Over the weekend both Sue and I wound up in possession of new Saucony shoes. We both wear the same model and for similar reasons. Our orthotics come from the same pedorthist. We both need minimal drop and enough width to accommodate the orthotic.
Sue’s last pair of Saucony’s were worn out. Totally. She’s put in so much mileage this past few months her shoes were showing wear on both the uppers and the tread.
We were running the trail at Herrick Lake, which is all crushed gravel. Along the way things began to tighten up on Sue in the lower leg and iliotibial band. We stopped to stretch her hamstrings because that, I informed her, is often the cause of considerable duress down low where the feet touch the ground.
If that seems counterintuitive, then you’re not thinking about how your body works. It’s a balancing act you see. When you run the muscles in your legs and hips need to act together to propel you along. Any significantly tight area of those muscle groups will require a compensatory response in another part of the leg or hips. That’s where injuries occur. When a body part is called up to bear more weight or torsion than it is designed to do, it can become strained, weakened or “pulled.”
Tugs and pulls
This imbalance pattern becomes pronounced when your running shoes get worn out. Every biomechanical flaw in your body gets beaten into the sole of your shoes sooner or later. They can lean in one direction as a result, or develop crushed or compromised midsole materials. All these effects are the product of your mileage and how well you manage your stride while covering ground.
Old shoes express your worst flaws, in other words. If you pronate your shoes will sooner or later show signs of that specific biomechanical problem. If you supinate (with the foot slanting outward) that same pattern will also show up in your shoes.
The more you train, the more risk you have in trying to make your shoes last longer than they should. Many years back, we runners took perverse pride in this brand of stupid venture. Making our shoes last was considered an art form. Often we wore shoes well past the 700 or even 1000 mile mark. We taped them together and glued the bottoms of the soles with Shoe Goo to even out spots on the tread where it was worn. One of our favorite tricks in college was to use athletic tape on the heel to keep it from wearing out faster than the rest of the shoe. Don’t knock it. It worked.
But there comes a time when you realize that all your hopes and wishes that your shoes still have some wear in them comes to naught.
I noticed during last Saturday’s run that my left hip was getting sore. So was the outside toe of my right foot. Those two might not seem related but they were.
Fortunately I’d already purchased new shoes, but had waited a week to trade them in on a new color scheme of the Saucony ISOs. Actually I love the blue and bright green and orange color on the first two pairs I’d worn. But sometimes you just want a change.
So we traveled to a running store to exchange my shoes. They were originally purchased with a $20 discount coupon that I’d earned by winning my age group in the Batavia Duathlon. So cashing that in on a $150 pair of shoes helped a bit.
Why do I buy $150 shoes in the first place? It’s not because I equate spending so much money with getting value. I once had a boss that asked me, “What’s the best kind of running shoe?”
I began to explain the differences in shoes when he interrupted me to say, “No, I mean what’s the most expensive?”
Suffice to say his values and mine are considerably different. And I personally believe stupid pricks like that are what’s causing so much trouble in America today. Grossly consumptive behavior and attitudes responsible for so much abuse of the economy, our resources and our society.
So I’m not running around in $150 Sauconys to prove anything. I’m running around in them because I got a free pair a few months back and they cured my Achilles tendon problems and worked with my orthotics. So I bought another pair April 1st. They’re worn out from a good summer of running. Pair number three is bright green and even a bit more roomy than the first two pairs. Proving that no two pairs or models of shoes are the exact same.
Meanwhile Sue and I discussed the state and status of her shoes. She had purchased a pair just like mine a few months back and loved them. I’d planned to buy her a new pair for her birthday but we both agreed this time it could not wait. So we got resourceful and found a pair pronto even though they were on order with another running shop.
That’s fair. We both typically shop local and purchase our shoes with planning. But when you’re training for Ironman and a potential injury crops up because your shoes might be suspect, it’s time not to mess around.
So her birthday gift arrived early, and last night we both stepped onto the street in brand new running shoes. It was an experience of joy with a purpose, you might say. New running shoes feel so, so great. Too bad they don’t stay that way forever. But then we might not appreciate how great it is when that time comes around again.