WW | confessions of a runner + how to pick running shoes

I currently own seven pairs of running shoes. Seven. That’s a lot of running shoes. Not very practical for job interviews. I only have two pairs of those kinds of shoes. Probably explains why I am still job searching.

not pictured: my gray Nike LunarRacers. I was actually wearing them at the time because they are my “so fashionable I can wear these as regular shoes” running shoes.

With all these shoes I must do a lot of running. And yes, that’s correct. Part of the reason I have so many running shoes is that I’ve had some serious foot issues/injuries for over a year and trying new shoes seemed like the best idea to fix the problem (or that’s what I keep telling myself). In all seriousness, the right pair of running shoes is critical if you’re a serious runner. Even for amateurs a bad pair of shoes can lead to serious injuries. So what should you consider when picking a pair of shoes? Two things are most important for me: arch height and color stride type.

I’ve got normal-high arches, so that means having some arch support in my shoes is pretty important. Well how do you know your arch height? A good technique, called the brown paper bag technique, is to get your feet wet and step on a brown paper bag (concrete works just as well). Take a look at that imprint and if you see almost all your foot you have low arches. If you’re like me and you can see about half your foot, you’ve got medium arches. And if you can’t see much, you’ve got high arches.

Another thing to consider is your stride. Everyone has a natural way their feet land and roll once they hit the pavement. Knowing how your feet do this is important when considering the type of support you will need a in a shoe. Inward rolling is known as pronation and outward rolling is supination. Both are necessary for a normal stride, but too much or too little of either can cause foot pain and injury. A simple way to get an idea of your stride it to look at the bottom of a pair of shoes you’ve worn for a while. If there is more wear on the outside of the shoe you supinate, on the inside you pronate. If the wear is completely even, you’re neutral. I put more pressure on the outside, although it’s slight and I was actually a neutral runner in high school. So be wary that your stride may change overtime.

There are definitely more things you can learn about your feet and stride that will help you pick the best shoes for you, but these are the easiest and most basic ones that anyone can easily determine. If you look online or go to a running store and tell them your stride and arch type you will be able to find a number of shoes that will probably work for you. And for the most part, I think buying shoes requires a lot of trial and error, seeing what’s comfortable and what works.

So back to my shoes :) The very first pair of running shoes I ever bought I chose because they were on sale and matched my high school uniform. Note: this is a VERY bad way to chose shoes. Running shoes are not like a pair of pumps. I don’t care how cute they are, running shoes need to be comfortable, not cheap and adorable (although this is definitely achievable). Since that first pair, I tried a lot of different shoes but essentially I ran in a relatively supportive shoe. I also developed an obsession with Brooks. Brooks Glycerin (the 7+8’s are pictured below) were my shoes for most of high school and college. It is a shoe for a neutral runner and they have a generous amount of support. Great basic shoe for anyone new to running or who runs regularly already. Highly recommend it.

Brooks Glycerin 7

Brooks Glycerin 8

However, once my running developed more throughout college, I wanted a shoe that was less supportive and would allow me to run more naturally without relying on the cushion of the Glycerin. I personally like shoes that give me more freedom to run with my natural stride. Although, I will say, I do not think I’ll ever go to Vibrams. Without getting into it too much, it’s just not appealing to me and I think it would put more strain no my calves and achilles than I care for.

So, in my attempt to “downsize” I purchased the Nike LunarRacer (the orange shoes below). This shoe is designed for speed workouts and distance racing. Not nearly as cushion-y and supportive as the Glycerin, but not as light as the Nike Frees (I only reference this shoe because I think most people have come into contact with it. It’s pretty popular right now). The support is just enough, but maybe be a lot less than the general public is used to. I am definitely enjoying my LunarRacers. However, for a while I was having some foot issues/pain so I added an orthodic for more arch support and toe cushion. This combo works well and I love my LunarRacers (I actually purchased another pair that I wear on the day-to-day go, hence my seven pairs of running shoes). My only complaint is that they tend to take a while to decompress. For those of you who don’t know what this is, when you wear shoes (especially in high amounts and at high intensity) the material that shoe is made out of will naturally compress. The consequence is that it can make you feel “flat” when you run. It is good to have two pairs of shoes to switch between so each pair gets a day or two to decompress before you wear it again.

Nike LunarRacers

My most recent purchase has been the Saucony Kinvara 3. LOVE LOVE LOVE this shoe! I’ve only been wearing it for 3 or so weeks, but it is a terrific shoe. It’s very versatile, works well for both daily training and racing, offers a decent amount of support especially in the arch, but is light enough that you can do speed work and distance racing in it. Saucony advertises the 4mm heel to toe drop as a selling point for this shoe. HT drop has become a hot topic due to the increased popularity of Vibrams, Nike Frees, and natural running. I won’t get into it too much now, but essentially the thinking behind it is that the lower your HT drop the easier it is to land on your midfoot or forefoot while running, yielding a more natural stride. All that aside, I love the Kinvaras and I think it may be the perfect daily training shoe for me.

Saucony Kinvara 3

And if you take a look at this picture again, I’ve arranged my shoes in order of least supportive (far left) to most supportive (far right).

I’ll stop here for now. Hope this helps clear up some confusion about buying running shoes. I have two more shoes to tell you about, so stay tuned next week for more on my racing shoes and why I’ve been known to cut up my shoes!


4 responses

  1. Great post, Lauren! I think I’m taking you shoe shopping with me next time I need some new running shoes. AND, thanks for the tip about shoes needing to decompress for a day or two – hmmm, guess I’ll just have to buy another pair then! :)

    • I’d love to join! My sister wants me to be her personal running shoe shopper. New career path? :) And yeah, two pairs is always good, especially if you’re running lots of miles. But if you’re not running in them a ton, it might not be worth the investment. Of course, if the pair you want is on sale . . . go for it :)

  2. Pingback: WW | running shoes part II | mt

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