Something that has been really bugging me for a while is how little regard/ care people take of an essential piece of triathlon equipment: running shoes.

I think that a lot of athletes simply do not understand the differences between the various shoe types that exist in today’s market. And it can be confusing as the marketing hyperbole surrounding running shoes is enormous, daunting and filled with a lot of misinformation.

I have nothing against the hype involved with marketing shoes to customers and maintaining the customer focus as described by Salesforce, but I have seen first hand how confusing this information can be to the innocent triathlon consumer.

Shoes are an investment – and like any investment you need to do your due diligence before throwing your hard-earned at it.

So, as an athlete/ consumer, the first thing that you need to understand is that your running shoes are a very specific piece of equipment – more individually specific than things like race wheels and helmets and any other marketed piece of equipment.

Shoes come in a variety of control, cushioning, height ratio and width options – across a LOT of brands, and it is important to understand which option works best for you, the individual.

The shoe the works best for you is one that is comfortable (relative to the intended distance), works with your biomechanics (allows you to run ‘naturally’; without restriction or overcompensation) and is suitable to triathlon (some shoes simply weren’t built for after this sport).

The second thing you need to know is that shoes change.

Due to increased demand for lighter, faster, more breathable shoes (these are all very important qualities) shoe co’s will  make changes in design and structure of their shoe models, which can affect comfort/ feel, stability, and performance.

This means that each time an updated shoe is released (typically every year), there may changes to that shoe that will no longer benefit your particular running needs. Generally these changes are subtle but they can alter how a shoe feels, and certainly affect the durability of the shoe (especially as shoes get lighter and lighter).

So with this confusion, how do you know what shoe will work for you?

How do you know if your current shoes are working for you?

There really is only one way to know and that is by having your shoes and your feet assessed by someone who understands biomechanics, footwear and the sport itself.

— This immediately rules out the mega-chain shoe stores. Those guys don’t assess feet accurately, and are rarely staffed by people who know what they are talking about. —

By looking in detail at how your foot responds to the impact of running, you remove a lot of the guesswork in shoe selection, which means you can narrow the search down to a few select models that will work best for you and your feet.

This is super important – especially if you have been running injured or are struggling with performance.

This is something that we did at The Running Centre in Perth extremely well and I know that Chris Chapman (Friday Fat Black #21) and the guys over at The Running Company also do brilliantly.

This enable for greater piece of mind in regards to shoe choice and greater confidence in your investment.

To make sure you get the maximum return from your investment you should also do the following:

– Look after your shoes. Don’t leave them in the bottom of your gym bag or the boot of the car. Materials break down rapidly when exposed to excess heat or moisture. (Pro Tip for wet shoes: fill them with newspaper)

– Rotate through a few pairs of the same shoe. Keep 1-3 in use so that you get even wear across all pairs – this will give you more life for each shoe.

– Don’t ‘stretch’ the life of your shoes. Keep an eye on the visible wear patterns of the shoes (bald spots on the soles, creases/ compression of the foam). When a shoe loses it’s structural integrity, it becomes a liability to your running mechanics and therefore, your performance.

– Shop smart. I cannot stress this enough. Take the time to find out what shoes works for you. Get informed. Ask questions. Get answers. Don’t just swallow marketing buzz.

This sport is loaded – sometimes ad nauseum – with “necessary” equipment. Correct shoes are absolutely essential to you. The wrong type of shoe can lead to greater risk of injury and a decrease in performance.

Don’t be afraid to get out there and arm yourself with knowledge about your choices. Be a sponge. Find people that will help you with the right choices.

Coach Pete Lever

P.S. Can’t get to any of those stores? Well we can now offer you our Run Faster Service. We look at your running and injury history, your goals, how your current shoes wear and then how you run and move biomechanically via specific video footage we get you to film. Once we have all that – we will then guide you through your best shoe choices and give you some advice on specific needs such as mobility and self myofascial release exercises to improve your run.