Gotta run? Find the right shoe
heck the local sports calendar this time of year, and you’ll find a road race about every weekend. And it’s not just your regular, run-of-the-mill race. There are adventure runs and color runs and mud runs — any kind of run to suit your fancy.
“Nothing burns calories like running, and nothing gives you that same feeling,” Keith Alley says.
But as running trends come and go, they always come back to tried-and-true when it comes to your running shoe, Alley says.
Alley, 59, has owned Phidippides Sports Center at Carolina Mall since 1980, and has been running “forever,” he says.
“My daddy was a football and track coach,” Alley says. He’s been fortunate over the years, he says, to run without injury, but he’s never been a high-mileage runner.
He’s seen the trend in minimalist running shoes, and notes, “that trend kinda comes and goes.”
He says that young people can get away with wearing more of a minimalist running shoe — typically as a fashion statement — because they have more elasticity in their tendons.
“In the ’70s, the shoes we ran in were considered minimalist shoes. They didn’t have these big, thick cushions,” Alley says. “We could get away with it because we were young.”
Those “retro shoes” are strictly for fashion, Alley says, not running.
Running shoes, he says, have come far in recent years — thanks to the growing popularity of running.
“The more people who do a sport, the more they demand better equipment,” he says.
The first thing to do when selecting a running shoe, Alley says, is to take off your shoes, and look at your feet.
If you have a flat foot, you’ll need a shoe with better arch support in the mid-sole. If you have a good arch, you’ll still need a shoe that offers plenty of cushioning.
Alley carries a wide variety of running shoes at Phidippides — Nike, New Balance, Brooks, Asics and Saucony, included.
“Every company will make shoes with support for your arch, and shoes with good cushioning,” he says. “There is no one best shoe for anybody. It’s what people like and what is best for their foot.”
And yeah, people do tend to pick by color, he says.
Phidippides has a long service hall in the back of the store, where customers are welcome to try out their running shoes.
At Ralph Baker’s Shoes in Downtown Salisbury, customers can jump on a treadmill to try out running shoes. Additionally, the store has a machine, the i-Step by Aetrex, which measures the pressure points in the foot, notes the type of arch you have, and measures the foot for shoe size.
It’s another tool Baker uses to help customers pick out the type of running shoes they need.
“Now, more than ever, there are shoes for all foot types,” says Ralph Baker Jr. “There is no one shoe that’s right for everybody.”
He explains the type of arch you have dictates what shoe you need. A perfect arch, he says, is rare. Folks typically either have a flat foot and overpronate — that means their step rolls toward the inside of the foot — or they have a high arch and supinate — which means their step rolls toward the outside of the foot.
When it comes to selecting running shoes, “A little guidance goes a long way,” Baker says.
Baker has also seen the minimalist trend come and go. The Vibram FiveFingers shoes, he says, are very unstructured and are quite similar to running barefoot. Last month, however, the company that makes the shoes announced a $3.75 million settlement because the shoes did not live up to their claims of health benefits.
Local running experts agree that the traditional running shoe is the way to go if you plan to put in serious miles on the road.
David Freeze is a running coach who teaches running classes in spring and fall.
“From the very first night of class,” he says, “almost nobody has bought their shoes in a running shoe store. They buy them by color or because they’re on sale. They buy cross-trainers. You can’t play tennis and run in the same shoe. I’d say 90 percent of the students come to class not prepared with the right shoe.”
Throughout the eight-week course, Freeze and his class members talk about how each runner’s feet are unique.
“You have to find the right shoe to fit the characteristics of your feet,” he says. “If you’re in the right shoe, your running will progress much faster.”
Freeze recommends that his students either visit Baker’s or Phidippides to find the shoes that are right for them.
All three men say that running shoes should only be used for running — not running errands around town and the like. Baker and Alley agree that, if possible, you should buy two pairs of running shoes in order to alternate them. Alley says that, in the long run, both pairs will last longer.
Alley says that alternating shoes also allows each pair to rest and dry out. “A wet, soggy shoe is a sloppy shoe.”
Baker, also a longtime runner, notes that even staggering buying shoes every three months works well, and adds, “Most runners do want bright colors. It’s fun. It’s our sport. It’s our hobby.”
You should replace your shoes at anywhere from 300 to 500 miles.
Alley notes, however, “The bigger a person is, the less life will be in the shoe. A 200-pound man will crush a shoe, compared to a 100-pound woman. You do need to change them out at some point, because you start to lose the good in them after 500 miles.”
Baker’s carries a wide variety of New Balance shoes, the only running shoe made in the USA, Baker says. “If shoe A and shoe B feel the same, it’s sure nice to get one that’s made in the USA.”
Baker and Alley also recommend orthotics for running shoes. Most running shoe companies make basic inserts, because so many runners replace them with better orthotics.
“You’re never gonna overdo orthotics,” Baker says.
Don’t forget a good pair of socks. Choose pairs that offer moisture wicking (Nike calls them Dri-Fit), that take the moisture away from your feet.
You can expect to pay around $100 for a good pair of running shoes. But running shoes change colors about every quarter, and if you don’t especially care what color your shoes are, Phidippides is probably the place for you.
“We’ve got $110 shoes from last quarter that are $69.99,” Alley says. “You can get a good shoe from last quarter’s market.”
By offering slightly older shoes, Alley says, “it’s cheaper to come in and buy off the wall than it is to go online. It’s not going to be better than what we’ve got right here.”
And prices do keep going up, Alley says. “I never thought I’d see a $150 running shoe, but I’m running in it and I love it!”
At both stores, if a shoe doesn’t work, bring it back.
When starting a running program, Alley says, do something your body can handle. “Know your limitations, or you’ll run yourself into an injury. As you get older, you lose speed, but you keep endurance. You can still get out there and do it.”
For more information about selecting a running shoe, call Phidippides at 704-786-3312 or Ralph Baker’s Shoes at 704-636-1850.
Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.