How many pairs of running shoes are you currently training in?
If you are like most runners, you have one pair that you wear for all of your training.
But what if you had more than one pair of shoes in your rotation – would there be any benefit?
It turns out there is!
At a minimum, every runner should consider having at least two pairs of their main running shoes that they are actively using at one time and rotate different running shoes between workouts.
Benefits of Running in Two Pairs of A Shoe
Your shoes will last longer as your kilometres are spread across more than one pair of shoes. While most shoes last somewhere between 600-800 k’s before needing replacement you can often get more mileage out of a pair of shoes when rotating in another pair since not just one pair is being exposed to your training and the elements. The other reason they last longer is benefit 2 below.
Wearing the same pair of shoes for each run does not allow the foam in your shoes ample time to decompress and return to it’s original state. Each foot strike places forces that are 1.5 to 3 times your body weight on the shoe. By having more than one pair of shoes to rotate in your training you can then allow for maximum time for the foam to fully decompress over 24-48 hours between runs. If you are a twice a day runner, this is even more important as 12 hours or less is not sufficient for shoe recovery. Lots of running within a short period of time will wear your shoes down faster. The most common foam in running shoes is a type of EVA foam (Ethylene vinyl acetate), which is compacted over time. The longer you can leave in between running in a pair of shoes, the more time the shoe has to “recover” or return closer to it’s original state. Running/walking or standing on the same pair of shoes every day is the quickest way to wear them out.
Whether you buy two pairs of shoes now or just one, your cost is the same. If you have just one pair of shoes you would end up spending money to replace them once warn out. With the extended amount of time between buying shoes you are just shifting that cost to less often.
Every year shoe companies release new models of their shoes. While the purpose of your shoe won’t change from year to year, the fit and support of the model of your shoe is likely to change. Even subtle changes can dramatically change if a shoe is right for you or not. As an example, the popular Brooks Adrenaline GTS17 was a very different shoe than the GTS19 and GTS20 that followed it. When you find a shoe that is working well for you this allows you to have more time between having to make a change thus allowing you to keep running in the same shoes you train with in your goal races. This is particularly important for runners with fall goal races that may seek new shoes several weeks ahead of their race only to find their shoe model they trained in is now replaced by the new version and the fit is very different.
Training in a range of shoes give a diversity in the same way that changing running surfaces (road, trail, grass, treadmill) reduces the repetitive part of repetitive stress injury risk from runners that run on the same surface all of the time. A stability or light stability shoe is going to ride very differently than a minimal or zero drop shoe. This difference is enough to stimulate and use different muscles in your legs and feet than simply training in just one type of shoe alone. Different shoes distribute the impact forces of running differently, thereby lessening the strain on any given part of the body.
Build Strength. Having some of your training being conducted in a more minimalist type shoe will engage more of your muscles than a full stability or even light stability shoe. This is a great way to fully maximize the benefits of strength training exercises and shorter hard workouts.
Tips for Rotating your footwear correctly
In making any change to your running shoes, it is always best to make very gradual changes. Following the principle of not doing too much too soon will allow your body to be able to adapt.
- The first step towards incorporating more shoes into your rotation is to purchase a second pair of your primary trainers that you are comfortable in. This will give you the benefits of the second pair of shoes mentioned above. If it has been some time since your shoes were replaced it is best to buy both pairs new at the same time just as you would with car tires.
- The second step is to gradually experiment and introduce other styles of shoes into your training. If you primarily train in stability or motion control shoes start very slowly as your body needs a lot of time to adapt to less supportive shoes.
Begin with running just a few kilometres once or twice a week on easy or recovery runs and then increase the distance very slowly from there over many weeks. At the same time, incorporating minimalist running and running specific lower leg/foot strength exercises can be very helpful.
Adding minimalist shoes can be a very lengthy process taking up to 6 months or more. In fact, many runners will only reach a certain point in which they can run in these types of shoes whether that be a certain distance or time and not be able to advance further. This is ok and normal.
It will be normal to have increased soreness after runs in a new style of shoe that you are not accustomed to over the first few runs. Don’t mistake this as pain or injury unless the signs of injury are present during your run. Changing your shoes truly does engage different muscles.
Eventually, find the best rotation in your training that works for you. Most runners will likely find that a more 'supportive' shoe will be their main choice for long runs and about half of their efforts, while a more minimalist type shoe will be their choice for easy recovery runs and potentially short harder workouts.
Remember to be brand impartial when shopping for shoes and find what works best for you!
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