One of my old college roommates was an Army ROTC guy. He did a lot of hiking in boots back then. I remember one of his favorite phrases when I’d see him rubbing lotion on his feet was “I gotta take care of the dogs.”
I don’t know if ‘dogs’ was the ROTC’s nickname for feet or just his. As I took up running and battled feet problems such as pain and blisters, his words often came to mind, and I smiled.
Being Captain Obvious, there are two crucial areas in which to take care of your feet as a runner: shoes and socks. Every now and then someone will ask me about shoes. I’ve come to the conclusion there is no one size fits all answer. Everyone’s feet are unique, and brands and styles that work for one may not work the same for another. This means finding the right show can be a headache…and a foot ache.
I struggled early on to find shoes that worked well for me. In retrospect, I think the main problem was in the muscles and bones of my feet, not the shoes. My feet were weak. Once I built them up, changing shoes didn’t bother me much at all.
Also, more expensive and trendy is not always better. I’ve tried many of the major brands of running shoes over the years, and while I do have a preference these days (Newton), I rarely buy the current model. Sometimes (really all the time), I cannot stomach $175 dollars for the latest model when I know finding last year’s or even two models ago for much less will work fine.
So, if you need a pair of shoes, then buy a pair that is comfortable and makes you feel good and start running. Here are some of my shoe suggestions:
- Even if you’re a veteran runner, do not run more than a few miles on the first run in a new pair of shoes. Even if its the exact same model, it will likely work the feet slightly different due to wear on the old shoes.
- Alternate the new pair of shoes with your old pair for a week or two. This will give your feet time to adapt to the new pair.
- Have multiple shoes for different purposes, say a long run shoe and a speed work shoe. I’ve recently adopted this and have been rotating among three different pairs.
- The most important tip: DO NOT use your primary running shoes for casual wear. Running only. When you retire them, then you can use them for casual use. When the next pair comes along, then demote the old casual pair to yard work duty. When you wear them casually, you wear them out faster.
How many miles will a running shoe last? That depends. Mine last anywhere from 400-500 miles. How do I know how many miles are on them? A, I follow #4 above, and B, my Garmin app keeps track of the mileage. I know when it’s time for new shoes when little aches and pains start up, especially in my knees. I don’t usually have knee issues, so worn out shoes are almost always the cause of any knee pain.
As important as shoes are, socks are even more so. The number one tip I can tell you to take care of your dogs is to ditch cotton socks and find moisture-wicking ones. Cotton just invites blisters. In the summer, I go with a COOLMAX/Nylon blend, and in the winter, I like to go with a wool blend. None of these are cheap, ranging from $5 to $20 a pair, but they’ll last for years.
There are many solid brands out there, such as DeFeet, Swiftwick, and Smartwool. My go-to brand, though, is Injinji, which are toe socks. I bought my first pair of Injinjis when I tried the Vibram Five Fingers shoes many years ago. I didn’t stick with Five Fingers (along with most of the rest of the running world) but I did stick with Injinji. One of the great things about Injinis is they come in sizes.
Most brands come in various lengths and thicknesses. Again, experiment here. Early on, I went with a thicker sock, but now I prefer a medium thickness sock.
I hope this helps. These days my dogs are pretty happy, but it hasn’t always been an easy road. Feel free to email me with any questions.
Thanks for reading,