So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Walking Into The Fog: Shoes For When We Aren't Running

Monday night's workout was my first setback, more-accurately defined as a speed bump, on the road to racing fitness.

There are some runs which just don't feel right from the first strides, but you suck it up and hope things normalize after a mile, or at least a mile and a quarter. Fifteen minutes, two pit stops, and an aching achilles tendon later I got the memo: Stop, silly. You're not helping your cause. I jumped on the elliptical trainer for 30 minutes, then ambled home to dinner.

The first steps on Monday, and even the day after, were achy and tight. Naturally, being the "cause and effect" guy, I asked myself what changes I made in the past few days. It all fell back on a pair of shoes, not the trainers I ran in on Sunday evening, but the loafers I wore last week.

Unless you're one of those persons who races in a very neutral pair of racing flats or wears a "minimalist" shoe, both shoes with very little heel lift, you're probably wearing a shoe for work/recovery which may adversely affect your running. Ladies who run are probably in a worse position than most guys. I've seen stiletto-heeled devices which I know could not have been designed by a woman; no woman in their right mind would EVER wear something that damaging to their feet and public.

I wore slip-on loafers at work and school for many years until seven years ago, when I ran my second marathon. Climbing and descending stairs after a marathon is painful; a (recovery) shoe with insufficient support only adds insult to injury. In desperation I made a road trip to the San Diego-based brick-and-mortar location of a popular on-line running shoe store. I considered a pair of black leather walking shoes, but decided against them because they STILL looked too much like a running shoe. I eventually picked up a pair of shoes made by Dunham, the parent company of New Balance. Black leather, American-made, and comfortable for standing and walking.

My wife bought her son a pair of shoes from a walking shoe store a couple of years ago, and she suggested I replace mine. Seven years of hiking through parking lots, walking through hallways, and standing in classrooms around the world had taken its toll by that time. Heels wear along the outer corner; midsoles break down, and soles wear thin. While blue jeans seem to improve with age, a good walking shoe - like a running shoe - has a limited lifespan. And, silly me, I didn't want to invest in another pair when I felt I had a few more years left in these.

But one morning you wake up and look in horror at the condition of those "old reliable" shoes. It's the "Come to Jesus" talk, so to speak. Before I made a buyers' decision and replaced this pair I thought I'd take a look at what shoes were recommended by podiatrists.

Darned if the American Association of Podiatric Sports Medicine (AAPSM) didn't go and quit the "shoe recommendation" business in 2010. Yes, there was a short list of walking shoes which they had evaluated, but no single brand or model was tapped by the evaluators as the best shoe...which really shouldn't have surprised me.

I've always recommended visiting with an experienced shoe fitter when it comes to running shoes. Naturally, because we're all unique it stands to reason we all will have different responses or results when using a single particular shoe.

AAPSM recommends individuals be fit by a reputable footwear retailer and seek out a sports medicine podiatrist for concerns on injury or footwear. An individual’s gait pattern, range of motion, biomechanical profile and foot type, injury history, body mass index, weekly miles or hours of training, training goals, training philosophy, and training surface are all important in selecting the right shoe...whether it be one for running or walking.

So, if you're having those aches and pains when you aren't running it might be what's on your feet that's causing it. A visit with a trained professional might save you from the error of "trying this at home." Remember, when you aren't running, you're recovering.

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