Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What's your running shoe's medical history?

 
Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

When you go to a medical office for the first time, they usually present you with a clipboard loaded with forms that you have to fill out before you can see the doctor. Among those forms is a checklist for your family medical history. It makes sense since the best way to predict future health problems is to know your areas of risk. I'm applying the same concept in assessing the useful life of my main pair of running shoes.

I've always been skeptical about the commonly-held view that trainers should be replaced between 300 and 500 miles. Just as people may carry greater risk for certain illnesses, some shoes and brands seem predisposed to wear out sooner than others. My first pair of running shoes were some Nike Foot Locker specials that only lasted about 400 miles. But I ran in a pair of Brooks Adrenalines for 700 miles before I retired them.

People tell me that they notice when their mid-soles have worn out after a few months. I think it's all in their head. Unless you are a large person, it's unlikely that you would significantly compress EVA enough to matter. I've come to believe that it's the out-sole that determines the life of a shoe. When I've needed to replace a pair, it's usually because the wear pattern on the bottom has caused a change in my foot strike.

Of all the running shoes I've owned, the pair I've liked the most were the original Saucony Kinvaras. Unfortunately I loved them past the point where their out-sole could provide me a stable platform and I ended up with a knee problem. After 466 miles, I took them out of the rotation. I'm currently running in the Kinvara 3's, a great shoe as well, but I've reached 436 miles with them. That's only 30 miles less than what I got out of the first Kinvaras.

Saucony's new Virrata looks interesting
So far, I've experienced no knee issues when running in the 3's, but the wear patterns are starting to show. Should I be proactive and replace the 3's in case they go from good to bad in the next 30 miles? Or should I put faith in the idea that Saucony may have engineered a more robust out-sole in the two generations since the first Kinvara? I'm on the fence about it, but it doesn't take much to get me back into shoe-buying mode.

4 comments:

  1. I have trouble believing the mileage one should have on a sneaker. Although, my favorite sneaker to date is the Brooks Launch, which is now out of circulation. I was told since it was a rather minimalistic sneaker, that 300-400 miles was about right. But I swear, at 220-250, I could feel it in my shins and calves. As soon as I put on new sneakers, it went away. I have stocked up on about a year's worth of the Launch until I have to decide on something new. I don't know if I'm looking forward to that or not... :(

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    1. I think everyone has a different expectation for what they get from their running shoes and when they need to go. Good news for you: Brooks is bringing back the Launch due to popular demand. I guess you're not the only one who loves them!

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  2. ..and, as this is only my first year of running, what is the length of time of a 'generation'? Is it every year, or is it dependent on how well the same shoe sells?

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    Replies
    1. Running shoe companies (like automobile manufacturers) generally introduce updated models every year. They usually increment the shoes by number (Adrenaline GTS-13, Nike Pegasus 29, Saucony Kinvara 3). Some companies wait a couple of years to do that, but rarely longer.

      It does indeed have to do with selling shoes. Frequent model updates give companies something to talk about. I'm often amused when a company introduces a concept like asymmetrical lacing, positioning as the next great thing. Then two years later they revert to the previous design and market it as an improvement (ASICS Kayano for instance).

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