of developing overuse injuries," Healey says.

About Author

Brian Metzler

Brian has run races at every distance up to 100 miles, wear-tested more than 1,500 pairs of shoes, is a 3-time Ironman finisher & occasionally participates in pack burro racing in Colorado.

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