Shoes and health

There is more than appearance to let you know when your exercise shoes should be replaced.

By Mark Rackay

I read an article about how running shoes wear out after 400 to 500 miles. This kind of puzzled me because I never saw an odometer on a pair of shoes before. I had no idea there was a “science” behind how long your shoes will last.

As a kid, getting new shoes had more to do with the time of year. Every spring, my Grandmother would drag me to the shoe store, to get a pair of shoes for the summer. I say drag, because I hated going there. Having to sit still while you try on shoes that were always two sizes too big. “You’ll grow into them,” was her answer to my complaining. I assure you, those PF Fliers rotted off my feet long before I ever grew into them.

A general rule of thumb for running shoes would be to replace them at 400 miles. If you run or jog 3 miles a day, four days a week, that breaks down to about every six months you need to buy new shoes.

Your mileage in running shoes will vary depending on your running style. If you have a natural gait, that is uneven, you are going to wear them out faster. Terrain also plays a role in shoe wear. Someone who runs on a treadmill will keep their shoes longer than someone who is a trail runner.

A person who is into power walking or fitness hiking will have the same concerns over shoe life expectancy. If your shoes are more the “trail type” rather than actual running shoes, you can expect them to last 700 to 900 miles, again, much dependent on the terrain and your style of walking.

I never really paid much attention to shoe life, always going more by general appearance instead of performance. If the shoes still stayed on my feet and kept most of the dirt and trail debris on the outside, they must still be good. My Grandmother raised me to be frugal because we did not have much in those days. Shoes were expected to be outgrown, not worn out.

As I got older, I started paying more and more attention to the little injuries and nagging aches and pains associated with an active lifestyle outdoors. I realized quickly that most of these aches and pains were directly related to my shoes.

If you have been feeling general muscle fatigue, shin splits or joint pain, you are probably wearing shoes that have lost their cushioning. This is especially true if you are having knee pains. When you are feeling pain in both knees, for example, that’s the warning shot that you need some new footwear.

When you are experiencing pains, and the shoes are relatively new, the problem may be you are wearing the wrong type of shoes for your chosen activity. For a time, I was jogging in a pair of trail hiking shoes. My heels and ankles quickly advised me that this was not an approved activity and I had best look for more appropriate footwear, lest I walk with a limp forever. A pair of running shoes quickly solved the problems I was having.

When you begin to feel the direct impact of every step in your feet, knees and hips, it means that the shock absorption quality of your shoes has gone south. Remember that running and trail walking are a high-impact sport, and only shoes with good shock absorption can minimize the strain on your ligaments, tendons, muscles and joints.

Take a good look at the soles and general appearance of your shoes. If the treads on the soles are worn out, it is definitely time for new footwear. The soles will always outlast the shoes shock absorbency. Time to retire those shoes to yard work.

Pay special attention to the wear pattern on your shoes. If the wear is uneven, or your tread wear indicates a possible gait issue, best to seek some professional advice. Changes to your running and walking form may help, but you are likely to need different shoes as well.

When there is excessive wear on the front portion of the shoe, it can be a sign of overpronation. In overpronation, the ankle rolls too far downward and inward with each step. It can lead to straining of the big toe and second toe, eventually leading to shin splits and other problems.

A similar problem is when you see more wear on the outside edges of your shoes. This is a sign of underpronation or supination. This simply means your foot is shifting outward with each step, placing the brunt of the impact on the outer bones of your foot. There are a variety of motion-control shoes, specialty insoles, and orthotics available to correct any of these problems. You may have to visit with a foot doctor if you discover any of these problems. Help is available.

Trail walking, power walking or running are all terrific activities to keep you healthy and fit. Having the correct footwear will not only prevent injuries but will help you achieve the best in endurance, comfort and speed.

Don’t be like me and ignore or “work through” those little aches and pains, as they are messages from your body telling you something is not right. Correcting the problem early will prevent it from becoming a serious injury that can lay you up for a long time.

Mark Rackay is a columnist for several newspapers and has been a feature writer for numerous sporting magazines. A world-class saltwater angler and an avid hunter promoting ethical and fair chase hunting and fishing, he travels the world in search of adventure. Feel free to contact him on his personal email for questions, comments or story ideas. elkhunt

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