On the Run: Shoe Advice from a Veteran Runner

01/19/2012 - 17:43

By DINK TAYLOR, Owner, Fleet Feet Sports, Huntsville, Alabama

taylor.jpg It seems there is not a day that goes by, at some point, the topic of “injury” is brought to my attention. Someone comes into Fleet Feet with a problem, I get emails or it is just the topic of conversation on the run. I believe the word injury is the most hated word in the running world, maybe even in all sports.

While we could talk all day about injuries and which ones we have had, I want to talk about ways to prevent them. I have had just about every ache and pain in the book and, up until now, I have never missed a day of running due to injury. I have been accused of being “a freak of nature” but I like to think I have been given some pretty good genes and have made some wise choices over the years while on the run. I believe I could write all day on injury prevention but today I am going to just talk about my top three ways to prevent injuries.

Running tons of miles back in the 80’s as a kid, it seemed I stayed injured all the time. I remember limping up to the post-race awards to pick up that age group trophy. Sure I ran the race, just could not get around too good afterward. We ran no matter what and looking back I have concluded that we were just not educated on footwear choices and how to prevent injuries. No one knew then what we know now.

When I think of running, the first thing that comes to mind is running shoes. Back in 1979 after I ran my first 10k, in my school shoes no less, Mom took me into the Gadsden Mall to Athletes Foot to get my first real running shoes. I have to give credit to the marketing geniuses at Nike because when we set out for that first pair of running shoes, I only wanted one brand and that was Nike. So, I can remember picking them straight off the wall, yellow with a blue swoosh, and it did not matter how they fit -- I just wanted Nike. So, do you think that is how we should be picking out our running shoes today? I believe getting in the right shoes is vital to preventing injury. It's number one.

I am going to throw out some information about shoes. Poorly fitted shoes lead to injury. Shoes with too many miles on them lead to injury. Pay attention to your shoes! Not only do you need to know what works best for you, you need to know about what shoes you are wearing and for what reason. I keep no less than eight pairs of shoes in my rotation. What? “But you own a running store” is the reply I usually get. I have been rotating shoes and lots of them for the better part of the last 20 years, long before I had a running store. I have pairs for easy days on the road, I have pairs for long runs, I have pairs for tempo days, speed workouts, I have pairs for trails and different types of trails. I even have shoes for racing and recovery. I run in shoes that are new, some that have 200 miles on them and some with as many as 400 miles.

I know which shoes work best for what workout and I do believe it has been one of the reasons I have been able to avoid injury. I rarely wear one shoe more than twice a week and I run every day. I never let myself get too dependent on any one shoe, the more you depend on one shoe or one brand, the more you are likely to run into problems. It is good to give your feet different feels each day, different types of support as you need to find a way to use all of the 200+ muscles in the foot. Repetitive use of the same muscles over and over can lead to injury. I hear folks all the time say something like, "I can only run in the Asics 2170." Sure it is a great shoe but let me tell you this. The 2170 is only around for one year, then it becomes the 2180, a different shoe. Maybe the changes are slight but if you go back 10 years in that same 2000 series, it is a totally different shoe. It was probably even designed by someone different. The guy that designed the 2100 might work for Saucony now. Running shoe designers move from one company to another, I see it all the time and they take their ideas on footwear with them. If you wonder about shoe rotations and what types you should be using, all you have to do is come in to Fleet Feet and we’ll figure out what will work best for you.

Here are some quick and simple tips. I believe that your longest runs should be in your newest shoes and your shortest runs in your oldest shoes. Wear your most cushioned shoes on recovery days. Wear your lightest shoes for tempo and speed work and only wear racing flats for racing.

My number two way to prevent injury came about in 1998. I thought my running days were over. I had this crazy Idea that I would average 12 miles per day for that calendar year. After 6 months of 84 miles per week I came down with the worst case of plantar fasciitis ever. Looking back, it was an overuse injury but if I knew then what I know now I believe I could have prevented it. Supreme insoles could have prevented it. I believe that about 99% of the population will benefit from a Superfeet, Powerstep, Enduro sole or custom orthotic. After being introduced to them in 1998, my plantar fasciitis went away remarkably fast and in December 1999 I ran my all time best marathon, a direct result of using the insoles. They made my biomechanics more efficient, kept me healthier and since 1999 I have had very few aches or pains; it is almost as though injuries are less of a threat to me now than before despite being in my mid-forties. So, if you want to prevent injuries and run faster times and for more years, get fitted for a good insole for your running shoes. After studying biomechanics of the foot for several years and running on man-made flat surfaces (roads) as much as we do, in my research I have concluded that good insoles are possibly even more important than the shoes.

My number three way to prevent injury is upper body strength. With my busy schedule, it seems I always find time to run but I do
not get enough weight workouts. I don’t think I am alone. Most get the cardio in but forget the strength workouts. Even if you can manage only 15-20 minutes of solid upper body work two or three days a week, you will benefit greatly and reduce chances of injury. I believe that by having a stronger upper body, it reduces the stress of the lower body that running causes and helps maintain some balance. You will also feel better, burn more calories and be able to handle longer runs with less stress. So, take a look at yourself, see if you are on track to injury-free running. These three steps can help keep you running on and on and on…

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