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heart sneakers trail

One of the (many) intimidating aspects of starting to run was the gear. I’d been to enough yoga classes (and seen enough Athleta and Lululemon ads) to know that there’s a whole industry out there, with enough variations on the high-tech theme to make your head spin. I wanted to eschew all that, so – as previously noted – I started running in my old New Balance sneakers (and a sports bra that had definitely seen better days).

I still believe you can get out there and run in whatever you’ve got, but I have since replaced both those shoes and that sports bra (and the ancient navy shorts whose elastic was gone). In response to a reader request, here’s what I know and like about shoes:

Brand loyalty isn’t everything, but it can be helpful. It’s true that some brands/shoes fit different foot shapes differently. I’m a size 6 1/2 to 7, with “normal” arches (i.e. not particularly high or low). I’d worn New Balance on and off for years, because I liked the way they fit my feet. So the first (and second) pair of new running shoes I bought were New Balance. They are cushy and light, and not too expensive. Plus: fun colors.

Don’t be afraid to try on shoes, or try something new. My blue-and-white NBs were fine, but the toe box was a little big, and I wondered if the folks at a running store might be able to help me find a shoe I liked. I went to Marathon Sports (this was over a year ago, pre-pandemic) and tried on shoes from several brands: Brooks, Adidas, On Running. I was surprised that the Ons – with their super-deep treads – were my favorite, but I just ordered my fourth pair, so here we are. They’re lightweight and they cushion my feet well, and I like the bright colors.

Replace your shoes regularly. I have been astonished to find how my knees tell me, like clockwork, when I’ve been running in a pair of shoes for about six months/the equivalent number of miles. I have tried to stretch it a week or two here and there, but if I want to keep running and I want healthy knees (and oh, I do), it’s worth it to me to buy a new pair about every six months. (I do keep the old ones for walking/knocking around.)

There’s lots of advice out there: how to find shoes for your gait/stride, foot shape, etc. I was super intimidated to walk into a running store, so I recommend experimenting a bit on your own first, then going in once you have a decent idea of what you’re looking for. Or – if you’d rather talk to the pros first – go for it! There really isn’t much mystery to it: it’s about finding what works for your feet.

If you’re a runner, do you swear by certain shoes?

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