The best running shoes for you

What shoes should you run in? Honestly… I have no idea! The ONLY person who can help you make that decision is the person working at your local running store. Not someone fast on Instagram, not your neighbor who has ran for 25 years, and not that lady with the flashy kicks in the super market.

Other than being a running coach, and a personal trainer for the last 6 years, I also recently started working at a local running store. It’s been quite the change in career, but I’ve absolutely loved it. I've learned more about shoes and other parts of running that I never really thought twice about before. So now I 100% tell all my athletes to go to a local running store and get checked out to find the right shoes for them.

Every foot is different, every runner is different, and every athlete’s needs are different. A good running store will do a gait analysis and ask multiple questions to help find the correct shoe for you. What does a gait analysis involve?

  • Checking your arch height

  • Seeing where your lower leg bones (tibia and fibula) line up over your ankle

  • Watching how your knee tracks over your foot as you bend your knee forward

  • Watching how you walk/ run to check for pronation or supination

  • Sizing both your feet (because they may be different sizes!)

  • Checking out the bottom tread and collars of some of your most recent pairs of running shoes to look at the wear patterns

All of these mini tests take less than 5 minutes total, but can save you a lot of time (and pain) in the long run. Most runners buy shoes that are a size too small… which can cause cramping, blisters, calluses and black toenails. A good rule of thumb is to go up 1 full shoe size from what you are measured on the Brannock foot measuring system… which your local running store employee should do for you automatically!

Types of shoes and the individual who wears them:

  • Neutral- Typically someone with a high arch, does not need stability, may supinate (ankles roll out)

  • Stability- Could still have a decent arch height, but tends to pronate (ankles roll in) causing the arch to collapse a bit each step.

  • Motion Control- Very low arch or flat footed and pronates excessively.

  • Trainers- Come in all the above categories. Worn for most runs. Typically last 300-500 running miles.

  • Racers- Typically very light weight, but also have extremely limited miles to them. Worn usually during speed sessions and during races. They are mostly neutral, but a few brands do sell light stability. Be sure to check if they are for shorter (mile, 5 or 10k) or can handle longer (half marathon, marathon) races.

  • Trail- Usually come in neutral, but some brands also make them with light stability. Will have more traction on the bottom to help grip dirt, rock, forest trails. Some brands will also make trail shoes in waterproof material (gortex).

Brand of shoe vs Model of shoe:

There are so many shoes on the market… and I’ve often heard “I run in Brooks (or insert any brand here… Nike, Saucony, New Balance, Hoka… just to name a few!). But truly, that’s not super helpful. The MODEL of the shoe is more important. Brooks Levitate vs Brooks Transcend are extremely different shoes. New Balance 860s vs 880s… very different. Knowing the model of the shoe you’ve been running in can be extremely helpful to the running store employee.

Money Saving Options:

  • Check the clearance wall. A lot of shoe stores will have last year’s color on sale.

  • Ask if they take any discounts… military, student, running club.

  • Join the “frequent buyer program” if the store has one.

Whatever you do… don’t just go off the looks or color of the shoe. Buy the shoes the employee suggests because they know their stuff!

Everything you need to know about Strides.

Running lingo can be a little bit confusing to a new runner, or even someone who has been in the running world for years! You hear all these terms… fartlek, threshold, strides and go what the heck?! I just want to run! But these terms all have benefit and meaning to help you improve as a runner. Today, let’s focus on Strides.

So, strides. What are they?

Strides are usually performed as a series of quick surges of fast running, typically short in length, followed by full recovery. They are a pre-cursor to doing more advanced speed work. Typically you will perform 4-6 strides of about 100 meters (or 15-20 seconds).

What benefits to strides provide?

  • Improved cadence: Typically, the faster you run you quicker your leg turn over, thus increasing your cadence. Increasing your cadence can (at times) improve your running form and efficiency.

  • Improve running form: As mentioned above, strides can improve your running form. You’ll have higher knee drive and eliminate over striding. To run at its fastest, the body will also run at its most efficient. Using strides to help improve poor posture and excessive arm swing is a great start to becoming more efficient and using the proper running biomechanics.

  • Help to “wake up” the fast twitch muscles: Strides can be done the day before your quality workout, or right before your quality session to help your legs get ready to run fast. Remember these are just short bursts, so they won’t wear you out before your speed session or race but they will help to prep your body!

  • Speed work in disguise: So much of a runner’s training is aerobic, so strides a great way to add in small amounts of extra speed work (again, by recruiting those fast twitch muscles) without needing all the extra recovery time from a full high intensity quality training session.

  • Recovery and stretching out stiffness: After an easier or long run, strides will increase blood circulation to your muscles and help to break up some lactic acid build up in your legs… both of which aid in recovery.

I somewhat hinted at this above, but when should a runner do strides?

  • Post easy run, the day before a quality session or long run

  • After the warmup jog, before the quality session

  • After the warmup jog, before a race

Now that I know when… how do I run strides?

Strides are typically 80-100 meters in length (15-25 seconds for most runners) and are ran at about 80-85% effort (about your 5k pace). They are usually performed in sets of 4-6 reps with 45-90 seconds rest between, taken as a walk or waiting in the same spot for the next to begin.

I hope this was helpful and that you’ll begin to incorporate strides into your weekly training program!

What's the deal with Easy Paced runs?

If you’re brand new to running, you might feel like you have one speed when it comes to running… run speed! Maybe you’ve been around the block a little bit and you know that your race pace is (and should be) different than your training run pace, or your multiple paces you use for training runs.

As a coach and runner, I firmly believe in the 80/20 rule (The Pareto Principle). Approximately 80% of your weekly miles should be at an easy pace while 20% of your mileage will be at a pace specific to the workout (threshold, interval, marathon, etc). If your eyes opened REAL wide and you’re now wondering how the heck you’re supposed to run fast in a race if 32 miles in your 40 mile week are slower than your race pace… then read on!

So why should you SLOW DOWN on your easy paced runs?

Easy paced running is the foundation upon which all your run training lies and it provides several benefits. It’s amazing for base building (wider the base, taller the peak!), and for a return to running post race/ break/ injury. Easy run pace is typically 65-78% of your max heart rate. Running easy allows not only the below to happen, but it also allows you to go HARD on your HARD days.

  • Build up a certain degree of resistance to injury

  • Limited stress on the body or mind

  • Develops the heart muscle

  • Increases vascularization (the opening of more tiny blood vessels that feed into the muscles you use while running)

  • Develops the characteristics (muscle fibers) of the muscles you use while running

  • Active recovery, facilitating blood flow to muscles that need repair after hard running

How much time per week should I run easy?

Above, I mentioned the 80/20 rule. This certainly isn’t a hard pressed, set in stone rule. In fact, Dr. Jack Daniels suggests that about 10% of your runs per week should be at Threshold pace, 8% should be Interval, and up to 5% be even faster (Repetition). This leaves a little wiggle room because not every week will you be hitting Threshold, Interval, Repetition or Marathon paces in your workouts. But he does say that all your other miles should be at your Easy pace… warmup, cool down, recovery jogs and during long runs too.

What is MY easy pace?

Easy pace for every person is different and it can even be different every day for the same runner depending on what the previous days’ workout, sleep, nutrition, and stress levels were. As a coach, I base the easy paces I give off Jack Daniels’ Vdot formula. It’s easy to plug in a recent race time to help judge your paces you should be running for any type of run. If you don’t have a recent race time, don’t use one from 4 years ago! You can set up a time trial race for yourself, then head to the link to find your paces.

Having the correct pace is crucial BUT you also have to go off feel. Do you live in a hilly area? Then on the uphill, you may tip over the top end of your pace as you climb if you truly keep the effort feeling easy. Heat and high dew point levels will also make you run slower automatically. That’s okay! Keep that effort easy. Remember it’s also 65-78% of your max heart rate, so you have a wide range to work with.

Okay, I know my paces and tried running that slow but I swear I feel like I’m walking…

As a runner, I FEEL YOU! But as a coach, SLOW IT DOWN ANYWAY! That’s what it should feel like. It should be so easy feeling that you could do it with your eyes closed or in your sleep. You should literally be able to sing out loud or hold a conversation easily while running this pace. Focus instead on your form and maintaining desirable running mechanics. Count your steps and try to get close to 180 steps per minute (count every time your right foot hits the ground, with a goal of 90). Check in with your breathing.

How do I race fast, if most of my miles are slower and easy paced?

Honestly, you have to get into the right mental state for your upcoming race. Look back at your previous workouts and the paces you maintained for those workouts. They were tough but you did it! Each one had a purpose. Going into a half marathon, you probably didn’t run more than about 30-45 total minutes in any one workout at a threshold pace. But neither do the professionals! The hard truth is you have to go into a race knowing it’s not going to be easy and it’s probably going to hurt and be willing to make that happen. Your fitness is there, but also know you have to race within your current fitness.

Tips for slowing it down on your easy runs:

  • Go off your heart rate, feel, or being able to hold a conversation… not your pace!
    (The general equation is 220 - age = max HR, however this is not always accurate)

  • If you listen to music, pick slower tunes or go without

  • Justify why you’re slowing down… it’s so you can crush that workout tomorrow, or because your body is working to absorb those 1k repeats you hit yesterday. Remember every workout has a purpose.

  • Run with a friend or family member who is admittedly slower

An example of my week with recent race times at 5k- 20:43, 13.1- 1:35:53
Monday- Easy run (9:06-10)
Tuesday- Easy warm up, 8x1k @ Interval pace (6:58), Easy cooldown
Wednesday- Easy run (9:06-10)
Thursday- off
Friday- Easy run (9:06-10)
Saturday- Long run, Easy but progressive to Threshold (9:06-7:20)
Sunday- Easy run (9:06-10)