The Parable Of The New Shoes

I’ll be honest, I can be quite a cynical when it comes to some things related to running and running “injuries.” See? I can’t even leave the quotes off the word “injuries” because I’m such a cynic. Part if traces back to my cynicism about medicine in general, but most of it I can blame on my Dad. He ran 3-5 times a week 3+ miles a time for his ENTIRE LIFE. Did he ever do races or anything? Nope. He just ran because he knew he should. He knew that getting out there for that bit several times a week helped keep him healthy.

(I’ll save my bitterness about him dying at the hands of a painful cancer later.)

He often complained about things hurting as he got older. Knees especially. He said that he really only had one pace because faster or slower hurt him more. But did he ever go to the doctor about it? Nope. He just attributed to being someone who ran a lot, and who was getting older. He didn’t think any treatment or shoe or brace or tape would actually give him pain-free running. He didn’t believe that was possible for someone his age who ran regularly. He just accepted pain as fact and pushed through it.

(I’ll save my bitterness about this SAME QUALITY being what also made him miss the chance at an early diagnosis for his cancer. I mean, there are some levels of pain you should just SEE A DOCTOR ABOUT ALREADY, DAD. Jeez.)

Dad never even bought “fancy” running shoes. He’d go to Shoe Carnival or some such place and try on a few $40 pairs of shoes until he found some that felt okay and then he’d leave with them. He probably replaced them once a year or once every 9 months or so. And for a long time this made me quite cynical about how the running shoe industry seems to insist we all have special shoes (and sometimes those special shoes are “free” in order to similar barefoot running) and they usually cost AT LEAST $100. And you should replace them every 300-500 miles or every 4-6 months.

WHATEVS, dude. That’s ridiculous. I wear shoes until the tread on the bottom starts to smooth out. THEN I’ll replace them. And I’m not getting on your stupid treadmill so you can analyze my run. Just give me the cheapest pair you got and I’m OUTTA HERE.

Well…Sometimes Dad wasn’t right about everything. When I first started getting in shape in early 2011, I had a pair of Nike Pegasus 27s that I wore to boot camp most mornings. When I started training for the Cotton Row that May, I decided to get a new pair of running shoes. I went to Zappos and ordered the cheapest ones I could find. They did me okay, I guess, but I got tons of blisters and black toenails and was too stubborn to admit it was the shoes.

I donated those at the Warrior Dash in September and used my Nike Pegasus 27s to run in for awhile. I was surprised how little problems I had. Still a few blisters periodically, but nothing major. I started thinking Okay. Maybe there’s something to this whole “right shoe” thing. I was running up to 10 miles in those Nikes and not having any problems. Then, one long run in late September, my hip started hurting.

Maybe there’s something to this “lifespan” of a shoe thing, too. I mean, I had about 9 months on those Nikes at that point in time and probably a couple hundred miles plus 200+ hours of boot camp. I decided to just buy the SAME EXACT shoe again. Turns out? They had moved up to the 28s in that time so I bought those. The only color they had at Fleet Feet of those shoes in my size were Purplish and Orange. Brightest shoes I’d ever owned and ended up LOVING THEM.

They saw me through the rest of my training and my half-marathon. Then, a couple weeks ago I started having issues with my knee/hip again. I’ve just been paying special attention to my IT band to try to relieve some of that, but I also decided to calculate the miles I had on those shoes. 300+. Which is the lower end of the range they give you before a shoe breaks down. But if you consider I also do boot camp in them 5 hours a week? That’s probably the equivalent of 400-500 miles on those shoes. I finally started thinking, FINE. Maybe I do need to be good about replacing my shoes when they tell you to!

I ordered the next pair from Zappos because Fleet Feet didn’t have my size and it would take 1-2 weeks to get them. Zappos got them to me in less than 24 hours. I still chose an obnoxious color because I find I’m hooked on obnoxious shoes now. The new ones are on the left with the pink highlights. You can just see how the shape changes after 300+ miles of running in a shoe. I wish I could photograph the INSIDE of the orange one and show you how worn parts of the inside are. It’s hard for me to look at the tread of a shoes and not see it too worn and still believe that the shoe needs to be replaced, but I guess it’s what’s on the INSIDE that counts. It breaks down before the tread does and it is the key part in keeping your legs happy.

The moral of the story? Don’t be a cynic about EVERYTHING. I still don’t trust every little thing everyone tells me. I still believe some levels of pain are just part of getting older and living an active lifestyle. Hell, my knees hurt for the first few months we lived in this house because I wasn’t used to stairs. I wasn’t even running or anything yet. At least now, when I hurt, I can know it’s because I’m kicking ass as I’m getting older.

But I’m also finally willing to admit that maybe the $100 running shoes are better than the $40 shoes if you run as much as I do. And maybe replacing them every 300-500 miles is a good idea after all, even if you do that in 3-4 months. (I ran 100 miles in the month of January and that was WITH a hurt kneed I babied for a week. ONE HUNDRED MILES IN ONE MONTH HOLY CRAP I’M AWESOME.) I mean, it may have taken me a whole year to finally believe this – even when people have been telling me it all along – but, at least I finally started believing it. It’s nice to know my stubborn cynicism does have limits.


8 thoughts on “The Parable Of The New Shoes”

  1. I’ve been getting a TON of pressure from a lot of different people lately to try and transition to minimal/vibrams type shoes and aim for barefoot(ish) running, but I just can’t see it working for me. The cushioned Mizunos I have right now are SO comfortable, and I’m running without issues. My knee still twinges after I did whatever to it with one weird workout DVD, but otherwise, they’re definitely making a difference. With my old New Balance shoes, I had major shin splints, and now they’re gone. I think my shoes wear out faster too, mostly because I’m a “heavier” runner. Man, I hate saying that…

  2. My husband has really kicked up his running this past year, and come to this same conclusion… He’s now getting new shoes every 4 months or so (he keeps a really detailed running log and buys at exactly 300 miles), but no injuries despite the INSANE amounts he’s running (truly insane – he’s not in training for anything at the moment, but still goes on 18-20 mile long runs each weekend, as well as his shorter ones throughout the week!)

  3. I still can’t bring myself to pay $100 for my shoes, so try I buy last year’s model at a discount. Last summer I tried the more minimal (near-barefoot) type and once I found that it worked for me, I bought another pair as a back-up/alternate. What I hate the most is when the manufacturer changes the composition of the specific shoe that has worked for you and then the new version suddenly is all wrong and causes pain from the get-go

    1. I’ve seriously considered buying several of the Pegasus now for that same reason. The switch from 27 to 28 didn’t seem to change anything major but I fear that possibility so much!!

  4. I had a shoe post already written for today, and am now revamping it to incorporate your post. How funny!

    Also, do you use insoles with your

  5. I think it’s never wrong to maintain a “healthy” sense of cynicism, if that means being critical with stuff that people say. There may be some truth behind the recommendations but at the same time, I’ve seen the newer ads for shoes where they promise to tone as you walk or something like that. You’ve got me sold on the right shoes and the lifespan. But these ads haven’t. Unless you write another blog post that maybe there’s something to that leg toning thing too. Then, I’ll consider. ;)

  6. Yessss! Rule of thumb? Stuff shouldn’t hurt. There’s a big difference between muscle fatigue and pain, and the latter is always telling us that there’s something wrong. My feet roll in ridiculously and I honestly just thought the pain in my shins was because exercise was supposed to hurt. Now I’m running in proper shoes and the only pain the nasty ice bath my mean husband makes me sit in after a 15-miler.

  7. 100 miles in 1 month??? Holy cow, YOU ARE AWESOME! Meanwhile, I keep hitting snooze and haven’t even jogged a block :( I need to follow your fitness blog more so I can stop slackin’ already!

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