Buy The Shoe That Feels Good

Layer-26Your form changes, as does the terrain, the season, and your needs.  Long lasting or fast during racing season, XC or Trail, what shoe should you buy?  I am a firm believer that you should buy a shoe that feels good and runs well for you with what you are running right then. “You will know”.  Recent studies indicating that the shoes for “pronation” or “over pronation” provide “support” are just a bit ridiculous.  Read some of the serious literature on orthotics [disclaminer, have bought support shoes and had great luck with orthotics, or thought I did] and then go to a modern PT expert and have a real tune up and you start to realize what magic this all is.

A recent article on the Washington Post site, on this topic of shoe purchase led me  Check it out.

…if you want the closest thing to an objective look at quality and cost, a Danish Web site called has crunched the numbers from nearly 135,000 consumer reviews it gathered over a year, along with the suggested retail price of most of the popular brands.

The biggest surprise: The higher the price, the lower the rating in many cases. In fact, the 10 most expensive running shoes, with an average list price of $181 per pair, were rated 8.1 percent lower than the 10 cheapest models (average price $61).

Run to Stay Young

via NYTimes

Running may reverse aging in certain ways while walking does not, a noteworthy new study of active older people finds. The findings raise interesting questions about whether most of us need to pick up the pace of our workouts in order to gain the greatest benefit.

Walking is excellent exercise. No one disputes that idea. Older people who walk typically have a lower incidence of obesity, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes, and longer lifespans than people who are sedentary. For many years, in fact, physicians and scientists have used how far and fast someone can walk as a marker of health as people age.

But researchers and older people themselves also have noted that walking ability tends to decline with age. Older people whose primary exercise is walking often start walking more slowly and with greater difficulty as the years pass, fatiguing more easily.

Many of us probably would assume that this physical slowing is inevitable. And in past studies of aging walkers, physiologists have found that, almost invariably, their walking economy declines over time. That is, they begin using more energy with each step, which makes moving harder and more tiring.

But researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder and Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., began to wonder whether this slow decay of older people’s physical ease really is inexorable or if it might be slowed or reversed by other types of exercise and, in particular, by running.

Happily, Boulder has an unusually large population of highly active older people, so the scientists did not lack for potential research subjects. Putting the word out at gyms and among running and walking groups, they soon recruited 30 men and women in their mid- to late-60s or early 70s.

Fifteen of these volunteers walked at least three times a week for 30 minutes or more. The other 15 ran at least three times a week, again for 30 minutes or more. The runners’ pace varied, but most moved at a gentle jogging speed.

The scientists gathered all of the volunteers at the University of Colorado’s Locomotion Laboratory and had each runner and walker complete three brief sessions of walking at three different, steadily increasing speeds on specially equipped treadmills. The treadmills were designed to measure how the volunteers’ feet hit the ground, in order to assess their biomechanics.

The volunteers also wore masks that measured their oxygen intake, data that the researchers used to determine their basic walking economy.

As it turned out, the runners were better, more efficient walkers than the walkers. They required less energy to move at the same pace as the volunteers who only walked regularly.

In fact, when the researchers compared their older runners’ walking efficiency to that of young people, which had been measured in earlier experiments at the same lab, they found that 70-year-old runners had about the same walking efficiency as your typical sedentary college student. Old runners, it appeared, could walk with the pep of young people.

Older walkers, on the other hand, had about the same walking economy as people of the same age who were sedentary. In effect, walking did not prevent people from losing their ability to walk with ease.

More surprising to the researchers, the biomechanics of the runners and the walkers during walking were almost identical. Runners did not walk differently than regular walkers, in terms of how many steps they took or the length of their strides or other measures of the mechanics of their walking.

But something was different.

The researchers speculate that this difference resides deep within their volunteers’ muscle cells. Intense or prolonged aerobic exercise, such as running, is known to increase the number of mitochondria within muscle cells, said Justus Ortega, now an associate professor of kinesiology at Humboldt University, who led the study. Mitochondria help to provide energy for these cells. So more mitochondria allow people to move for longer periods of time with less effort, he said.

Runners also may have better coordination between their muscles than walkers do, Dr. Ortega said, meaning that fewer muscles need to contract during movement, resulting in less energy being used.

But whatever the reason, running definitely mitigated the otherwise substantial decline in walking economy that seems to occur with age, he said, a result that has implications beyond the physiology lab. If moving feels easier, he said, people tend to do more of it, improving their health and enhancing their lives in the process.

The good news for people who don’t currently run is that you may be able to start at any age and still benefit, Dr. Ortega said. “Quite a few of our volunteers hadn’t take up running until they were in their 60s,” he said.

And running itself may not even be needed. Any physically taxing activity likely would make you a more efficient physical machine, Dr. Ortega said. So maybe consider speeding up for a minute or so during your next walk, until your heart pounds and you pant a bit; ease off; then again pick up the pace. You will shave time from your walk and potentially decades from your body’s biological age.

Is Your Shoe Unfit?

One of the best discussions I have had with family and friends over the year is the world famous “When to Retire a Running Shoe” with another answer by GINA KOLATA in the NYTimes recently.

What do I think?  She may be on the same track, pay attention to yourself.  For me, knee injuries happened when I overdid the mileage on my older, more regular profile running shoes.  Now, running with lower profile, more minimalist shoes, I am not so sure what might happen.  But I am paying attention and charting my mileage. 

What I can say is that I no longer believe that information I was given 20 years ago, about the life of the materials in the shoe, is relevant today.  It may be, or it may be superstition, after all, haven’t they changed materials a little?  But I will watch and listen to my body.

Alistair Berg/Getty

Marathon, half-marathon, 10k and 5K training plans to get you race ready.

Ryan Hall, one of the world’s best distance runners, used to pride himself on wearing his running shoes into nubs. No more. Now he assiduously replaces his shoes after running about 200 miles in them. He goes through two pairs a month.

“I know that my shoes could probably handle a couple of hundred more miles before they are worn out, but my health is so important to me that I like to always make sure my equipment is fresh,” he said.

Of course Mr. Hall, sponsored by Asics, does not have to pay for his shoes. Most of the rest of us do, and at around $100 a pair they aren’t cheap. Yet we are warned constantly to replace them often, because running in threadbare shoes may lead to injuries that can take months to heal.

So here’s a simple question: How do you know when your shoes are ready for those discard bins in gyms? And if you do get injured, is it fair to blame your shoes?

My friend Jen Davis runs more than 100 miles a week, like Mr. Hall, but has a different set of criteria for getting rid of shoes. One is that if they smell bad even after she washes them in her washing machine , it’s time for a new pair. She estimates she puts 500 miles on each pair of shoes.

Henry Klugh, a running coach and manager of The Inside Track, a running store in Harrisburg, Penn., says he goes as far as 2,000 miles in some shoes. He often runs on dirt roads, he said, which are easier on shoes than asphalt is and do not compress and beat up the midsole as much.

My coach, Tom Fleming, has his own method. Put one hand in your shoe, and press on the sole with your other hand. If you can feel your fingers pressing through, those shoes are worn out — the cushioning totally compressed or the outer sole worn thin.

As for me, I my practice has been to keep track of the miles I run with each pair and replace them after 300 miles. Who is right? Maybe none of us. According to Rodger Kram, a biomechanics researcher at the University of Colorado, the theory is that you must change shoes before the ethylene vinyl acetate, or E.V.A., that lines most running shoe insoles breaks down.

“Think of a piece of Wonder Bread, kind of fluffy out of the bag,” he said. “But smoosh it down with the heel of your palm, and it is flat with no rebound.”

A moderate amount of cushioning improves running efficiency, he has found. But as to whether cushioning prevents injuries, he said, “I doubt that there are good data.”

Dr. Jacob Schelde, of Odense University Hospital in Denmark, has looked for clinical trials that address the cushioning and injury question — and has found none. He’s applying for funds to do one himself, a 15-month study with 600 runners.

Dr. Schelde did find a study on injury rates among runners, published in 2003, that had some relevant data even though it was not a randomized clinical trial and shoe age was not its main focus. The study was large and regularly tested runners in a 13-week training program. The researchers failed to find any clear relationship between how long running shoes were worn and a runner’s risk of injury.

It also is difficult to find good data on how long E.V.A. insoles last. But one exhaustive study, led by Ewald Max Hennig of the biomechanics laboratory at University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, involved 18 years of shoe testing from 1991 to 2009. The researchers measured the performance of 156 shoe models worn by runners. Dr. Hennig and his colleagues wrote that the sort of mechanical testing that shoe manufacturers do to evaluate cushioning materials does not reflect what happens when people actually run.

Over the years, running shoe quality steadily improved, the researchers reported. The shoes also changed as running fads waxed and waned. Shock attenuation, for example, diminished starting around 2000, when there was talk of shoes providing too much cushioning.

Then, when cushioning became fashionable again, it returned. But so did minimalist shoes designed for the barefoot running fad, which have almost no cushioning.

In Europe, the researchers reported, people typically wear shoes for about 600 miles. But their studies indicated that shoes could last much longer.

Most shoemakers, of course, would prefer to see us trade in sooner. Kira Harrison, a spokeswoman for Brooks, said shoes should last for 400 to 500 miles. The very light models last about 300 miles, she said.

Biomechanical studies have shown that after those distances the shoes lose their bounce, she said: “Everyone in the industry knows that standard.”

Gavin Thomas, a Nike spokesman, said a shoe’s life span depended on the type of shoe — lightweight or more heavily cushioned — and on the runner’s weight and running style. Those who are light on their feet can wear shoes longer than those who pound the ground. Those who run on soft surfaces can keep their shoes longer.

After 300 or 400 miles, Mr. Thomas said, a typical shoe worn by a typical runner will not feel the way it used to, a sign it is worn out.

But Golden Harper, developer of Altra running shoes and founder of the company, said any advice on mileage was “a lot of malarkey.” Mr. Harper, a distance runner, said most runners could feel when their shoes need to be replaced. “You get a sense for it,” he said. “Nothing hurts, but it is going to soon.”

So when should you retire those faithful running shoes, and what happens if you don’t? Despite the doomsday warnings, no one really knows. And with so many variables — type of shoe, runner’s weight, running surfaces, running style — there may never be a simple answer.

But we can take comfort in Dr. Hennig’s work. Even people like Henry Klugh, who put in many more miles than most guidelines suggest may still be fine. Their shoes may still be performing.