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Marathon: Step-Buy-Step

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If it is time to buy new running shoes to train for the Mill Race Marathon, it might not be a good idea to throw the old ones out — yet, anyway.

“We encourage folks to bring their old shoes, along with having in mind any kind of aches or pains they have running,” said former Olympic Trials competitor Thom Burleson, who has owned the Athletic Annex Running Center in Indianapolis for 30 years.

“Old shoes are analogous to fingerprints,” he said. “They wear differently on everybody. When you wear a pattern on the sole of your shoe, it reflects the type of running form you have.”

Burleson or one of his employees will watch a customer walk or even run before trying to figure out what he or she needs.

“We have people walk in their stocking feet for a little bit,” he said. “I prefer watching somebody propel themselves down a sidewalk and first watching them walk. Does your foot rotate inward? Your inward rotation could cause your knee and the inside of your leg to get unusual stress. Somebody with flat feet is just about guaranteed to have something like that. And it could cause common running injuries such as shin splints.”

Assessing someone’s running form is essential to finding the right shoe, Burleson said.

“Going to a shopping mall and looking for shoes is like rolling the dice or throwing a dart at a dartboard with a blindfold on,” Burleson said. “It doesn’t mean that you can’t get something that works for you, but you have a better chance if someone matches a shoe to an individual’s gait. Gait mechanics are an important factor.”

Mike Smith, co-owner of the Runners’ Forum, added: “We take a look at how their foot is shaped.”

So many shoes

Burleson and Smith said shoe companies offer hundreds of choices, so the buying decision can get confusing.

“It’s not just about color, although color is a big issue now,” Smith said.

Burleson talked about one major athletic shoe company that produces more than 1,200 models.

“Probably 40 to 50 of those are running shoes, and seven or eight styles are really good shoes,” he said. “The rest are eye candy. Unless you know what you are buying, you can get yourself into trouble. All the companies are the same way. They have a price point where the shoes are just good for wearing around but not good for serious runners.”

Both Smith and Burleson said there is a misconception when beginning runners come into their stores.

“I get asked by people, ‘Which is your best shoe,’” Smith said. “If I had one shoe that was great for everybody, I would have it on the wall with lights shining on it.

“All the brands make some very good running shoes. Over the years, I have gotten to meet the shoe designers, who eventually have left one company and went to another. You can see their designs in that new company. Everything has meshed together.”

Burleson said the most popular-selling running shoe currently is Brooks’ Adrenalin. “They have done a good job evolving the shoe and tweaking the designs after the feedback they have received from people about improvement.”

Smith, who has made presentations at Columbus running clubs for more than 10 years, said Brooks’ Adrenalin and the Asics 2000 series have been competitors at the top for the past few years.

“But different shoes have special characteristics to get you into that ideal fit,” Burleson said. “Once we do an analysis, we bring out shoes from many of our vendors and let them try them on. All the shoes have features that address specific needs.”

Track shoe wear

Once the shoe selection is made, both Burleson and Smith said those actively training must remember to keep track of wear.

“We all try to get as much as we can out of a show,” Smith said. “But most definitely the mileage should range between 300 to 400 miles before a shoe starts to break down. If you don’t chart the mileage, you should listen to your body, sore knees, back and hips. Your body is absorbing more of the shock even though your shoe still looks good.”

Burleson said that, generally speaking, he tells runners that they can get 500 miles before a shoe starts to break down, but he notes that when he was running fast marathons, he was going through a new pair of shoes every three and a half weeks.

“Fortunately, I was sponsored by the shoe company,” he said.

Burleson and Smith see themselves as promoters for running. “I don’t want a runner to quit,” Smith said. “I want them to enjoy a healthy lifestyle.”

Runners who are plagued by foot problems aren’t likely to last long in the sport.

Both men said that a quality pair of running shoes should cost between $100 and $120.

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