September 22, 2009

Ask Cranky Fitness: running shoes & exercise break ups

The good news: yes, it's another Ask Cranky Fitness post!
The bad news: it's a Merry-based post. Ms. Crabby is off making sure Michelle is doing her arm exercises correctly.
Okay, that's a completely untrue rumor that I just made up. Actually, she's off making the world safe for slackers. Which is an important job, even if it doesn't involve many trips to the White House.

Dear Cranky Fitness,

For nearly two years, I have been in a monogamous relationship with my running shoes. I haven't been consistent about running, but whenever I exercise I wear these shoes. They've been good years, on the whole, but now I'm starting to wonder if we should break up.

"Experts," i.e. people who run more than I do, say it's not good to be exclusive with one pair of running shoes for more than six months, as the wear-and-tear on the shoes could damage your feet/knees/joints. But these experts are hardcore runners. I'm more of the softcore type, myself -- isn't it okay to wear them longer?

Runaround Sue

Dear Sue,

We feel your indecision. Or at least, I do. Crabby runs circles around me (and squares, and sometimes even polygons).

People who are addicted to running get so they can usually tell when it's time to go shopping. If you're not sure, try this: get another pair of running shoes as backup. Switch back and forth between the new and the old pairs. When your original pair start to feel less springy/cushiony/comfortable than the newer pair, that's a sign. Or, if your foot starts to hurt after running, that's another sign. If you start running on a more regular basis, then definitely go for the hardcore approach and shop more often. You can either pay at the shoe store or at the foot doctors.

Dear Cranky Fitness,

I have a relationship problem. I finally found a partner who seemed like the perfect match: we were both somewhat out-of-shape but wanted to become fit meisters. She's a one-time athletic friend who has gained a lot of weight in the last year or so, and she really sounded enthused when I used words like "5k" and "training." Now, she complains about how her leg muscles hurt when we do even a quite easy walk. I'm worried -- she used to run rings around me, but now she can't keep up? I would swear I haven't improved -- at least I haven't gotten thinner -- so maybe she's becoming ill and I shouldn't expect her to train with me. What do I do? Should I go on alone or wait for her to keep up with me?

Anxious in Arizona

Dear AA,

Sorry. I know the excitement of thinking you've finally found The One: an exercise partner who can keep pace without leaving you in the dust or holding you back as you try to improve. Face the fact that no one is perfect, not even an exercise partner. A friend will try to understand as you forge ahead, but will probably feel hurt all the same. If she's truly a friend, then I suggest you think of your outings together as good occasions for bonding, not as training. Do training on your own if you have to. Join running clubs, or cycling groups, or exercise on your own until you're up to joining a formal group. Keep your friend, and honor your time with her as good in its own right.

Dear Cranky Fitness,

How do I get my relatives to stop spamming me? I wouldn't mind it if they wanted to communicate via email, but the only time I get something from them it's a chain letter that's been forwarded 10,287 times, and has 26 lines of email addresses, 1 subject line, and 2 lines of pink text with a picture of a saccharine kitten. They never check before forwarding the latest Nigerian-Prince-needs-a-new-lung-because-his-kidneys-were-stolen story, and they don't seem to get it that I Don't Want To Hear It. What can I do to make them stop, aside from changing my email address or leaving the country?

Email Rebel

Merry: Um... Crabby... doesn't anybody screen these emails? What's this got to do with health fitness or... oh damn. I suppose it does come under the heading of 'whining.'

Dear ER,

At this point, I should probably say something Zen-ish like 'you cannot change others, you can only change yourself.' Unfortunately, someone borrowed my only copy of Zen and the Art of Enigmatic Wisdom, so I don't have any profound koans to offer.

The best thing I can say is that this is a great opportunity to practice patience. And respond to their emails with a Snopes link pointing out why their email was a hoax. It won't help to do this; at least, in my experience these people almost never read emails, they just send them. But it might teach them not to be so credulous.

Evil thought... you could always open a post office box near your home, then send them emails about how if they send cash to this address, they'll receive the winning ticket from the National Nigerian Lottery. Okay, no, don't do it. No, really. It was just an evil thought. Patience, grasshopper. Patience and

What, you don't like these answers? Please, please feel free to offer comments on when to get new running shoes, or how to break up with an exercise partner, or spam meisters!


  1. My guideline to replacing running shoes - after 500 miles. (Probably after fewer miles for those of us in the "clydsedale division") They may look fine but need to be replaced.

  2. 500 miles sounds like a good guideline, DD. Not sure if human-slugs always keep track of their mileage -- sometimes they're surprised at how far they've gone :)

  3. "Polygons" cracked me up...I love the way you write, Merry!

    On replacing the running shoes, I wonder if a heavier person should replace them sooner than a thinner person? I'll have shoes that look fine from the outside, but don't feel good anymore and I swear it's because my extra weight breaks them down faster.

  4. huh. I seriously hadnt thought about the fact that if I do keep running/marathon training Ill need to perhaps keep track of my mileage and replace my shoes at a certain point!
    (it must mention that somewhere in the 8000 books I have about marathon training--yes?)
    when I wear shoes for weights it can be all about the aesthetics!

    look at YOU all helping me out and stuff.

    thank you,


  5. I finally did start sending my father the Snopes or links on all of those crazy emails he would forward.

    Haven't gotten any of those from him lately, but he still sends me email when it is business (family or formal).

    So, some people can take hints.

    As for running shoes, no real rule, I just replace my shoes when my feet start to hurt, or I can afford to, whichever comes first.

  6. I always ignore those figures about shoe replacement... and I have crappy knees so there's really no excuse for wearing my shoes to death. But I hate shopping!

    And I tend to delete many of those mass emails unread, unless they include amusing pictures suitable for a slacker with a short attention span.

  7. Love this post! LOL! As for shoes, if you start tracking your "training" on a website like it will actually tally the miles on your shoes for you and let you know when it's time to replace. Also, take them into your local running store and the sales staff will be able to assess how much damage has been done to them and whether or not you should keep on running in them.

  8. In Florida, it's the wet of it all that breaks down the shoes! My best advise on running continues to be stay off hard surfaces, use well cushioned shoes.

    PS The work verification was OUTIPONG! You making those up as a sideline, Merry?

  9. It may be wrong but I always comfort myself about waiting to replace expensive running shoes by remembering that a lot of the current research has been showing that the LESS cushioning and support you have, the better it is for your feet and your stride. There's a reason that barefoot running is really taking off, lol!

  10. I always wonder about the shoes...I've actually come to the point where I think I need a new pair. Well lahdedah. I've never run a pair of shoes out before :)

  11. I don't run that often but we do sometimes at the gym, My sneakers were fine until about a year into them and then my feet started killing me, when I went to buy new sneakers they too said about 500 miles, which I suppose for me, was about a year. But man those new sneakers cost me 104 bucks. OUCH!

  12. I think it's time to replace your shoes when your joints start hurting on your runs. It usually takes me a couple of runs of thinking, "Hmmm, that run really sucked. My hips really hurt. I wonder if I've reached my running limit." before it dawns on me that Tada! Time to replace the running shoes!

    And the frequency you need to replace them depends on your weight, running style, and running surface. I'm not very heavy, but I run on pavement a lot and seem to pound my feet into the ground when I run so I tend to have to replace them every 250-300 miles.

  13. "under the heading of whining..."

    Thanks for making me laugh!

  14. When my shins start aching I know it's time to replace my running shoes. That's normally 200-250 miles. I run mostly on asphalt with some cement and a little dirt. If I continue running when they're worn out my hips start to hurt too.

    When you reply to a spam email with, do a "reply-all" and maybe everyone else on the list will also start complaining to your spammer about all the junk they're receiving. If nothing else, maybe the spammer's inbox will be so full of complaints that they'll forget to forward some of the crap they usually forward.

  15. Spam the spammers? Oooh, sneaky. I like it.

    Charlotte's comment about people running barefoot brings up something that's always confused me. Logically, if you need new shoes when your feet start to hurt, then running barefoot should make your feet hurt even worse than running in old shoes. So why is it becoming popular?

  16. And if you haven't already (or if it's been a few years), please seriously consider going to a specialized running store to have someone who knows what they're doing check your feet and your gait and recommend shoes that are good for you. Yeah, this might cost more, but believe me it is so very worth it.

    As it turned out, my feet are flatter than I thought and I'm a much worse overpronator than I thought, and I'd been running in the completely wrong type of shoes for my feet for oh, about four straight months, no f'n wonder I had shin splints (which are clearing up nicely, thank you!)

  17. Merry,

    The whole running barefoot thing definitely has benefits. Or running with shoes with very little support. Basically, the shoes we wear tend to have so much support that they don't let our feet and ankles work at all, which leads to a lot of ankle and knee injuries. When you wear shoes that have very little support, it forces your foot and ankle muscles to work for it and you build up the ability to use those shoes (or not shoes).

    However (and big red flag here), you should never just slap on those shoes and go for a five mile run. You have to ease into them...five minutes here, then ten, then fifteen, and so on. Otherwise your feet will kill you and you'll wonder what Leth was thinking when she recommended those shoes.

    That said, I don't use them any more. I had a foot injury a couple years ago (plantar fasciitis) and used the Nike Frees for a while, but when I kicked up my workouts this year, my foot started to hurt a bit more, so I went back to supportive shoes. I get new shoes once a year or so, but I always have 2-3 pairs of shoes (one for home (1-2 a week), one for work (1-2 a week), one for a different gym (2 times a week). So it gets spread out.

  18. The first time I bought fancy running shoes, I went to a fancy running store so they could watch me run and snicker -- um, so they could see what type of shoes I needed.

    Then, after that place closed down, I took my old running shoes in with me when I went to REI so that the saleswoman could see how I ran by what areas were most worn down.

    I don't think I'm ready to go barenekkid running, but I can see how that would be helpful. I went hiking last weekend, and spent a lot of time scrambling over tree roots and around other obstacles. Afterwards, the rest of my leg muscles were fine, but the muscles around my ankle were complaining a bit about the unusual demands placed on them.

  19. I'm a racquetball player and find shoes look good well after they are toast for athletics and pads/inserts are not any help in extending their life. Even more true in direction changing (cutting) sports. Yet, I'm too cheap to throw them out. I use them off the court after putting new pads in them (to get the sweat out of them) for casual knock around use only.

  20. FUNNY!!!

    Shoes, I try them on every time I buy.. the same ones I am wearing & others. Feet change as we age so.. I have flat, wide feet with bunions that keep getting worse as time goes on so I have found I can't even wear the same shoes twice in a row for a "buying shoes" time. I try them on & luckily there is a treadmill wear I buy mine. Also, I go to Road Runners Sports & if you join, they offer a 60 day return policy. Important & worth the money to me as my feet are hard to fit! They also offer % off on anything you but if you join!

    As for your working out partner.. very important you have the same goals & compatible. If not, you both will suffer & especially you with your workouts.

    Relatives... I just delete. I have senior ones in Florida that I get stuff from all the time. Unless it is life threatening, I just let them be.. they enjoy it!

  21. I just was writing a post about how my seemingly fabulous workout buddy is not such a great workout buddy.
    Shoes. EEk. I should probably get some worthwhile workout shoes, huh? Instead of the $25 on sale ones? Shameful. Just shameful :) Thanks for the tips!

  22. I can totally relate to shoe separation anxiety. I once wore a pair until the soles literally fell off...I don't recommend it!

  23. When your shoes are so worn down you can't use them any more, donate them! Nike will rip the shoes up and use the rubber bottom part to create rubberized tracks and playgrounds. Nice, springy surface to run or play on :)

  24. The of course, I also have to consider the running group I'm in...where if you wear shoes that look the least bit new, you and the person who brought you to the group have to drink beer out of your shoes (after you've run in them). Definitely encourages old sneakers.

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  26. Awesome, ya...proof for my mother that she can't use em till they fall apart. I have used Nike 5.0's for awhile now. Love em...but i switch back and forth depending upon the demand. Working (pedometered at 16 miles avg) really makes me change my shoes often. I have 3-4 at all times, and when a pair hurts my feet they go bye bye.


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