How many of you received a pair of running shoes as a holiday present? A quick show of hands, if you please.
How many of you can tell me when you bought your last pair of running shoes; once again a show of hands?
Those of you who raised your hands for the first question or couldn't raise your hand to answer the second...it's high time for us to take a trip to your local running emporium. Let's take a stroll through the accessory section; look at some items which you can use to trick out your kicks...
First, how about a nice pair of replacement insoles? There's a variety and range from the most simple replacement sockliner (more-or-less the technical term for what passes for original equipment) to borderline semi-custom orthotics for the biomechanically less-than-gifted. Doing a lot of long distance runs? There's an insole just for you, too. Personally, I love the silicone rubber ones because they last a long, long time.
Ooh...what are these here? Elastic laces? One of the last pairs of triathlon-specific running shoes I bought (outside of the fact they were louder than a Friday night in the French Quarter) came with an optional pair of elastics. While distance runners don't necessarily feel the need for speed...when it comes to lacing 'em up (not unless you're like me and constantly running behind for the Sunday morning meet-up) the elastic shoelaces are a wonder, especially if you have feet that tend to swell after 60 or 90 minutes of running. No more ache in the instep or need to re-tie the shoe to lessen the pressure. And you don't have to worry about your shoelaces coming untied or flapping about during a big race.
You got something that looks like it will work, huh? Let's go up to the check-out counter.
Stop. For the love of Pre, stop. I cannot believe you would do this to yourself. You still need a pair of shoes.
I've met many a runner who have decided to be penny-wise and pound-foolish; deciding to stick a forty-dollar pair of insoles into a shoe that's had six months or 500 miles of use. In a way, that's like putting new tires on a car with a wheel alignment issue. Just because the outer sole - most often good, firm rubber - may not look worn, but the midsole is what takes the brunt of the banging when we run. Nearly every runner I've talked to who has complained of soreness in the ankles, knees or lower back usually has stayed in a (favorite) pair of running shoes longer than the effective lifespan. Once the shoes have been changed out the problem subsides.
We have EVA, ethylene vinyl acetate, to thank for shock absorption. That spongy stuff comes in a variety of firmness and lasts for a fairly long time, but it doesn't last forever. The difference between the "give" when you push your finger into the midsole of a brand new running shoe (after you remove the sockliner/insole) and one that's had a couple of hundred miles put on it is noticeable. Even a pair which has been out for longer than six months (one where the rubber doesn't have that mild vinegar smell) is closer to the end of its effective lifespan than the former.
A runner who still feels a sentimental attachment to a pair of shoes can stand to wash their shoe, put a new insole in them and keep them around, but the shoe is best for emergency use; walking or mowing lawns. Better yet, consider being a little less sentimental about that pair of running shoes; donate them to one of the many charitable groups which pass good, workable shoes along to persons in need. You can call it re-gifting, if you so like. Personally I'm not opposed to that form of re-gifting.
Christmas...in July. And those accessories are still a good idea.