There was a radio commercial that aired several years ago that started with this question: "What are the four most important parts of your car?" The announcer went onto say that the answer was "the tires your car rides on." I don't recall the name of the advertiser, but it was either Goodyear, Goodrich or some other tire company.
The voiceover went onto say that their tires provided great traction on wet, snowy or gravelly pavement. It didn't matter what the road conditions were, their tires provided safe assurance that your car was riding on the best rubber around.
I was thinking about that commercial the other day as I roamed my local running store looking for a new pair of covers for my 5 toed wheels. It occurred to me that timing the purchase of new running shoes prior to a long distance race is somewhat like purchasing new tires for your car. You don't want to wait until the tread is absolutely worn out before you make a purchase. Otherwise, you risk a blowout.
How do you know when it's time for a new pair of running shoes? For me, my knees are like the low fuel warning on a black Cadillac. The alarm goes off and lights start flashing when its time for me to make an investment in a new set of running tires. If I wait too long to buy new shoes, I feel pain in my knees followed by aches in my hips and finally lower back problems. Over the years, I've learned to listen to my body and recognize the signs and symptoms that it's time for an investment in running shoes.
Most authorities agree that new shoes are recommended every 350-450 miles. For the average runner covering 20 miles per week, that would be every five to six months. Marathon runners should consider new shoes every three months. I highly recommend running specialty stores over mass merchandisers for making this purchase. Specialty stores typically have more qualified sales personnel that will analyze your stride. They can determine if you pronate or have other needs that can be assisted or corrected with specific shoe styles.
Believe it or not, timing the purchase of your new running shoes is also an important consideration. Just as you don't want to wait until the day before the big snow storm to buy your new snow tires, you don't want to put off the purchase of those new shoes too close to the race date.
Last year, I purchased new running shoes about two weeks before the Rock and Roll Half Marathon. At that point, my last long run had already been completed so I only had a few 4 and 6 miles runs to break in the treads. On race day, as I anxiously waited in the first corral and listened to Al Roker wax about running and weight loss just a few feet away, I retied my shoes one last time. I didn't realize I laced them too tight at the top. At mile 6, I felt cramping and numbness in the two little toes on my right foot. In my usual fashion, I ignored the pain thinking that I could play thru the pain and finish the race. By mile 10, the pain was excruciating and I had to do the unthinkable. I had to stop and re-lace my shoes to account for my swelling feet. That didn't help much. The pain continued and worsened for the remaining 3 miles. I still finished under my goal time of 1:35 but it wasn't easy. I couldn't wait to cross the finish line to kick off my shoes to allow the blood to flow back to my feet.
If you don't want to feel like the farmer that stepped on a rake and got 5 acres (get it...5 achers) like I did on race day, think about buying new shoes in the next few weeks for the big run on October 9th. You'll be glad you did.
Sorry about that bad farmers joke. I just had to work it in.
Here's a photo of me and my friend and former running partner from last year's Rock and Roll Marathon. Since then, she has moved to Boston and competed in several marathons and half marathons. Note: My aching feet aren't in the picture. My smile is actually a grimace.
By the way, this year's Rock and Roll Marathon is August 14, 2011. It's a great race and timed well to fit in with your marathon training schedule.