Since running has become part of my routine and my endurance has been building steadily since I started my running program at the end of November 2008, it seemed that the cheap Court Classic brand shoes I bought from Costco many, many years ago but barely used prior to my running program needed to be retired. They were fine for a couple of months, as I went from a complete novice at running to about the point when I first got afflicted with shin splints. I suffered through the shin splints and the increasingly sore knees for longer than I should have, but what can I say, I’m a little stubborn about feeling like I’ve not gotten my money’s worth out of the products I buy.
I was chatting with Antonio Roderick, a friend of mine from college via the chat feature of Facebook and he was applauding my running program having read one of my progress reports I posted here to my blog. He suggested that I really ought to go to a store specializing in running shoes and have them evaluate my run so they could pick out running shoes that are ideal for my feet. Not only would the shin splints go away, but they would make a world of difference.
I definitely welcomed the advice, but I didn’t act upon it until last Thursday when I needed to make a trip down to Point Loma and on the way home, I stopped at the Road Runner Sports shoe store off of Highway 52 and Convoy in San Diego. I signed up to undergo their “Shoe Dog” evaluation. The “Shoe Dog” evaluation process is so named because once the evaluation is completely, it allows Road Runner Sports to “retrieve” the perfect pair of running shoes designed to meet the needs of your individual feet. They have an online version of Shoe Dog, but I definitely recommend the in-store evaluation because I wouldn’t have come up with the same results guessing the answers for myself.
As I met with the Road Runner Sports employee who was going to evaluate my feet, I was asked to walk across a sensor panel that would measure my arch for each foot as I walked across it barefoot. It was determined I have high arches. The next test was to run barefoot on a treadmill while a camera at the back end of the base of the treadmill would record a minute of my running so that they could determine if the pronation of my stride is normal or over or under. The video clearly showed I over pronate my stride where my heel hits the ground on the outer edge and as the foot comes down I roll my feet inwards excessively.
Additionally each foot was measured for the arch, width, and heel to toe measurement. The Road Runner Sports employee told me my right foot was a whole size larger than my left foot and that is apparently unusual. He said it’s more common for feet to only be a half size different from one another. An interesting thing I did not know. So based on their Shoe Dog evaluation, their recommendation was that I pick shoes from their “Stability Plus” category. These shoes apparently provide extra support and stability where my foot strikes the ground and helps prevent the pronation to create less rolling of the foot from outside in and more forward momentum.
I didn’t see a style I cared for in the main shop, and I wanted to stick with Nike shoes that could accommodate my Nike+ Sensor. Afterall if I’m going to the trouble of using it to track my running and I’m going to be buying running shoes, I might as well get ones that were designed to work with the sensor. I checked their clearance center just around the side of the building but they didn’t have any Nike shoes matching the Stability category in the recommended 9 & 1/2 size. So I didn’t purchase shoes that day.
I then went to Foot Locker to see if I could find a pair I liked and hopefully score a better price. Unfortunately, none of the shoes at Foot Locker were labeled as to whether they were better for stability or not and the sales clerk was of absolutely no help. The information is available on Foot Locker’s website, but that doesn’t help in store. So I didn’t buy any shoes there either. I just went home and did some research online.
Apparently with a lot of Nike shoes, it’s recommended to buy a half size larger than your foot size to ensure comfort. So a couple days later and a couple more runs on my old shoes later, I ended up back at Road Runner Sports and their clearance center had a ton of Nike shoes in size 10 that are labeled as Stability shoes. So it seemed if I had known about the buying a half size up, I would have been set to buy a couple days earlier. The shoes I ended up with are the Nike Zoom Elite+ 4 model and it seems from their online information, they are the lightest entry in the Stability category, probably not as much stability oriented as recommended for me, but definitely considerably more supportive. And they were on sale, although the price I paid in store was about $10 more expensive than the website sale price. At least I didn’t have to wait for the shoes to be shipped and I got to try them on in the store.
So far I’ve done two runs in these shoes and what a difference they are over the Court Classics I bought at Costco. The new Nike’s are considerably lighter, the shoe material is much more breathable allowing my feet to stay a lot cooler while running. The support definitely is noticeable as it really seems to have greater control of the roll of my feet making the time my foot is in contact with the treadmill surface as minimal as possible. And perhaps it’s my imagination or maybe it’s something legitimately in the shoe, but I feel like the shoe actually helps launch my foot into the next step so it feels like less work to run.
The immediate effect is that it didn’t feel like as much work to run at my previous top speed so with no extra effort I was able to punch up the speed a couple notches on the treadmill. The difference int he weight of the shoes also is readily apparent as the difference between my old shoes and the new shoes are like having pillows on my feet compared to cement cinder blocks. The best thing is that the pain I’ve been feeling while climbing stairs, I had gotten so used to it that I didn’t really notice it was there until having run in the new shoes and noticed the pain was considerably diminished the first time I climbed some stairs after my first run.
I’ll be perfectly honest, I’ve never really given in to the belief that $100 running shoes make a difference over $30 running shoes until now. I am now completely convinced now that I have experienced what a difference it makes. I will definitely admit that belief was completely wrong and I have seen the light. The new shoes are great and I think the next month of running is going to show a considerable difference over this month’s running in the old shoes.
Thanks Antonio for the advice and thanks to Road Runner Sports for the help with not only determining which shoe I needed but also being where I ended up making my purchase.