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Running is so simple to begin and comes naturally to us. All you need to start training is a good set of leggings or shorts, a sports top and a pair of running shoes.
However, if you're looking to take your running to the next level, or if you're already an elite athlete, it's time to check your footwear closely.
It's important to keep track of the condition of your shoes and socks to ensure you are giving your feet the support and care they need and deserve.
This guide will help you navigate the running shoe market and help you keep your feet and body in peak condition.
If the shoe fits…
Choosing a good pair of running shoes means finding the right ones for you. Fit is just one element of this. The right trainers can help you avoid injury, improve your posture and help you battle your environment. If your feet are comfortable and your body feels strong, you're more likely to smash your performance goals.
The Lifespan of your Running Shoes
There are a huge variety of running shoes, each claiming different benefits to your performance and health.
Factors such as budget, fashion preference and available time will play a major part in your buying decision. Most importantly, trainers must absorb shock and gives our feet maximum support.
Let's go through some of the factors that make a difference to the lifespan of your trainers.
- The Runner
A heavier runner will put more material stress on their shoes than a lighter runner, as each foot impacts up to five times your body weight. This is why the miles quickly add up on your shoe's lifespan.
In addition to the number of miles your running shoes take you, the environment also makes a difference to the ageing process. Over time the cushioning will harden or disintegrate and the elasticity of the support will weaken.
A light-footed, dynamic runner's foot only briefly makes contact with the ground, so avoiding the majority of material stress compared to a pounding gait. This will help the shoe last longer. Being aware of your gait (where your foot impacts the floor most) will really help you choose a pair of running shoes with more padding and cushioning in those areas, whilst also making sure the support is appropriate for your foot-shape.
If you're mainly running on a road or pavement you will notice the springy cushioning in the shoe will rapidly wear down. If you tend to run off-road your sole may last longer, but you may find you get more snagging and mud/water damage to your shoe's upper material. Keep your intended running terrain in mind when trainer shopping as you can often find these specifics mentioned.
Did you know that your foot expands when it makes contact with the ground? It can expand up to 4% during any given day. This is due to the pressure of your body's weight. It's recommended that you go up at least half a shoe size and try to go shopping later in the day or evening when your foot has spread already. Allow a thumb's width between your big toes and the front seams of the running shoes to avoid splitting the seams or damaging your feet.
Now you've made plenty of room for your feet to expand. You also need to make sure they're secure in that space. Your feet are at risk of rubbing and slipping within the shoe, so the lacing is very important. It's common to pull the last section tight, but it's actually the middle section of the lace that needs to be secure to hold your foot firmly in the correct position. Here's a video guide https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oz3W_bDHXWU
A mentioned before it's important to choose the shoe that best suits your technique and gait. Ankle rolling (bending inward or outward) can be minimised with some stable shoe styles. It's important to know that male and female styles provide different widths as standard. There are other factors such as water resistance and breathability which may be important to you, depending on your chosen terrain.
How to Gauge the Age of your Trainers
- As a general guide, manufacturers tend to suggest changing your running shoes every 500-800km.
- Firstly you can push on the foam innersole to see whether it's spongy (it should be) and any signs of wrinkling suggests it's no good any more.
- The undersole of your shoe should have plenty of tread. If it's worn down or disintegrated it's not going to give you much precision or grip.
- The sole should be pretty rigid to give your foot support and stability. If you hold the toe in one hand and the heel in another it shouldn't be too easy to twist.
Keeping your socks on…
Having the right running shoes for the job may be obvious, but don't overlook your socks. Did you know socks can affect your run as much as your trainers? Your running sock should make the perfect partner for complete foot care when you run. Some factors to consider include;
- Fabric - Contrary to instinct, synthetic fabrics can help keep the temperature of your skin down by allowing moisture to dissipate and evaporate, in a similar way to wool. Avoid cotton as it absorbs the moisture so your feet may get very wet and overheat.
- Friction - Socks with tightly knitted dense fabric or double material can reduce the risk of blistering from rubbing. However, if you are prone, you can use lubrication or powder on the most sensitive areas. Be aware that too much fabric conditioner can cause slipping which can chafe.
- Compression - Compression works by adding extra-firm support to high-risk areas of your foot. Sock compression is usually for the arch of the foot and the calf muscles. It works by holding the muscles in place to reduce vibration and friction damage. Compression can also increase venous return (returning blood-flow). However, unless the sock is personally made for you, there is little chance the compression is correctly placed for your body shape. Another way to increase blood flow is to wear infrared socks . This helps with temperature regulation, pain relief and increased muscle energy while you exercise; and muscular recovery for as long as you wear the socks afterwards (recommended for at least 1 hour)
Consider your running environment to help you choose the right socks. Moisture and ventilation will be a major consideration, whether you're entering a Tough Mudder or running in the heat or rain. Long distance runners may need the cushioning of thicker socks and the circulation-boosting effects of infrared fabric.
If you let you trainers get too old you may find you get shin splints, knee or hip problems. Running shoes should provide an element of cushioning and support as well as shock absorption. 4
Getting shoes to suit your gait can also help correct poor form, and reduce the risk of injury. If in doubt chuck them out.
If you wear your socks when you shop for running shoes you will ensure they sit well together to give you maximum comfort and support.
There are many factors to bear in mind when checking the performance of your trainers and socks. In the long run… personal preference will guide your final decision.
Look after yourself… you're worth the investment!
If you would like more information to support your running recovery and performance you can check out these other blogs
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