Thursday, November 4, 2010
I got 'new' running shoes this week. Well, new in the sense that they were a new pair of the exact same model I've been buying for the past two years. We runners tend to stay with the same model of shoe. It's not that we're superstitious or neurotic.... well, at least about shoes.... well, we are, but that's not the point.
My 'practical' point is, when you log a couple thousand miles per year on your feet, you tend to stay with what works. It actually took me a few different models to settle into the one I run in now (Pearl Izumi Synchropace III - size 11). I won't get into the process / reasons for this model - that wasn't my motivation for writing this. Instead, I wanted to share how much 'thought' we runners put into our shoes.
According to experts, running shoes typically last between 350 - 500 miles. This depends on a lot of things such as weight (lighter is better), running form (better form saves wear and tear on your body too!), conditions you run in (pavement, gravel, trails), whether they got wet (unavoidable) and if you ever throw them in the dryer (hint: DON'T! Let them air dry). Some people recommend rotating two pair as consecutive days don't allow the shoe to thoroughly dry and 'reset' their foam. (I experimented and didn't observe a difference).
I personally get about 450 miles out of a pair of shoes.That's almost a magical number (I keep track of my miles on a pair and when I start to feel those little aches and pains in my lower extremities after a long or fast run, I add up the miles and sure enough - right in the 430-470 ballpark. Every time. To add some more perspective, I run a pretty consistent average of about 50 miles per week. So every 9 weeks, I'm basically getting a new pair of shoes. For those of you that haven't already done the math in your head, that's about 5 pair or so a year.
It's not psychological wanting for a 'new' pair. They only come in like three colors and you'd be hard pressed to see the difference between my old pair and new pair as shoes break down well before they begin to look worn to a casual inspection. If they truly lasted forever, I'd wear them until they fell off my feet. I like it when shoes 'look' broken in. There's a charm to that - not to mention it would lessen the cost of running since shoes are the most costly part of the sport.
But despite the dulling homogenization of my running shoe updates, I still thoroughly enjoy running in a new pair of shoes. I never really notice (too much) the slow degradation of my previous pair. But when I put on that new pair and head out the door - I instantly can tell that the old pair was probably a few miles past it's lifespan.
I just *feel* faster in a new pair. I recover faster too with less aches and pains after the run. In the middle of all of it, I inevitably admonish myself for pushing the previous pair beyond it's prime and not putting them out to pasture sooner. But overall - I'm just happy to be running in a new pair of shoes. They definitely contribute to me Feelin' Mo' Kenyan.
PS - Two side-bar thoughts might come to your mind when you read the above (aside from, "You know - I'll never get back the last 5 minutes of my life it took me to read this posting.")
Thought: Running seems like an expensive sport.
Answer: Not really as sports go. Consider that even adding in clothing (amortized over it's lifespan), my total cost per hour of running is about $2 / hour. I can't think of too many sports (or other diversions) that yield a lower cost per hour. (driving your car costs about $8 / hour). And the slower you run, the lower your cost per hour (but the more time you'll have to negotiate with your spouse / boss to cover the same distance).
Thought: What do you do with 5 pair of 'used' shoes every year
Answer: There actually a lot of organizations that take used shoes and depending on their ability to be worn either ship and distribute them to people in need throughout the world (http://www.soles4souls.org/, http://www.shoe4africa.org/ and others) and other organizations that accept not so pristine shoes to separate and grind up to create running tracks, weight room floors and playgrounds (http://www.nikereuseashoe.com/)
I also keep an old pair around the house for wearing as kick around shoes, doing yard work, etc. When these rotate out of that 'secondary' use they usually go to the latter (ground up for playgrounds) since that extended use truly 'wears them out'.