Running Shoes…..Which Kind? What Type? Minimalist? Cushion?

A lot of my athletes ask me what type of running shoes they should be in.  Cushion trainers?  Minimalist?  Or as I know them as RACING FLATS, Newtons? Hokas?  Holy smokes there are a lot of different shoes now.

Obviously everyone is different and has their own preference, but here is my take on shoes and how you should cycle through them.

TRAINERS:  Trainers are a more cushion shoe that you put your aerobic miles in.  This shoe is personal preference, but it is the traditional looking running shoe with more support underneath the foot.  Should you have a pair of these?  ANSWER: YES!  Trainers are great for your long runs, your medium long runs, your warm ups before a workout, your recovery runs etc.  It is rare for a runner not to run on some cement or blacktop during their run, so these type of shoes help out with absorbing some of the shock that your legs take from the elastic muscle contraction from the ground pushing back on you.  You may hear about how important adding soft surface running into your runs are.  Well, shock absorption is the reason.  If you are going to run your aerobic miles on trails or soft surfaces, you may get away with a lighter shoe.

FLATS (or known as MINIMALIST) – The Term minimalist did not even exist 10 years ago.  These are shoes with less cushion, and a lighter feel used to be known as running/racing flats.  They are your shoes that you do your faster workouts in such as TEMPO RUNS, INTERVAL TRAINING, SPEED, and ROAD RACING.  It might be risky to wear these shoes too often on cement because of the pounding your body takes. However, during your harder efforts, stated above, they are great and they will make a difference in trying to hit goal times because they are lighter and they encourage better foot strike.

HOKAS and NEWTONS:  Lets discuss these three in one paragraph:  Hokas are a VERY cushion light trainer (like a marshmellow) and can be used for people that have a difficult time recovering from putting miles in or are injury prone.  I have seen positive results for older athletes who enjoy running miles, however, still doing faster paced sessions in running flats is recommended if the athlete can handle that.  The reason – you don’t want your foot casted so much from the cushion that it doesn’t stay strong.   NEWTONS: are a midfoot style shoe that help an athlete focus on midfoot strike.  Newtons are a good moderation between trainers and flats.  If you like the feel of Newtons, you might rotate through your regular trainers for shock absorption and Newtons for your faster runs.  Newton experts say that all runs can be done in the newtons.  That may be true for some, but the lugs can tend to wear more on one side if you land on the outside of your foot and then the shoe becomes deformed after a number of miles are run on them.  If you like the way the Newtons feel it is still good to rotate through shoes (stated below) and transfer the way you feel in the Newtons to a pair of trainers.  If you gain the feel of midfoot running in the Newtons you should be able to focus on that with other shoes as well.

SPIKES are typically used for fast speed work on the track, or track events.  I have always loved “spiking up” because it really gets the runner up on their forefoot. BUT if you have never worn spikes you might want to start by doing 2 or 3 100m strides in them before you wear them too long, because YOU WILL BE SORE!  Very sore…….

HOW TO PUT IT ALL TOGETHER!  Ok the important part……..

Is just one shoe good enough?  Well, put it this way, having multiple pairs of shoes is better….so:  ROTATE THROUGH YOUR SHOES and STRENGTHEN YOUR FEET!!!!!!!

I know money can be a factor, but think long term here.  If you buy all your shoes up front and rotate through them, you won’t need to buy shoes as often.

Buy 2 pairs of trainers and one pair of flats (or minimalist) – Rotate through your trainers-use one pair for weekday runs, and one pair for weekend runs.  Use your flats (newtons, minimalist, or traditional racing flats) for your tempo runs, marathon paced runs, other workout sessions, and strides.  At the end of runs, do barefoot DRILLS to help strengthen your feet.  The stronger your feet, the better!

A few examples on how to rotate shoes:

If you are marathon training and say you have 16 miles with the final 8 miles at Marathon pace.  Run your first 8 in your trainers, and run your second 8 mile at pace in your flats (or shoes you plan to race in).  Just go to your car and change shoes.  This will help you better prepare for your marathon and feel out your shoes.  It will also probably make it easier to hit marathon pace.

If you are doing a track workout, or tempo run.  Warm up in your trainers, stretch, then switch shoes and do your interval work or tempo run in your flats or lighter shoes, and then switch back to your trainers for the cool down.  This is simple and will allow your legs some different support within one workout.

I hope this message helps you understand your running shoes a little better.  Its like rotating your tires, your car needs it, your legs need it right?

Coach Tom, Without Limits