When I first started into Triathlon Training, I had no idea the amount or the specificity of the equipment that I would need. I of course knew that I needed a bicycle, running shoes, and some clothing, but had no idea about watches, bike shoes, aero helmets, aero wheels, wetsuits, or any of the other myriad of items. In fact, my first running shoes were simply some I picked up at a local sports store for cheap. I just had not idea.
When I started getting more serious about my racing and my running, I knew that I needed to purchase some shoes that would enable me to have the best running performance. Once again, I was at a loss of where to turn to start this process. I looked online and searched for different items about running shoes. I found a lot of information specifically about running marathons or distance races. I did not find a lot of information about specific ideas for triathlon shoes. I took some of the ideas from the information that I found and began the process of purchasing shoes.
Along the way, I have discovered several different ideas for selecting shoes that I would like to share in this post.
- Get Fit – No this is not a redundant idea of getting more physically fit, but rather get fit to the type of shoe you need. Most running specific stores will help you discover which shoe will be the best for you. Many of these stores will take you through a series of tests to determine which shoe fit will be best for you. Having done this a few times now, the process goes something like this. First, the sales representative will talk to you a little bit about what you do for running, how long you have been running, and what your goals are in running. I look and ask for someone who has been with the store a while so as to get the best kind of discussion about my needs as a runner especially since I focus on Triathlon specific running. Second, they will either electronically, by using a special pad you stand on, or manually, by using the old sizing metal platform that is always cold, they will determine your size and width of your foot. Third, they will head to the back to bring you up a sample shoe for you to do some exercise in. I always know that the sales person is going to pick a shoe they like, so I am leery of just latching on to the first shoe. The sample shoe will be a neutral shoe with no lift or assistance to keep your foot straight. Fourth, the sales rep will have you get on a treadmill and run for 5-10 minutes while they record the way your feet fall. You will want to wear something that you can run in comfortably. The last session I had like this, the gentleman also recorded me from the side to make sure I was landing correctly. After you finish this brief running session, the sales rep will watch the video with you. He is looking for supination, which is the opposite of pronation and refers to the outward roll of the foot during normal motion. If you have too much supination then you will need to have a shoe that will help to balance your feet. I have a pretty neutral fall to my feet so this has not been a problem for me. At one of the places I have visited, they had me stand on a glass screen that took a measurement of the pressure points of my foot. This helped to understand the arch level of the foot. After all of this data is collected the sales rep will choose a shoe for you to try. This fitting process is very important.
- Get Choosy – The process of choosing your shoe with the data that has been handed to you by the sales rep is one that you need to take your time with. I have found that the choosing of the look and feel of the shoe is very important. If you don’t like the look of the shoe, then you will feel less than enthused about wearing it even for running. If you don’t like the feel then you will not run. This choice is critical. You might be a bit choosy about the brand of shoe, but for me I want something that is going to give me the support and comfort for a lot of miles. Most trainers will last you 300-500 miles, so choose wisely which shoe you go with. Many times, the store will enable you to run on the treadmill or on a mini-track inside the store, some will even let you go outside to run in the shoes. Take enough time to where you are convinced these are the shoes you will run in for the duration of your training and racing.
- Get More – Yes, get more than one pair. Typically, what I do is find the right kind of shoe at the shop. I certainly don’t want to have someone spend 30 minutes to an hour to help me find a shoe, and then I just go home and buy it online. That is not genuine and is a terrible practice. I do however, go home and begin to look at other pairs. You want to have a rotation of shoes. When I first started rotating shoes, I bought 3 of the same type of shoe. Two of them I swapped back and forth on training days, then the third was for racing. This process worked pretty well, but I have since been told that you should have 2-3 pairs of shoes during training that are different kinds of shoes. They might have a different amount of cushion or a different amount of drop. The shoe drop is the amount of drop from the heel to the toe. You can have anything from 0 to 10 mm of drop or more. I am trying to have 3 different amounts of drop in my shoes now. The theory is that you use different foot, leg, and calf muscles with the different amounts of drop. Therefore, if you use different types then you get a stronger overall performance. You then will want to select a shoe for racing. If you are doing a sprint race, you might want to purchase a shoe that doesn’t have a lot of cushion and thus is lighter for running. If you are doing a longer race than you will want more cushion for the long distances. Much of this process of choosing your racing shoe comes through trial and error.