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Don’t Run Your Feet Into the Ground

Take care of your feet — by caring for your running shoes

running shoesDid you know that you should replace your running shoes after 500 miles of running? When's the last time you changed yours? You may be overdue for a new pair. Not only will your feet thank you, your body will, too, because you're less likely to injure yourself when wearing proper fitting and well-maintained shoes.

Studies have shown that the cushioning and shock absorption qualities of shoes are greatly reduced after 500 miles.

"You need to replace them every 500 miles, even though the shoes may look like they're in good shape," says Charles Cranny, PT, clinical manager of outpatient physical therapy at Rush University Medical Center.

"Of course, the interval at which you're replacing your running shoes will vary depending on how often and how far you run during each session," says Cranny.

For example, someone who runs three miles three times per week will need to replace his or her shoes about once per year. On the other hand, someone training for a marathon may have to replace shoes every 10 weeks.

Monitor your mileage

Try to calculate the miles that you'll run and mark your calendar once you come home from the shoe store. That way you won't lose track of when the current pair needs to be replaced.

Part of estimating the lifespan of your shoes is remembering that running shoes should be used only for running, not for any other sports. The reason: Running shoes have more cushioning on the heel of the shoe and a thicker tread, and the increased support raises the foot higher off the ground than the average athletic shoe. This can make the foot more unstable during such sports as basketball or tennis, and increase the risk of ankle sprains.

Several fitness-related websites make it easy to keep track of all those miles you’re putting on your shoes. Runner's World, TrainingPeaks.com and MapMyRun.com, for example, allow you to log the time, distance and route for each workout along with the shoes you used.

In addition to keeping a running tally of your mileage, some will even notify you when shoes hit the end of their recommended life span. If your shoes have already been around the block a few times, no problem: You can factor in initial mileage when you first register them.

Getting a good fit

Finding the right running shoes should be determined by the type of feet you have. If you have flat feet or overly pronate (a tendency to rotate inward and downward when walking or running), then consider a "motion control" running shoe.

If the arch in your foot looks relatively normal, then a "stability" running shoe may be the best fit. Those with high arches usually feel most comfortable in a "cushioned" running shoe.

"Besides your preferences, your foot, especially your arch, will determine the style of shoe that's best for you," says Cranny.

When buying new shoes, Cranny suggests going to a store that specializes in running. "Most running stores have a knowledgeable staff. They can also help you get a proper fit," he says. "When wearing your shoes running, make sure they are laced snugly; you don't want your foot to slide around in the shoe."

There's always a breaking in period for any new shoes, but you'll want to be especially careful with running shoes. "Start with just walking with the new shoes for several days. Then slowly alternate days with new shoes and the old pair," says Cranny.

"Having well-maintained and properly fitting running shoes can save you from common running injuries," he adds. "Remember, the feet are the basis for the alignment of the body. You want to do everything you can to establish a firm base and treat your feet right."