"No...had them a while...just retired them actually..."
"Oh...they're not the ones you wore last week..."
"Hmm...I can't remember what I wore then, sorry..."
"Oh trust me, these are different ones..."
I'm not going to tell you how often either I or Brian have had this exact exchange with folks in our training program...and it always makes us laugh. Yes, we have a LOT of shoes. Mostly running shoes (sorry, there is no secret designer heel closet in our house that would have other women swooning, that's for sure). But, there are a number of places where running shoes lurk about. New shoes in boxes, active shoes in the daily rotation, shoes that have been disliked and sit alone and neglected, treasured shoes that "can't" run anymore, but get a place of honor in the "daily wear" rotation, and running shoes that we don't like to run in, but they feel great if you're standing around on your feet all day at a conference/expo/etc.
And so, the point of all this, how many running shoes do you NEED?
The answer is really quite simple: it depends! OK, so it's an easy two words to say, but really this can be a complex question, and to answer it correctly one must first ask another series of questions: What type of runner are you? How much/often do you run? Are you efficient/do you need much support/cushioning/etc? Where do you do your runs? Do you have a dryer with a shoe rack and air only setting?????
OK - so let's break it down. It struck me today when I got home tonight and was unloading yet another day's worth of wet and muddy running gear from my car, leaving another pair of my shoes on the front stoop, that in the last four days I have gone on four runs wearing four different pairs of shoes. To spread the love I wore New Balance, Nike and Saucony(in alpha order, no playing favorites!). The reason for the different pairs? A mix of weather and terrain. Saturday I ran on trails, Sunday roads/park mix, Monday trails, Tuesday (today) roads/park mix. We've gotten over 4 inches of rain in the last week - not once did I come home with dry shoes. THIS is when multiple pairs comes in handy.
This is my drying rack.
Lucky for me my shoes are not at risk on the stoop,
who could fit in them anyway???
So, start at the beginning...
- What type of runner are you? If you are running 2-3 days a week for fitness/cross training, probably mostly at the gym on the treadmill, then yes - 1 active pair is probably enough. However, are you running 3-4 days or more? Outside? Training for a particular event? Now's when we start adding to the pair count.
- How much/often do you run? This naturally follows the previous question. The more days you run, especially if you start adding doubles in there, the more shoes you need. Your shoes need to recover from your runs, and it can do a lot of good for your feet and legs to alternate your shoes as well - there will be minor differences that can help strengthen and supplement. If you're running 20 miles per week you will not go through your shoes as fast as someone running 60 miles per week, who may need to start adding a new pair into the rotation earlier than the fitness minded 6 mile per week runner.
- Are you efficient/??? Yes, your natural biomechanics can have a major role in determining the life of your shoes. I'm a very neutral & efficient, mid-foot striking runner who doesn't weigh a whole lot. As such, I can get more mileage out of my shoes than a 200 pound guy who supinates. Very simply - he demands more of the shoe than I do, so gets less mileage. Me? I usually get mine to fall apart from water, mud & rocks before I need to update the cushioning!
- Where do you run? Are you always on the treadmill? Roads/sidewalks? Trails? Around here there are a lot of nice "trail" running locations that do not require any different type of shoe. Places like Burke Lake have groomed, sometimes wood chipped, well maintained paths - which are the most frequented. They are a great way to transition to off-road running; however, there are also some trails around that while not super technical, may be more aggressive and you would start looking for a rock plate to protect the ball of your foot, good materials in the upper to keep dirt and debris from getting into your feet. Those kinds of features will become very important the longer/more often/more difficult your trail runs become.
- Do you have a dryer with a shoe rack and AIR ONLY option? Yes, I get asked this question a lot...how to dry your shoes?? VERY IMPORTANT: do NOT put them directly on a heat vent or in the dryer on full blast. The best thing you can do is take out the sock liner and let them air dry...if you have newspaper around, stuffing them with newspaper will help absorb the extra water. Read the paper online only? Oh well, tomorrow wear your OTHER pair while today's dry and recover!
It can keep growing from there - do you do track workouts? Wear lightweight trainers for your workouts? Flats for racing? Minimal shoes once a week for supplemental strength work???
This is not meant to get into a large discussion of what types of shoes you should wear...be it barefoot to motion control everyone has different needs and shouldn't apologize or feel guilted into wearing a shoe than what works for them because it's all the rage, or their best friend swears by a certain pair. The BEST thing you can do is go to a reputable running specialty store, talk to the staff, tell them why/how/where/etc. you run, and they can help you from there. Live around here? Great, there are 8Potomac River Running locations you can go to, come on down. Now. Well, ok, maybe in the morning when they open. You cannot buy shoes online based solely on the reviews of other runners, wet paper analysis of your "footprint," or because you like the color and it matches your eyes. Do your homework and try some out...invest in quality footwear, replace them before it's too late, and your body will thank you with years of healthy and happy running to come!
As for us? Well, since this is me after a typical trail run, perhaps you understand why I need to alternate shoes?
Oh, and when you're done with your shoes? Donate them! Yes, we do it and you can too. Have a shoe that got you that marathon PR or your first ranked time? Go ahead and keep them...but if you're on the 10th pair of the same shoe, go ahead and bring some down to PRR and donate them for the greater good - they'll be happy to take them.
Got a shoe question? Go ahead, ask! But no, you can never have too many pairs of running shoes...you can, however, run out of space to put them all :-)
Hmm, which pair tomorrow?