Half Marathon to Full Marathon: Running Shoes

Running ShoesIf you’ve run a half marathon before, likely you already know what a difference the right running shoes can make. But if you are coming to the marathon from a shorter distance, it may be time to re-evaluate your shoes. If you don’t have the right shoes for your body and your stride, you can end up with knee, hip or back pain, shin splints, or blisters.

Socks are pretty important, too. I don’t really worry about having certain socks for most of my training runs, but I do use very fitted wicking socks for long runs and race day. These socks can make a huge difference as far as blisters and rubbing inside your shoe. My favorite socks right now are Swiftwicks. At $12 a pair, they aren’t cheap, so I only have one pair I use for long runs and racing.

I also have a pair of tall compression socks, which are supposed to help recovery during your run, and although they have never caused me problems, I’m not sure they do anything magical for my running. Compression socks and the sleeves you wear on your arms are supposed to speed the return of blood from your limbs, which means your body doesn’t have to work quite as hard to do that and can direct that excess energy elsewhere. But studies are inconclusive as to how much they actually help during a race.

Running Shoes for MarathonAs for shoes, what works for me won’t work for you. Everyone has a different body type, stride and arch. What I can tell you is what I have learned about buying running shoes over the years:

  • If the sales person asks you what color or brand you are looking for, or what your size is, don’t buy there. A store with knowledgable employees will ask you what distance you are training for and how many miles you run a week before they ask anything else. That’s because they know that fit is the most important thing and that is what they have to deliver on. In addition, fit varies from shoe to shoe, so they should measure your foot every time to obtain the right size through different brands.
  • Take your current running shoes with you. Many running stores will want to see the wear pattern on your old shoes. If they don’t ask to see your old shoes, they should put you on a treadmill and analyze your stride to determine the best shoe for you. Again, if the store employee is relying completely on you for guidance on the shoe you need, don’t buy there.
  • Be prepared to spend $100-$140. Fit is the most important part of your shoe. The most expensive shoes aren’t necessarily the best. Shoes you find online or in big-box stores may be cheaper, but they won’t perform as well—believe me I have tried! There’s just no way I have found to shortcut around having an actual runner—most running store employees are extremely experienced runners—fit you with the right shoe.
  • Get new shoes every 500 miles. One of the features I like about the Nike+ app is that you can enter your shoes and it will calculate miles run for you. Otherwise, just do that math, or replace your running shoes after six months of use. This really does make a difference! When your shoes are worn out, you’ll notice you feel more fatigued after runs and you may experience repetitive use injuries like knee pain or shin splints. I use my old running shoes for errands and other activities, and only use running shoes for running. Some runners use their old shoes for long runs. By keeping your old shoes around, you can easily compare the difference in worn-out shoes and fully cushioned shoes. Once you can’t really tell the difference, it’s time for new shoes.running shoes
  • Have your gait analyzed after big changes in your body. This could mean pregnancy, weight loss, weight gain, knee surgery, a long time away from running, the start of weight training, or any change that could effect how you run. I wear vastly different shoes today than I did before my three pregnancies. Over the years my shoe size and stride have changed in response to my training as well as physical changes in my body.

So how do you find a reputable running store in your area? Look for running stores near you on Facebook or Twitter—they are likely very involved in the local running community and will be hosting group runs and other events that make them easy to find. Enter a local race–they will probably sponsor or run it.

You can also use the Running Store Finder from Runner’s World. It weeds out the big-box stores and will give you local places. You can also just look up your local running club and email someone to ask where to get shoes.

Erin Hayes Burt

Erin Hayes Burt

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mom of three girls. She enjoys yoga and reading non chick-lit fiction when she's not translating the ramblings of toddlers or training for her next half marathon.
Erin Hayes Burt

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Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mom of three girls. She enjoys yoga and reading non chick-lit fiction when she's not translating the ramblings of toddlers or training for her next half marathon.


6 thoughts on “Half Marathon to Full Marathon: Running Shoes

  1. Jay

    Which store do you use in Oklahoma? I have also heard you can get about 20% more life (600 miles instead of 500) out of shoes by buying two pairs and alternating each day. This works because they have more time to fully dry and the glue in them breaks down less on the next run because they are dry.

    1. Erin Hayes Burt Post author

      That’s interesting! I have heard of people doing that but didn’t know exactly why.

      I like OK Runner in Norman. I haven’t bought shoes anywhere in Tulsa/OKC area, but Red Coyote had a FANTASTIC water station at the Go Girl Half OKC and they do 5k pint nights, so I am tempted to head into the city and check them out just based on their involvement in the running community.

  2. Ilka

    Erin – you are absolutely right, if you neglect switching out running shoes after their expiration date you’re going to risk pain and injuries. I love that you mention running socks – I totally agree – a great pair of running socks for your long runs help your running, your feet and your recovery! Pinning and stumbleing this post! If you want to join our Running Board on Pinterest let me know.

    1. Kimberly Hickok

      Hi Ilka,
      I’m replying on behalf of Erin who is running her FIRST full marathon today! We are sooo excited for her.
      – Kim

  3. Angela @ Setting My Intention

    I think it’s probably time to replace my first pair of running shoes which I’ve had for several years now. I haven’t really been a “serious” runner up until this year. Thank you for your tips about what the running shoe store employees should be asking. I bought this first pair online and thought they were “good enough”! Visiting from Sunday Food and Fitness link up

  4. Angela

    This is a Great post!! Yes, it is essential to change out your shoes at least every 500 mile. I learned that the hard way years ago & had a case of plantar fascitis that was miserable. Now, I am diligent about getting new shoes when needed, I go through about 4 pairs a year. thanks for sharing at the Sunday Fitness & Food Link-Up 🙂 I noticed above that you just completed a maraton, I hope it went great!!

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