Benefits Of Variety

Posted: February 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

Several runners have contacted me recently expressing concern that they felt unusual pain after running in a new pair of shoes.  It’s very common for runners to think that a new pair of shoes is the solution to all their aches and pains.  However, in every instance the problems were not a result of the new shoes but rather because they stayed in their old shoes too long.

As the outsole and midsole of your running shoes wear, your legs go through a greater range of motion.  Eventually, even someone with a normal range of pronation will place as much stress on their lower extremities as an over-pronator.  This is a very subtle process that most runners won’t even notice until they run in a new pair of shoes.  New shoes will restrict this excessive movement and actually place greater degrees of stress on tendons and ligaments simply because they’re being used differently.

So what is the solution?  I recommend that you rotate multiple pairs of shoes to avoid becoming accustomed to the movement of just one pair.  I realize this can be an expensive prospect but rotating multiple pairs of shoes is actually more cost-effective than running in just one pair.  Let me explain…by only wearing one pair of running shoes you never allow your running shoes to fully recover.  It’s similar to you having to work overtime for weeks without a weekend break.  Your shoes need to recover just like you do.  You place nearly 3-4 times your body weight of force on your shoes with every footstrike.  Most midsoles are composed of EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) or air blown rubber comprise  of tiny air bubbles that act as shock absorbers against this incredible force of running.  They need at least 24 hours to fully expand back to their full level of resiliency, otherwise they compress and break down prematurely.

Rotating your shoes provides the necessary rest to ensure full recovery.  So rotating several pairs of running shoes, while expensive in the beginning, is ultimately less expensive because two pairs of rotated shoes will outlast 3-4 pairs of running shoes worn individually.

Running in different shoes is also beneficial because your legs don’t become accustomed to just the movement of one pair of shoes.  Incorporating variety into your running is extremely beneficial.  You should be varying your distance, speed, and terrain.  You should also be rotating your shoes!

  1. Charlotte Rocker says:

    Hi Rick,

    Thanks for this reminder. I’ve been running on the same two pairs since we started training, rotating them each day per your advice. I bought one pair in November and one in December so the mileage they have on them is pretty much what we’ve covered in training. My question is this: will I need to get new pair(s) before the marathon? If so, when should I introduce them? I want to make sure I’m running on fresh shoes in April, but I also don’t want to get new shoes too late in the game and not give myself enough time to get adjusted.

    Thanks as always for your great advice. Looking forward to seeing you and the team on Saturday!


  2. Hello Charlotte,

    Thanks a great question…and a very timely one. I recommend purchasing a new pair of shoes now, particularly one that you’ve had success with, and running a few short runs in them prior to our 20 miler on March 24th. Wear them in the 20 miler to be sure there aren’t any problems and then save them for the marathon.

    They will have less than 50 miles on them for the marathon. Rotating two pairs of shoes throughout training was a very good idea.

    I look foward to seeing you Saturday.


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