The next day I went to see a podiatrist (who was a client at my work at the time) and he gave me confirmation that I did in fact have bruised toenails and also gave me his blessing to fix them myself from then on out. He also recommended that I go to the local running store and get fitted for sneakers because if I was going to continue on with this running thing I needed to wear the proper shoes. I almost scoffed at him because come on, they're shoes! And I'm a girl, I'm willing to rock ill fitting or uncomfortable shoes all the time in the name of fashion so what is so great about sneakers that I needed expensive, fancy ones?
I figured that going to the store was worth a shot though after some googling about it (told you I have to research everything) and my desire to never have black toenails again lest I *gasp* lose a nail! I'd read that that could happen and it was the LAST thing I wanted. I've pretty much kept my toenails painted at all times since the womb and it would not be cute to be missing a few. Also, did you know that when you run your feet hit the ground with the force of 3-4 times your body weight? And during a 10 mile run your foot can make up to 15,000 strikes? That's a lot of pressure and force put on the two little nubbins that keep me mobile I figured I'd give the running store one shot to keep the little buggers happy and healthy.
My first visit to my local running store, Fleet Feet, completely changed my running. I was there for an hour where an awesome guy named Brendan measured my feet, looked at the treads of my old shoes to see how they were worn down and had me run on a treadmill barefoot while he taped it. He told me that I was slightly overpronating on my left foot (which meant my foot was rolling on while I ran) and got three different pairs of shoes for me to try. I ran in all three on the treadmill and chose the ones that felt the most comfortable. He was very patient with me while I tried them, then retried them, then retried them again. I went home with a shiny new pair of sneakers and a wealth of information that I didn't even know existed. He talked to me about my upcoming races, how to prep for them, how he felt about my half marathon training (because he's also a coach) and made me feel like I was finally in this new world of running.
Ever since that first visit I have been a loyal customer. I get all my shoes and socks there and run with Fleet Feet in the summer and the winter when they have long run days on Sundays. I've been told by many people that I could get my shoes cheaper online but I'm not interested. I know that I could find them for $20 less on some website but Fleet Feet is not only a locally owned business, they are also more than just a store. I've met some amazing people and had some great experiences through them.
My first tip to someone who wants to start running is to start out slow and then slow down (as I've mentioned). My second tip is to find their local running store and get fitted for shoes. Will it cost a lot? Probably more than you initially want to spend. But if you think about the costs of running (basically just shoes and then you can slowly add in good gear) then is $100-$150 every 6 months or so really that crazy compared to gym costs alone? Also it will save you so much in injuries. If you don't know what kind of stride you have (overpronator, underpronator, neutral) then you can cause a lot of damage with shoes that give too much stability or not enough, have too much cushion or not enough, have weird pieces that irritate your feet, etc etc. Your local running store should ALWAYS take your shoes back if they don't work out. As it turns out I do not overpronate, I'm a neutral runner (sometimes it's hard to tell if the issue is slight) so Fleet Feet took back my original shoes without a problem and started the process of trying shoes all over again until I found the right ones. NOTHING makes me more frustrated when I hear someone talking about getting running shoes at DSW or some other mall store. You might get lucky the first few times but start logging 40+ miles a week and see where you're at.
Your running store is also a great resource to meet other runners and to find out about local races. Mine have seminars and lectures on running or eating healthy or special women/men only nights that are great to go to. In general I am a solitary runner, I hate running with other people, but being so involved in my local running community has forced me to run with other people at times and it's been great for me.
Anyway, onto some common questions people ask me:
Do you wear inserts?
I do not because I am a neutral running which means I have a normal stride but your running store can help you figure out if you need them. I've been in there many times when non-runners are there for inserts because their podiatrist sent them in.
How long do you wear your shoes for?
I wear mine for about 500 miles or until I get a bruised toenail (yes, it still happens). All shoes (your everyday shoes included) break down in the insoles over time. You shoes can look great and sometimes even brand new but the insoles may be shot. Remember when I said every footfall of running is 3-4 times your body weight? Think about that for a second....horrifying, I know. Therefore you owe it to your legs and feet, the 4 things that make you mobile every day, to treat them right and replace your shoes when needed. A good rule of thumb if you're just doing everyday running and not training for a big race is to replace them every 6 months.
What kind of shoes do you wear?
In the spring, summer and fall I mostly wear Brooks Ravennas. I have no reason to change them so I don't bother trying new ones. Every time I need new ones I try to choose a different color than I previously had but honestly, I don't care what color they are. I just want them to fit well.
Sometimes I alternate them with Saucony ProGrid Guide 2's. I've had these for a while and they aren't really a neutral shoe but I use them sometimes because different shoes work different muscles and make your feet stronger because you're changing it up sometimes. I don't expect most people to want to do this so no worries, you just need one pair. I use them once every week or two, usually in the summer.
In the winter I wear Asics....I don't know what. They're some random number. The beauty of going to Fleet Feet is that they keep track of what I wear and the last time I bought them so that I don't have to remember.
Why do you wear different shoes in the winter?
I live in the snow capitol of the country so my Brooks aren't heavy enough and the tread isn't deep enough to prevent slipping. My Asics weight literally a pound more than my Brooks (which means my butt whines every time I wear them at the beginning of the winter because they HUUUURT!) and the treads are super deep. If you want to run on ice then getting Yak Trax are an even better idea. They slip over your shoes and create grip when you run. I've never used them but I know a lot of people that do. I typically don't run when there is a lot of ice because I have a very hard time with temperature regulation since losing weight (it's a common thing) and if it's too cold I am way too miserable so I avoid it.
Asics on left, Brooks on right
What do you do with your old shoes?
I usually keep them for a while and either wear them around the house for painting or when I go to my moms and she makes me walk through the yard while she describes every damn plant she planted as if I care. I usually keep a pair in my car in case something happens and I need them (either I forget my shoes on the way to a race or someone else does and needs a pair or they get really wet). After they have really outlived their life I donate them to be made into playground ground cover.
How do you wash you shoes?
This is a ridiculous question. Mud is a badge of honor. Clean shoes mean you aren't working hard enough. I usually try to find some mud puddles to run through when I first get them, much like how a freshly bathed dog runs outside and rolls in dirt. One time a woman at a run said that my shoes looked too clean to have as many miles as I claimed they did and I literally almost threw down. That's just not an acceptable statement, ever.
What size sneakers do you wear?
My normal shoe size is between 8-8.5 (sometimes even a 7.5) but I wear size 9 sneakers to run in. The reason is because your feet swell when you run, especially long distances. That swelling can lead to your toes hitting the front of your shoes that can create blisters or black toenails. I've been known to squeeze my feet into too-small shoes for the sake of cuteness but I don't mess around when it comes to running.
Do you still get blisters or black toenails?
I've only had one black toenail since getting fitted for shoes and it was because I was about 200 miles past needing new ones. It was my own fault and I totally admit it. As for blisters I get them after every single race. My record is 9 after the Mountain Goat 2 years ago. I honestly don't even feel them when I'm running and if I do it's more of a thought of "oh, there's going to be a blister there later". I have a ritual of sitting down after a race and taking a pin off my race bib and popping them all because they only hurt when they aren't popped. I know it's gross but if you're going to start running, you're going to do gross things.
Do your shoes smell?
No, actually. I don't have stinky feet :) But I keep peppermint odor thingys in them just in case. They're little round balls and my cat likes to dig them out and throw them all over the house. It's a good time.
Why do you lace your shoes weird?
For the most part I lace them normally until the last hole and then I do them a special way that makes them tighter (I like them cutting off my circulation). I also always double knot them. Sometimes if they are irritating my toes or I have a painful blister I lace them in a way that pulls the front of the sneaker up and away from your toes (you can google it if you have that problem).
How long does it take you to break in a new pair?
As long as it takes to get them out of the box. I don't love new shoes, I like them about 200 miles in, but I just stop using the old ones once I get new ones.
What kind of socks do you wear?
I wear Balega running socks. Sometimes I wear Smartwool if it's really cold but Balega are my favorite. They are kind of expensive (I think I get them for $12 a pair) but it will make a huge difference if you get a lot of blisters.
Can I wear my running shoes for other exercising?
NO!!! If you go to the gym and hit the treadmill and then want to do something else, change your shoes. I know it's a pain but treat them well and they will treat you well, you don't want to put any more stress on them than your normal mileage. I went to Zumba for the first time today and I didn't have any other sneakers so I wore my Brooks and I felt guilty about it the entire time. I plan on going to the mall tomorrow, no joke.
I guess that is all I can think of to tell you for now. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask and I'll answer the best I can. Again, this is all stuff I've figured out as I've gone along and what works for me may not work for you. And if you are only going to run a mile every now and again then you probably don't need to get running shoes but if you're training for even a 5k I'd recommend it. Now get to a damn running store already! ;)