How many shoes should you be running in?
By: Pat Riley
Professional runners and fast age groupers incorporate different sets of shoes into their training in order to keep them in top shape and out on the roads, injury free, for months and years at a time. They do not run in the same shoes day after day. They mix in different shoes into their training based upon the run that they have planned.
For us runners, shoes are the most important, sweaty, stinky, and useful tools that we can have. I often get asked by runners and walkers at races if I thought they are in the correct shoes or how long should their shoes last. The answer of longevity varies from shoe to shoe and runner to runner, but if you read below, you will find the perfect mix of shoe usage.
You should be rotating through three (Yes, Three!) different sets of shoes at all times. By rotating through three different sets of shoes, you will keep your legs healthy while strengthen different muscles in your legs that will prevent injury and make you faster!
While your typical trainers could last you 300-400 miles, they will last a little longer if you are rotating through 2 sets of them. I have had great success with a neutral shoe (That means that my foot strike, while running, lands in the middle. This is not true for everyone though and there is the right shoe if you pronate or over pronate) and I typically rotate through 2 sets of neutral shoe trainers.
My trainers are the heaviest running shoe (at 12-14 oz) I have and the shoe that I do the majority of my runs in (Easy Day, Long Runs, and some steady state/tempos). The rubber in the shoes takes over 24 hours to fully recovery and if you are using the same shoe two days in a row, you are not giving your shoes enough time to fully recovery (This is a nod to the human body and how it can recover MUCH faster than the space age rubber bottoms that we enjoy on our running shoes!).
If you do not give the rubber in your shoes enough time to recover from a run, you will not get 100% of the protection that the shoe is designed to give you. That is why I recommend getting two of your every-day running shoe. That way you can rotate them every other day and get the full benefit of all the science that goes into the modern running shoe.
The third set of shoes that you HAVE to invest in is a set of racing flats. Racing flats are super light shoes (6-8 oz) that typically have a lower heal and keep you on your toes a little more. The benefits to lighter shoes inspired Bill Bowerman to start a small shoe company in Eugene, Oregon that he named Blue Ribbon Sports and later renamed into the goddess of speed, Nike.
In the mid-1960s, Bowerman realized that shoes were too heavy and if you could remove just a few ounces off of every foot-lift that a runner incurred while running, that would equate to hundreds of pounds that the runner would have to lift, allowing the runner to run much faster and longer.
Racing flats should be used at least once (Maybe twice) a week in your training. I use my racing flats on any tempo days and the rare time that I would do 400, 800, or mile repeats. I love the tempo run and would get at least one tempo run in a week. When I tempo’d, I always strapped on the lightweight flats that gave me that boost of speed.
Now don’t start thinking that wearing a lighter shoe is cheating (Or that you are working hard, thus making you stronger by wearing heavier shoes). By doing your speed work in lighter and faster shoes, you are training a different set of muscles in your legs, while giving your legs the opportunity to lengthen your stride, have higher knee lift, and enjoy a quicker leg turnover and foot strike. All of these benefits need to be trained and cannot be taken advantage of while running in heavier shoes.
If you are worried about the lighter shoe not lasting very long, you needn’t not worry. I ran all of my marathons in racing flats and, because I incorporated them into my training, didn’t experience any leg or foot pain throughout the entire marathon because of the lighter shoe.
Racing flats are an absolute must on race day, no matter the distance! I know that I could easily take off 10 seconds or more per mile on my race pace when I slipped into my racing flats. I know I could easily take a 19:10 5K in trainers and turn it into a 18:40 5K. The only difference was the lighter shoe!
By mixing three different sets of shoes into your weekly training, you will get all the benefits that the modern running shoe can give you while stressing and training different parts of your legs to ensure that your training is 100% effective. I know it seems like a big investment, but if you want to get serious about your time in your next race, this mix of shoes is the secret that the fast runners and pros have that you can use to take your running to the next level.