The wrong running shoes took me out of peak training for a week.
I test quite a few running shoes for WH. I run interval sprints at track, 10km and 21km races and have even done Two Oceans Ultra marathon (56km!). So, I consider myself a serious-ish runner. It was during the peak of my ultra-marathon training two years ago when I was testing long-distance running shoes for WH. I had an easy 15km planned and decided to take this particular pair for a spin. I’d walked in them a bit for a couple of days and they felt okay. They were very pretty. However, 5km into the 15km run my feet starting hurting.
In hindsight, I should have just stopped and given up on the 15km for the morning. But I persisted. By the end my feet were so sore I could hardly walk. It was obvious that the design of the shoe was totally wrong for my feet. I had blisters too. Many other people swear by this brand and love their shoes, but over the years I’ve found that they do not suit me. Luckily I hadn’t paid the R2k for them, but my feet (and shins) were so sore for the rest of the week that I couldn’t run. Not ideal for the training programme!
Running shoes should not be chosen based on colour, sale price or even the size you think you are (you’re generally half a size bigger). If you happen to have bought the wrong running shoes, don’t keep wearing them! You will only end up hurting yourself and “hate running”. Here’s how to know when to let the wrong shoes go…
1/ You have to keep adjusting your running shoes
Look, running never feels amazing for the first couple kms. Your body takes a bit of time to warm up and find its rhythm. However, if you have to keep adjusting the shoe, retying the laces and in general trying to make the shoe feel “more comfortable” that is not ideal. If any part of your foot goes numb or there is chafing or if you develop “sore spots” the most likely does not fit you the way it should.
2/ Your running shoes never “break in”
There’s a theory that new running shoes need to be broken in. The truth is, running shoes are not like your sleek new stilettos. And you should not be okay with constant blistering. Your running shoes should be comfortable right away! However, they will be the most comfortable two to three weeks into owning them. That’s when the cushioning begins to respond and adapt to your foot strike pattern. The upper will also start to fit and flex to your foot.
3/ There’s fraying of the inside heel
Early breakdown of the heel is an example of wearing the wrong size shoe. For example, your ankle keeps pushing out and causes friction on the run. You can try correct this by retying your shoelaces to provide greater support, preventing the heel and ankle from “escaping the shoe”.
4/ Side wear and tear on your running shoes
If your shoe sole is still in great / newish condition, but the sides of the shoes start wearing through, it could mean you’re wearing the wrong size shoe. Often we measure by length, but width is also important and there are certain shoes better suited to wider or more narrow feet. I have wider feet than average, so this means that certain styles of shoes (and specific brands) hurt my feet.
5/ Black toenails
Ah! I remember losing both my big toenails at the age of 16. It was my first 15km cross-country run (what is it with me and this distance!) in completely the wrong shoes. I blamed my mom for buying me the wrong shoes (let’s not even start with sports bras!). The truth is, I was very attached to look and trend, which overrode logical decision making. We also didn’t have a lot of money, so this pair of running shoes were also my chill shoes and hockey shoes. They were obviously the wrong size. You should not be getting black toenail or losing toenails for any distance under a marathon (even then, not cool).
What causes black toenails? When the tip of the nail bed repeatedly interacts with the front wall or top of the shoe it causes bruising. This leads to blistering and the nail lifting off the bed.
It’s not your running shoes, it’s your socks!
Lower-cut socks can also wear-down the inside cushioning and material before their time, so consider higher-length socks if you start to notice the back of the shoe coming undone. Not wearing the right socks can also cause blisters. These are my favourite running socks.
How To Prevent Buying the Wrong Shoe
1/ Visit a proper running store (not just your local sports shop) and get your feet analysed before buying a pair of shoes.
2/ You need to check your gait, your arch, your foot size and whether you might have a pronation of sorts.
3/ Get the right shoe(s) for the type of running you’re doing. Some shoes are made for sort, sharp running and others are designed for marathon distances. They give you different kinds of support and bounce.