Dearly beloved runners,
(Said in a slightly exasperated tone as if a difficult topic is about to be preached. One which insinuates that it might be a difficult read...)
I hearby give you notice that if you continue to read, you may squirm in your seat uncomfortably... because it’s about the longevity of running shoes, and their price and maybe performance! At this point you have 5 seconds to leave... no questions asked.
For those who now remain, I want to start with some hard facts.
According to cardealermagazine.co.uk in 2018, the average price of a brand new car was £33,559. The average mileage that these cars achieved was less than 150,000.
That’s around 22 pence a mile for such a car, and presumably a comfy, well kitted out car at that price too! Maybe the equivalent of a Nike Vaporfly, you might say, eh?
So in stores, the average price of a running shoe is £120. Most runners would expect 500 miles in a typical road shoe.
That’s about 24 pence a mile. Not that much different to the car! A £10,000 car with 50k miles on the clock is again 20p per mile.
In the case of a Nike 4%, the chance of getting half that distance in is slim, so the cost per mile goes up. Bearing in mind the cost of said shoe is £200, you are looking at least 80 pence per mile!
Not only that, with a car you have to put fuel in it, insure it, tax it, service it, MOT it, etc, etc.
You don’t have to do that with running shoes!
What’s my point and why am I giving you these stats?
Time and again I see and hear folk complaining about the durability of running shoes - and the high cost and the high turnover rate. And yes, I agree, from an environmental aspect, this is a huge issue, but that’s maybe for another day as brands are increasing their environmental credentials as we speak. However, this might mean a price increase and a durability issue too!
For most runners, running is their only sport, prioritised above all others, and as such, running shoes are the only piece of essential kit we require... barefooters excused at this point.
For example, to take up fishing involves rods, nets, permits, tents, bait, rod stands, line, clothing, and the rest.
Cycling: Bike ££££, helmet, new tyres every so many miles, servicing, brakes, new cassettes, chains...
Triathlon... don’t even get me started!
Yet as runners all we need is footwear. Okay - socks, twin-shorts, tops, packs, etc, for ultra types are nice but are not essential.
So why is it then that as 'runners' we often see something like the following published on Facebook forums, in emails and in stores:
“I need a pair of running shoes but suffer from shin pain, blisters, sore knees, have wide flat feet, over pronate 🙄, run mainly on road, but occasionally on mud, gravel, tracks, mountains... and oh I’m running the SPORT BILLY 15 stage multi day race in Burundi and I’ve got a budget of £60 max... What have you got? Oh and I run for Del Boy Trotters so can I get 10% off?”
Now I know there are shoes that are £30 and these are great for some folk. I believe that a runner should run in as little shoe as is comfortable, and by that I mean bulk as opposed to size. So you might be fine with a budget pair and I say good luck to you.
However, in general, they are no more durable than the expensive ones!
So what do we expect? If we want to have a shoe that lasts then we have to take a few things into consideration:
If your foot is too wide or the shoe too narrow, then chances are it’s going to split
If you act like my teenage boys and never undo the laces and instead stand on the back heel to pull off, and then squash the back down as you squeeze and swivel your foot to get back in it, then it’s going to fail.
If you refuse to lace it properly, chances are your foot will move around creating heat and friction and wear out the shoe prematurely.
If you insist on running everyday in the same pair of shoes, and even wear them to work/ shops/ cycling, in all weathers, then the shoe will not get time to reset, reshape and recover, or perhaps dry out. Again increasing wear.
If you leave them in the bottom of your wardrobe, stinking, or wash in a machine, dry on a radiator and expect it not to shrink and crack then think again.
If you use your road shoe on every surface or even your fell shoe on hard road, don’t expect either to last. It’s like driving a Lotus through a field in an extreme example, or a tractor from Penzance to Glasgow on motorways. Neither journey is going to be comfortable, and will trash both vehicles.
Running style or form
Certain running styles that overly heel strike or shuffle are going to wear running shoes faster than efficient running styles due to the amount of pressure through the foot upon striking the ground, transitioning, and then taking off. Light on your feet = light on your shoes.
Choose a practical shoe
Choose a running shoe that is built for mileage and your own personal general running. There are some uber expensive shoes out there designed to make you run faster... but are not designed to run further. Just because the fastest person on the planet wears them doesn’t mean you have to!
Choose the right shoe
You can use your road shoe on trails but as discussed, it’s not going to perform that well and will only decrease the shoes durability. Either get a shoe that does both, or be sensible and get one for road and one for trail.
From extensive experience, most people are not prepared to look at their running styles and spend the next four weeks to a year or so changing. Also most who try running barefoot do it because they read a certain book because they were ‘born to run’, crack ten miles in their socks and then can’t move for the next month!
As a note, if we all did run barefoot we wouldn’t be having this conversation and I would have to diversify! But unfortunately our species has over evolved and we are no longer in the best physical shape to run without some corrective work. Our modern lifestyle has now changed us so much, our bodies are not as capable as they once were. Some folk now even find it a struggle to stand properly and for long.
So in lieu of this here are some solutions:
Lower your expectations and don’t expect too much. While £100+ is a substantial amount, there are fewer sports than running that are this cheap. If this is still too high, then don’t expect to find the silver bullet shoe that does exactly what you want, corrects all your ailments, muscle imbalances, shin pain, give you a pb and be in pink and gold, etc.
If price is an issue and in these current days money is tight, then a) don’t run and find another sport b) run in an old pair until financially you’re better off or have saved.
Do some strength exercises instead. New running shoes will not cure your injuries, make you run faster or help you lose weight. There is no shoe that will correct your gait or your muscle imbalances. They can only guide and transport.
Remember that while running shoes are symmetrical, your feet are not, so find the best most comfortable pair that suits and go with that.
It’s very easy to over think it.
Running doesn’t have to be expensive.
All we need are a pair of running shoes and that’s it. Find a pair, if they're comfy, use them.
Or run barefoot... given the right muscular skeletal structure this will be no problem. Fact is very few have.
So either change your running style (and maybe your job if you sit down all day!), do the hard work and take six weeks to 6 months to adapt; or take the easy option and spend some money on shoes.
If you want to go quicker, then spend money on Uber fast shoes.
Oh and if you think that the shoe which is made in the Far East is the reason it falls apart, a shoe made in this country to good old fashioned British standards of durability will cost you twice the price again. That living minimum wage we all wanted just put your running shoe price up considerably.
This article is not designed to offend but to educate. Take it as you will. We are passionate about running and want to give you the best we can.
As a look forward, and perhaps as a caveat to the above, for my next blog I’m going to look at the poverty gap and why I think running is becoming a more middle class sport, only available to those who can afford it. In reality it’s perhaps those who can’t afford that need the most help.
Mind how you run.