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On one of the mornings as I was running, I stepped on a small piece of rock. Nothing special, I stepped on so many of them before, no big deal. But this one felt like it got stock to my shoe. It did not bother me much and it did not hurt in any way either so I kept running, decided not to stop. Then I completely forgot about it until the next time when I prepared for running. That morning happened to be on the day of my first ever 10k race. When I put my shoes on, I felt the rock and remembered. So quickly removed the shoe and turned it around…

Rocky shoe – not good…

Worn heel – not good either

I never checked carefully the whole shoe before, which in itself was a big-big mistake. I was aware of the wear at the heels, but I thought I can keep using it, that must be not a big deal. This is the shoe I started running with and as I tend to get “emotionally” attached to certain objects I thought I will complete the Chicago Half Marathon in it. Since I have been working through my training plan and increased my weekly miles, my feet felt more and more miserable after every longer run, but I kept ignoring this important fact.

Here is the list of mistakes (I am sure this is not the full list) that I made regarding my running shoes:

1. Ignoring important warning signs – wrong type of shoe

If I want to put a positive spin on this then I should say: I have “successfully” developed runner’s knee. Anybody who would not know what runner’s knee is should do a quick search. That is nothing that any runner wants to have. First of all I am far from being a running expert, let alone to be able to talk intelligently about runner’s knee, but through my very extensive “Google search”-based self education I learnt it is nothing serious, but nothing good to have. Now as I have it, I just have to find a way to get rid of it. I will share my personal experience here later.

2. No inspection of the shoes

Think about your car. I hope you check the fluid levels (oil, engine coolant, break, windshield washer, etc.), your tire pressure, tire wear, and other basic things on a regular basis. In my case, I do this on our cars. I even keep a detailed log of when and what was replaced. Unfortunately I never did such a thing with my shoes. I just made the wrong assumption that my shoes are going to be fine as long as I need them. After all they are just shoes, right? WRONG!!! Shoes will wear off after accumulating enough miles. I just have never seen this problem before as I never run such distances before. In the past my only driving factor to replace my sports shoes was that they were old, not the wear and tear. I checked my total running count and I was shocked. I accumulated almost 600 miles in these shoes!!! With my pre-running lifestyle, I would have taken about 10 years to accumulate this many miles. Now it takes less than half year.

From this angle they don’t look that bad…

3. Emotion-driven decision-making

I put so much effort in defining my Half Marathon training plan, I put so much effort into executing it as best as I can, I put so much effort into not rushing anything, but yet when it comes to the most important item I use for running (the running shoe) I decide to use it until I complete the race, which is completely emotion-driven decision. How cool it will be to retire the first pair of shoes I started running in after the first Half Marathon of my life. It sounds cool; I just cause more wear and tear on my body in the process. And as much as I wanted to stick with my original decision I had to take action. I will share my personal experience here later. If you want to read another emotion-based wrong decision and how that can jeopardize your hard work, here is an example of what not to do when training for Half Marathon.

From this angle they look very tired…

So finally, with two weeks until my first Half Marathon race, I made the executive decision to go out and buy a new shoe. It was after my Sunday morning long practice run. I run almost 14 miles to get used to the distance and to see what my limits are. Interesting that while I was running, my feet did not feel that painful. Once I finished my run and stopped, I could barely climb up the stairs and I could barely walk. My feet just hurt everywhere. My knees, especially my right knee felt completely busted, so I ended up sitting with ice-packs on my knees for a good 30 minutes.

When you go through similar painful experience after a longer run, it is definitely not good. Actually it is very much wrong.

So here is what I did to resolve the three big mistakes that I mentioned before:

1. Select the right shoe

I have never selected a running shoe before. All my sports shoe purchase decisions were based on look and more importantly price. The same was true for the shoe I was currently running in. I could get away with it as long as my weekly miles were low, but once I started to run more and more, especially more significant number of miles on Sunday mornings, the fact that my shoe was not the right shoe for my feet started to cause more and more problems. Since everyone has different feet, different motion while running, different shoes will help them the most. The ones I have might be perfect fit for some other runners, but unfortunately it was not a good fit for me.

Online you can find several shoe selector applications. Dick’s sports store has an online tool, but I ended up using the one on the Runner’s World website.

Great source to select the right shoes for you

Just imagine a crazy guy (me) going through each shoe in the store, cross-checking each of them with a long list printed from the Runner’s World website, then try each of the ones that made sense, then running short distances inside the store in each of the candidates. I must have been a very weird sight. Finally I had my pick. I know it is not perfect, it still has one area on my feet, where it could be better, but my runner’s knee problem is completely gone. For anything shorter than 10 miles, I finish the run as if I have not even run that morning. In other words: no painful experience. What a pleasure being able to walk the stairs right after a morning run. What a great feeling it is to leave the ice-packs in the freezer. What an amazing experience it is, when you stop at the end of your run, then stretch a bit, and then just casually walk into the house. No pain and struggle at every single step.

New (left) and Old (right) shoes

2. Regular check

Needless to say that from now on I will check the physical condition of my running shoes more frequently. Actually much more frequently than never… I will be looking for wear and tear all around, turn it around several times. And I will pay much more attention how it comfortable it feels when running.

3. Use common sense

In running I think emotions can help to get through the low point. There might be a much more scientific name for this. In my case I just call it “The Low Point” and each run (shorter or longer) has its own low point. This is the point, when I feel that I would rather stop. But emotion and determination and whatever else helps me to get through this point. So I think running should have some emotion involved. But when it comes to important decisions as to how much I will run today, this week, later this month or when I will need to replace my running shoes, just use something more scientific than emotion. Make sure your decision is more based on facts than emotion.

If you are a fellow rookie runner, I hope these thoughts will help you to make better decisions from the start.

Please also let me know challenges that you had to get through as well as experiences that could help other runners to have a happy running.