New running shoes are more than a fashion statement, their a joint-saver and an injury-preventor. Fitness walkers and runners are lucky in that their hobbies are low-cost, but we also need to make sure that we don’t ignore the need for good foot wear. Running shoes are much more than glitter & glitz. They are impact-absorbers for your joints. Every time your foot strikes the ground, which can be more than 2,000 times per mile, the impact is absorbed by your shoes, your muscles, your tendons, and ultimately by your joints. As more shock makes it to your joints, it increases the risk of pain, discomfort, and even injury. We can keep these impacts on the low-side by reducing our body weight, drinking plenty of water to keep our joints and muscle fibers hydrated, and by wearing shoes that will absorb the initial foot-strike impact.
The majority of new running shoes use a foam mid-sole layer or rubber-encased air cushion to absorb the shock. A shoe with a hard-rubber sole and minimal cushion will transfer a lot more shock through your body than shoes meant for running (i.e. “Chuck Taylors” are not good running shoes ;-). As time goes on and miles get logged on running shoes, this foam and rubber cushion layer gets stiffer and absorbs less and less shock…thereby transferring the pounding up through your legs and into your joints.
Most manufacturers recommend replacing running shoes every year or every 400 miles, whichever comes first. I used to wear my shoes until the sole rubber wore down to the foam layer (500-600 miles). I noticed a trend of knee and hip pain that would come towards the end of my shoe’s life and then the pain would slowly dissipate when I got new shoes. When I started replacing my shoes every 400 miles, the joint pain has gone away. Running shoes are simple, yet very effective equipment for walkers and runners. If you have minor aches and pains in your joints, a pair of fresh shock-absorbing shoes may save you a lot of discomfort.
Many competitive runners like to wear racing flats, spikes, or waffle racers for their light-weight construction and competitive advantage. And while these are a great racing tool, make sure that you wear the right shoe for the right race and save them for racing only. There are some racing flats that have a good amount of cushion for distance runners like the New Balance RC550, the Nike Marathoner, or even the Nike Mayfly for shorter races. And while most XC racing flats are good for 5k trail races, they have zero cushioning and are not a suitable choice for long distance road races. Track shoes & spikes are also not good choices for road running, and are more suited for the soft surface of a track not for the pounding of a 10k or ½ Marathon. Make sure that you get a shoe that will not only help you perform your best, but one that will protect you from injury as well.
There are many brands, makes, and models of running and walking shoes on the market. A good running shoe store can help guide you through the types that are right for you. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to protect your legs and joints. Good running shoes are a great investment for a worthwhile cause and a fun hobby. Happy trails!
You can find New Running Shoes and other motivational fitness information in the April 2007 article of The Bullhorn. You can sign up for this free monthly e-zine below.