With varieties ranging from trail and road to minimalist and maximalist, it’s no surprise many runners get stuck with a shoe that’s not for them.
There are a number of local high-profile running races in November, such as the McNellie’s Pub Run (Nov. 11), the Route 66 Marathon (Nov. 18-19), and the Fleet Feet Sports Turkey Trot (Nov. 24). And in order to maximize your experience (and help avoid injury), it’s best to wear the right shoes.
As simple as that may sound, finding the right shoes can be a personal and ongoing challenge. Most shoes feel comfortable when you’re standing in a store, but the true test comes several miles into your marathon, run or walk. And by then, it could be too late.
To help ensure you have happy feet, we asked the staff at Fleet Feet to share some of their insight for features to look for and mistakes you should avoid.
The most important thing that the highly-trained folks at Fleet Feet — a locally-owned retailer with outposts in downtown Tulsa (418 E. 2nd St.), near LaFortune Park (5968 S. Yale Ave.) and in Broken Arrow (303 S. Main St.) — will do for you is find a good shoe that will properly fit your feet and be well-suited to your particular running or walking stride.
To start that process, the first step they take is to measure your feet — precisely, in multiple dimensions.
“We want you to shop local, family-owned, because you’re going to get the best experience,” said Lori Dreiling, co-owner, along with her husband, Tim, of the three Fleet Feet Tulsa stores since first opening in August 2003. “Especially if you’re running, but we also take care of people that go to gyms, that go to CrossFits, that walk, that are going overseas, going on a cruise, if you just need good athletic shoes. Go to a place that measures your feet and there aren’t too many of us left.
“Even if you’re 20-something, it doesn’t matter; your feet have changed since you were younger. Getting your feet measured is a big deal because you need to know not only length but width. We sell a ton of wide shoes, so to me, that would be first and foremost.”
In addition to the length and width, Fleet Feet can also measure, and account for, the volume of your feet with a digital foot scanner, one of very few in the entire country. The device provides them a comprehensive picture of your foot.
“The other thing that we do, if you are a runner, or even if you are a walker, we get you on the treadmill and we videotape you,” Dreiling says. “By looking at your feet in motion, that really gives us an opportunity to see if there are any little nuances in terms of your gait. And then we play it back for you in slow motion, and you can see what your arches do, you can see what your knees do, everything.” After that, the staff takes all the data and selects a few options from their inventory.
Getting a chance to not only try the shoes on, but to run with them and have your running style analyzed, ensures that you get the right fit and the proper type of shoe for your particular stride.
“We really are much more than just a shoe store. We’re a fit store,” Dreiling says. “We know a lot and we spend a lot of time training our staff and educating them on all these different facets. Everybody’s feet are different.”
Ultimately, the overall benefit you get from your running or walking regimen hinges significantly on the quality of your footwear.
“It is important if you’re going to start an exercise routine to really get in good shoes,” Dreiling says. “We see a ton of people that come in with what I call it the Wal-Mart special, and there is a difference. We’re a specialty. Most of our shoes are $100 and up, most of them are about $120. There are different types of shoes. If you don’t get the length, the width and the volume correct, it doesn’t matter which shoe we put you in.
“We’re not Amazon. People have a very unrealistic view of local retailers, even big boxes. We don’t have 200,000-square-foot warehouses. We just had a lady in Broken Arrow, she had a serious pain in her forefoot, and she was wearing her shoes a full size too short. The number on the box is not exact. It depends on the manufacturer, it depends on the model. Usually, you [want] a half- to full-size up from your dress shoe size. This is not a leather shoe that stretches and that you wear for years. An athletic shoe is made out of lighter compounds, lighter materials. If you run even ‘kinda sorta,’ in six to eight months, you’ll be getting another pair.”
How to Reduce Running Injuries
Don't use worn-out running shoes
Keeping your feet, and the rest of your body, in the best possible shape starts with replacing your running shoes every three to 10 months, depending on how much distance you cover.
“Usually, your body starts talking to you,” says Fleet Feet’s Lori Dreiling. “You want to try to catch it before that happens because sometimes injuries occur because people wear shoes too long. Our marathoners are getting a new pair every three to four months, our half-marathoners most definitely every four to six months, and even the general population, about six to 10 months. Manufacturers will rate their shoes to last 500 miles.”
Snug, not tight
Your heel should fit snug, but not tight. Laced up (but not tied), you should be able to slide your feet out. Lacing your shoes up through the final eyelet minimizes slippage. There will be some heel movement, but it shouldn’t be uncomfortable. Any irritation you feel in the store will be amplified once you hit the road.
Use proper form
“We teach a class called Healthy Runner, where we teach good-form running,” Dreiling says. “We have certified staff. There is a methodology behind how to run and even good-form walking, so we teach these classes. There are tenets for each, certain things you should do in order to become more efficient. There is a correct way to run, believe it or not. Big-heel strikers will have issues, knee pain, more injuries, and forefoot runners won’t last either, people that run on their toes for longer distances. Your forefoot was not intended to take that initial load of your body, so that’s why we’re big on injury prevention.”
Wear good socks
Using regular, cotton-based socks, whether you run or walk, can eventually cause foot problems.
“You really need a good pair of tech socks, either Merino wool or all tech,” Dreiling suggests. “It would be like going to play golf with one ball and one club. Using some of that cotton blend that you buy at the big boxes won’t last long, and if you have any sort of issues — bunions, chafing, callusing — it’s just going to act like sandpaper.”
This doesn’t just mean drink a lot of water.
“Most running and sports injuries are soft-tissue based, which means it takes a while for the injury to develop, but also means it will take a while for it to go away,” Dreiling says. “What starts a lot of the cascade of problems is a dehydrated muscle. You can’t just drink water. People come in and tell us all the time, ‘Oh, I drink tons of water.’ I tell them, ‘That’s probably part of the problem — you drink too much water.’ You need to balance it with electrolytes. What’s happening is, if they drink too much water, they’re flushing all the salts and necessary minerals — magnesium, potassium, those kinds of things — out of their body. You need to balance water with electrolytes.”
Doing a few stretches of your leg muscles immediately before you start running is not enough, and in fact, can sometimes be counter-productive.
“In our training programs, we do something called dynamic warmup,” Dreiling says. “You can’t static stretch a muscle when it’s cold. We teach our training program people to do movements of their legs, back, arms, ankles, feet, and then static stretching is after. You’re actually moving the muscle group to get it warmed up and not just standing there and stretching.”
Exercises to strengthen core muscles
Your overall running stride, and the ability of your body to handle the constant pounding from the impact of running, will be significantly aided by having strong muscles guiding it. Doing exercises to help strengthen your glutes, core/stomach, ankles, calves, hip flexors, and lower back will help stabilize your form and reduce the possibility of one set of muscles getting overworked while compensating for weaker ones.
Have a deep-tissue massage
This doesn’t necessarily mean booking yourself an appointment at Massage Envy every week, which can get expensive, as nice as that might be.
“We’re big on deep-tissue massage,” Dreiling says. “Start getting in regular habits, and we have all kinds of tools and all kinds of methodologies to show you how to do deep tissue, depending on what part of your body is hurting. We’re used to seeing all kinds of injuries walk in our doors. We always recommend you see a medical professional, especially if it’s a nagging injury, but if you want to stay running, stay active, you still want to do CrossFit, then there are certain things that you have to start incorporating. And deep tissue is one of them.”
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