Monthly Archives: April 2014

Shoes; Finding the Right Fit

Shoes, shoes, shoes!  Walk into any specialty running store and you will be greeted by a seemingly endless wall of shoes.  Track spikes, trail shoes, racing flats, walking shoes, and just regular trainers.   Within these groups of shoes there are even more options, minimal, stability, motion control, and zero drop, just to name a few.

With all these choices its no wonder so many people are confused about what to run in.  Wondering where to start?

My first suggestion is this, go to a specialty running shoe store where they watch your gait and fit you…and know what they are doing.  I know what you’re thinking, we are all busy and going through one of these shoe fittings can be time consuming.  However, if you are spending time, energy, and money to train for a race and want to stay uninjured (not to mention want to keep all your toenails) then going to a pro is well worth it!

I am able to determine which shoes I like, and which shoes I do not almost instantly.  For me, I have a high instep, a wide forefoot and a fairly neutral stride.   When looking for a shoe, I want something that feels good around the heel; nothing that hits my ankle, achilles or may cause blisters.  Very firm shoes are too stiff for my foot pattern.  I am not a heavy foot striker and, if a shoe is inflexible, I am unable to properly move through my gait cycle.  I almost don’t want to feel anything at all.

Feet expand when they are hot, or when you have been on them all day.  If the toe-box is too narrow, or too short I am almost guaranteed to lose a toenail.  My rule of thumb is; shoes are not meant to be broken in, they should feel good right out of the box!

Realizing not all feet and people are like mine, I decided to ask two of my local shoe fitters; Jordan and Jeff.  Both work at the Fleet Feet in town, and have been fitting shoes on all types of feet for years. Being athletes themselves, they have run all sorts of races on all sorts of terrain, and have tried nearly every shoe under the sun.

Altra vs Altra: the Lone Peak 1.5 takes on the Superior

Which shoe is best?

Jeff recommends that, “Shoes should feel fairly loose on your foot with no pressure points. Its not necessary that the heel isn’t moving in the shoe, as long as it is not rubbing. ”  He finds that many folks like their shoes too tight, and try to tie them too tight as well.  ” Your foot expands about 15% when you are running and fully load your weight onto one foot.  You should have enough room in your shoe to allow for that expansion.”  Shoes that are too tight can lead to blisters and the ever dreaded black or lost toenail.

Jordan agrees with Jeff about sizing mistakes.  Often people get stuck on a certain shoe size in their mind.  For example someone could be measuring at a size 10, but insist that they have “never been over an 9 a day in their life.”   Heat, time on your feet, babies, and even running, can all change the size and shape of your feet over time.  Just because you were a size 7 in your Jimmie Choo’s in your 20s doesn’t mean that you can run comfortably in a size 7 running shoe in your 40s.

Jordan says, “Wearing a shoe that is too small will bring a quick halt to training. Numb feet, blisters, black or lost toenails are all common results of shoes that don’t fit properly. When any of these occurs the runners gait will change, once that happens you are running on borrowed time.”

He also feels that people get hung up on price, and as a student he’s the first to admit that cost can be an issue.  “Sometimes more is not better, I’ll admit. Usually the difference between $130 and $170 shoes is cushioning and weight. The more expensive shoe is usually softer, lighter or both. It probably won’t make you run faster or prevent injury better than the $130 shoe. ”  On the flip side of this he says, “the difference between a $70 and a $120 shoe is significant. In this price range the cheaper shoe is often made with lower quality material. With cheaper material that breaks down faster a runner could be wearing a minimal shoe without knowing it after 100 miles.”

In addition, they both feel that; “over-pronation” is often seen as an evil that always needs to be corrected.  Neither of them really like the term “over-pronation” as it is used to describe anyone with a flexible foot. “Over-pronation” is really only a problem when someone exhibits injuries or aches and pains as a result of their gate. People are put in stability shoes all the time who don’t need them. A little strength training and running form drills will go a lot further in helping alleviate running induced aches than a stability shoe may. This is not to say that people can’t benefit from stability shoes, it’s just that they’re overprescribed.  Some of the best runners in the world are “over-pronators.”

Jordan states, “There have been many times (countless in fact) I have had someone say “I have high arches so I have (insert foot or running ailment)” and just as many say “I have low arches so I have (insert foot or running ailment).”  There are studies that correlate injuries with all foot types. It’s unfortunate that some runners think they are predisposed to bad form or poor mechanics because of over-pronation.”

My Altra Lone Peak’s have carried me 907 miles, through races, up mountains, and around the woods. Finding a good pair of shoes that make your body feel good, is most important!

Hopefully this article has given you something to think about the next time you are searching for running shoes.  A good shoe, that fits correctly can be a wonderful thing–helping you to race PR’s, go on fun adventures, and just feel better overall in your active life!

What are your thoughts? What are some of your favorite shoes and why?


Blog Symposium: Is trail running becoming too commercialized?

Is Trail Running Becoming Too Commercialized?

When I read the topic for this month, my initial gut reaction was, yes it is.  Trail running is supposed to be the simplest, purest form of running.  Lace up shoes, go explore nature, take in the sights and sounds of the trail.  Now we are told that we need the right nutrition, water packs, shoes, and clothes.  However, when I really think about what is commercialized here in the US, my response is, no.  Trail running really isn’t too commercialized, in fact it is bringing awareness to people, who otherwise wouldn’t otherwise know,  that there is a whole wonderful culture of runners, and places to run that do not require roads.

The reason my initial thoughts were yes, its too commercialized is probably because only 2-3 years ago I didn’t really think much of trail running. I didn’t know anyone who ran races on trails, outside of Colorado and other more mountainous areas.  I had never seen a commercial on tv, or ad in a magazine for trail running.  Up until recently trail runners always seemed to be the “strong silent types” of the running world.  They were the thru hikers that decided to get together and race an event.  Even when I first began running on trails near my house I would see people out hiking and walking their dogs more often than running. In the past year a local running store started a community running program to encourage road runners to get out on the trails and run, and our trail network now seems like a highway of runners on Saturday mornings.

In the last several years social media has exploded with trail running pictures, foods, supplements, shoes, gear, and race promotions.  Races have been selling out faster than we can hit the keys on our computers.  Though I have seen positive outcomes, more races are opening, more people are thinking about how they use and not abuse the trails.  Others have become aware how wonderful and important it is to keep our open spaces free from development.

All these changes, for me, made me feel like trail running must be getting too commercialized….

And then I realized, I feel like I see so much more about trail running in media because I seek it out now. I read Trail Runner Magazine, and Ultra Runner Magazine. I go online and read, and Of course I think all I see is the commercialization of trail running.  For the average American, however, they see little to nothing about trail running. They, instead, are bombarded with fast food, beauty and hygiene, and entertainment ads. Fast food spends billions of dollars yearly on their commercials, it would actually be pretty wonderful if even half of that money was put into promoting something as healthy as our sport; trail running. Imagine how healthy, relaxed and happy so many more Americans would be if they just got out to a local trail a few hours a day?!  If more people were interested in trail running, could more forests be saved and not turned into real estate, restaurants and shops?!

The purist in me would like to see trail running go back to being the little cult sport it seems it once was.  Its fun to be part of an activity that isn’t very mainstream, that not many people have done, and that “big business” hasn’t gotten a hold of.  A larger part of me is happy that so many other people are sharing in my excitement for trail running.  My running club puts on two trail races a year, the money we make gets donated to the park’s where the races are held.  Without all the hype and commercialization of trail running we wouldn’t have been able to donate much needed money to very underfunded state parks around.   I have run packet pick up several years now, and it makes my heart happy to see all the newbies out there excited to try something different.

Like anything else, as trail running becomes more popular it will also become more and more commercialized.  It is my hope that consumers will think about the races and the products they support and be mindful that as long as we treat the trails well,and respect them they will be around for us to enjoy for many years to come.


Trail explorations in Boone NC

Leaping in my Altra Lone Peak


Have you ever had that thought deep in sleep that you forgot to set your alarm and somehow you are able to wake yourself from deep sleep?  I bolted out of bed, knowing that I had accidentally set my alarm for 4:30 pm, not am!  Fortunately it was only 4:15 and I had plenty of time to pack for my Boone adventure.

I slipped silently downstairs to get my things ready.  Shoes-check, compression socks-check, hydration pack-check, snacks, sunscreen, water, and clothes…check, check, check.  I was buzzing with excitement and nervousness.  I am never over-prepared, I like to wing it sometimes when it comes to trying out new trails.  I had been to Boone and Grandfather Mountain countless times, so I know the area, and its populated enough that you really can’t get too lost.

My ride came right on time, but with a little bad news.  He was in a rush and had stubbed his toe moments before.  “I think I broke it,” he said.  I cringed a bit..”oh no, we don’t have to go…”  He insisted it wasn’t bad and we took off, heading west to where the land starts to become mountainous.  3 hours later we pulled into the Julian Price Park parking lot.  Ben tested his toe, while I tried to guess between some written notes I had from a friend, and my phone map where the trail began.

After a few minutes he was ready, and I had a good idea which direction to go.  I brought with me my Energybits to try out.  (full review of them here) I took about 10 and we were off.  The Tanawha trail  parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway from Julian Price 13 miles to Beacon Heights.   The trail leads you through many different ecosystems.  Immediately we were ducking our heads dodging low hanging rhododendron branches, it then spit us out into some beautiful open fields.  We crossed grassy fields, rocky and rooty sections that seemed to go on endlessly, and some gravel connecting trails…it was quite a nice variety of terrain.

The trail continued steadily uphill, putting us back into forest.  We came to the edge of Grandfather Mountain State Park about 6 miles into our run.  From there we decided to follow a loop up to Storyteller’s rock, then over to Calloway peak, and then back down the Daniel Boone Scout trail to Tanawha again.

The day was beautiful and it got hot fast.  The sun felt so good on my skin, and the breeze at the top of the mountain was so soft.   There is something about the mountains that is just so inspiring and relaxing all at the same time.   I just feel at peace when I am there.

We stopped a few times to take in the view and to take some pictures..

Got rocks?

We eventually ran out of water, but were close enough back to the car that it didn’t cause us to slow much.

If you are ever in the area of Boone, I would highly recommend this set of trails.  Its right off the parkway, just a few minutes from downtown, and just beautiful.  Total round trip was somewhere between 22-24 miles and the elevation is 5,964.

Run on!