Above photo by: Samantha Murphy
I’ve been running since I was 7 years old. I can remember my first pair of running shoes clearly, they were a pair of 2 sizes too big Nike’s that were Velcro and on sale for a steal. A bit clunky but at the time they did the trick.
Since then I have received a track scholarship to the University of Illinois and was fortunate enough to be able to test out every kind of running shoe out there. Then came post-collegiate running for a track club out east who had a sponsorship with New Balance and was once again I was given the opportunity to see what the different shoes were made of.
WHAT MAKES UP A GOOD RUNNING SHOE?
When I’m looking for a good shoe I like to make sure that they are not overly cushioned so that I’m aware of the ground beneath me, nothing inside the shoe is rubbing against my foot in a weird way, I’m not sliding around inside the shoe, and it feels supportive yet natural.
HOW DO YOU DETERMINE WHICH SHOE WORKS BEST FOR YOU?
Picking out a good pair or running shoes is as individual as the freckles on your face. I can talk all day about Mizuno being for a more narrow foot and high arch and New Balance having a wider toe box but the honest truth is, its about what feels good for you. Make sure to also have your feet checked to test if you pronate or supinate. Buying a neutral or pronating shoe that doesn’t work for you can be cause for injury. What really matters is that it’s the right fit in length and width as well.
Pronate: The sole of the foot faces downward and inward. Most of the weight when running is on the inside edge of the feet.
Supinate: The sole of the foot faces upward and outward. Most of the weight when running is on the outside edge of the feet.
If you aren’t entirely sure what size your foot is, then go get a measurement—usually you go a half size larger in running shoes than what your actual foot size is. When you are running your feet will swell and it’s important to leave room for the increase in size. Every shoe has its own form of cushioning system and its important to just see which one feels most comfortable for you: Asics- gel, Mizuno- wave system, and the list goes on. Test them out and personalize your choice dependent on how often you’re training and for how long. If you are mainly going on trails get a trail shoe, longer distances need a more durable and cushioned shoe, and those who are running for recreation any basic level runner will do if it fits right.
WHAT FEATURES ARE ESSENTIAL FOR PERFORMANCE SHOES?
When I’m looking for a training shoe, I look for: comfort, stability, and lightweight. When I am looking for a racing flat or spike, I am looking for a feeling of the shoe pushing me on to my toes, very lightweight and minimal support. When I say minimal support I mean that I’m not running barefoot but it’s the closest thing to it while still protecting my feet. A shoe that pushes me onto my toe causes my form to improve and my leg turnover to increase.
Common mistakes people make purchasing running shoes are choosing it for looks, being stubborn on a certain brand, and not having the proper size. Some of the most unattractive shoes I have had have been my favourite. The way it looks does not matter if you are choosing what’s actually the best fit for you. Sometimes brands change, models adjust and it’s okay to mix it up. Being stubborn and sticking with a shoe that used to work for you for the sake of how it used to fit is somewhat naïve. Proper size is so key; it can make the perfect shoe very wrong. I can’t stress enough getting your feet measured at a store, and getting checked for pronation. An important point is that almost everybody has two different size feet. It is very important that you fit your shoes to the larger of the two feet, do not try to squeeze your feet into a smaller size out of pride or because one foot is smaller.
HOW DO I STAY MOTIVATED TO RUN?
If you had asked me this question two years ago, I would have said, I have no motivation to run. I decided to take a year off and in coming back decided that what I needed most was proper recovery. I stay motivated by keeping as much of a healthy training-life balance as I can while still being an “elite-athlete.” I always take one day off a week and it makes me feel fresh for the rest of the week. On days I’m struggling to get out the door I focus on how I will feel after the run is done and how crappy it would feel if I didn’t do it. Running with friends makes it 1000 times easier to get out the door, and also the earlier in the day I finish up the less I procrastinate the run away.
It’s very important depending on your training distance to incorporate enough carbohydrates before your run and a ratio of 4:1 carbohydrates to protein after the run. Some great post workout foods are almonds, hemp hearts, chia seeds, blueberries, applesauce, lean meat, sweet potatoes and quinoa.
Prepping for a race is not the time to try any new foods, crazy routines or new workouts that you haven’t done before. Planning out your day from race start to when you wake up is great for preparing and planning when and what you will eat and what kind of pre-race shake out rituals work for you. Eating at least 3-4 hours out from the race is helpful in preventing stomach upset, as well as eating very simple foods.
Practice makes perfect as they say. Practicing your goal race pace in at least two workouts a week will familiarize your body and energy systems to feeling comfortable with your goal pace. Sleep, nutrition and stress levels play a huge factor in your training and racing performance. It can be as simple as increasing sleep, decreasing stress and making sure you have proper nutrition to improve your personal best, without even changing your training.
For beginners, I recommend not stressing paces, times, and competitions. Run for feel; learn to enjoy yourself before you overwhelm yourself. Running can be such a beautiful and stress relieving sport and it can also be very tiring and anxiety inducing. Learn to love it. Start small and gradually work your way up.