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Coach Steve being aero!

SHOE CHOICES: First let me make a few universal recommendations about how to use your run shoes.

Keep them fresh by only wearing them for runs. Run shoes have a limited life span to maintain their shape and shock absorbing qualities. Injuries can initiate by wearing tired shoes too long. If you want to wear run shoes for walking, or just need the cushioning for standing at work, use old ones that you don't run in anymore.

Tie your shoes (or set the elastic laces) tightly enough so the shoe can do its job of supporting the foot laterally. If you slide them on and off without untying, or just don't tie them with laces relatively tight, your feet will float in the shoe. This can allow over-pronation, under-pronation, as well as other unwanted movements.

Choosing a shoe that works for you is crucial, as everyone has different mechanics to their lower legs and feet. Typically a runner with flat or very flexible arches needs additional arch support and stiffer material under the medial (inner) side of the shoe to resist rolling to the inside on foot plant. Many runners with high, stiff arches, under-pronate (foot rolls excessively to the outside). Newer runners usually have more mechanical problems to sort out before they can run injury free. Runners who've been at it for a while typically have stronger feet, but often have wear and tear issues to cope with.

At least half the athletes I've coached over the years have mechanical issues with their lower legs or feet that must be corrected with orthotics. Some of these runners can get away with just additional arch support from one of several brands of insoles available at run shoe stores. These products add arch support with their rigid, or nearly rigid form. Custom orthotics from a professional take correction a step further with actual imprints from your feet, posting to reduce leg length differences, or even canting similar to custom downhill ski boot fitting. Orthotics come in a few different styles, and unfortunately none should be considered permanent.

Training shoes come in many types; some are focused on medial or lateral support; some are neutral for lucky runners with no pronation issues. Some run shoes offer more cushioning, less cushioning, and come in medium to heavy weights, all acceptable for training. Most run shoe stores have sales people with experience to help you get in the right shoe. Runners with ongoing injuries should seek advice from ortho MDs and/or PTs with run experience.

When fast running is the goal, consider a lighter shoe dedicated to race days. The rule is that one once saved from shoe weight will allow you to go 1-second faster per mile. A weight reduction of 5 ounces for race shoes versus training shoes is average, so that's a significant time savings at 5-seconds per mile. If you wear the training shoes for all of your workouts slower than race pace, then put on the race shoes for race day, you'll feel the difference from the first few strides.

As with training shoes, there are choices to be made for race shoes. The lighter the shoe, the less support and more risk of injury. Some runners with serious foot issues are better-off racing in supportive training shoes. For short races many runners can get away with very light shoes and little support. As race distances get longer race shoes with more cushioning are recommended.

I recommend only using your race shoes for race day and speedwork at race pace or faster. On the track I might use training shoes for the first half of a workout, then switch to race shoes for the second half. With the lighter shoes I'll consistently go 1-second faster per lap.

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