Thursday, April 16, 2009

Completing a Marathon: Choosing Shoes

CM SEAL Team blogger: Tim Grizzell

Completing a Marathon: III(a) Running Equipment: SHOES

It is now time to discuss one of my favorite topics – running equipment. I am very passionate about this subject. As some of you might know from my first post on CHARLIE MIKE, I am currently in the process of starting a running apparel company. I have been working on this venture for over a year now and I am fired up about it. The company has now entered a new phase and I am about to go into production for part of the clothing line. I will keep you posted on my progress.

My discussion about running equipment is going to be broken up into a couple posts on CHARLIE MIKE. In the first half, I will first talk about different types of running shoes and how important it is to be properly fitted in the right shoe. The second half will cover running apparel. We could also discuss accessories (e.g., hydration devices, injury-related devices, etc.), but we will save all of this for another post down the road.

Choosing the appropriate shoe in today’s market where there is such a large selection can be overwhelming. Yet – if you want to complete a marathon or even want to run injury free, it is vitally important that you select the best shoe for your body structure and the type of training you do.

Now you ask – where do I start? Prior to starting your running shoe research, I would suggest that you become aware of the different aspects of your body structure. The primary categories that you need to think about are your foot mechanics, your body frame, your arch type, and any injuries you might have.

In terms of foot mechanics, you want to figure out whether your foot rolls inward (over-pronates), rolls outward (under-pronates), or is neutral. You can figure this out by having someone watch your ankles and feet when you walk away from them. Most good specialty running shoe stores will do this analysis for you. It is very important to understand what category you fall in. For example, a person who over-pronates and wears a shoe a designed for neutral runner will most likely get shin splints. Your body frame clearly has an impact on your decision. If you are a big guy, you do not want to buy a shoe that was designed for a Chihuahua. You need a shoe that has some cushioning in the midsole. A high arch, medium arch and low arch are all major factors. So, you will want a shoe that is designed for your arch type. Also, if you have any injuries like bunions or plantar fasciitis, you will want to make sure that you have a shoe that will accommodate these injuries.

Besides body structure, the weekly mileage you put in and the type of terrain that you will be training on all play a vital role in the selection of a shoe. In my opinion, most runners will need a little stability control in their shoes. It is just a matter of how much you stability you will need.

After your body structure self-awareness is complete, the next step is going to your local sports store (assuming you do not live in some remote area) to try and find a shoe that matches your body structure and is designed for the type of training you do. If you have access to one, I suggest that you go to a specialty running shoe store because they generally (not always) have more running shoe expertise than a large sporting goods store.

Once you start trying on shoes that might fit the bill, here are some important rules to keep in mind.

Shoe Size: Your foot swells about a half size during running so you want to buy shoes slightly larger than your normal shoe size (maybe one-half to one size larger). The rule of thumb is that you should be able to fit the width of your index finger between the longest toe and the front end of the running shoe.

Toe Box: Your toes need freedom of movement. Make sure that you can wiggle them up and down in the toe box.

Initial Comfort Level: The shoe must feel great the first time you try it on. Anyone who tells you that the shoe will feel more comfortable over time either (a) does not know what they are talking about or (b) is trying to move a certain shoe out of inventory.

Heel Slippage: Make sure the heel does not slip. Can you say blisters?

I will leave you with a great quote from a CM teammate (that would be Joe G.) back in January in response to one of my posts, “A higher price does not mean a better shoe. Just like wine. Just like a lot of things, come to think of it.”

Fired Up and Standing By to answer your questions!



Tracy said...

You might be planning on covering this soon, but I thought I'd throw this out there just in case.

My husband and I are training for a half marathon in December in Las Vegas. We are hearing from friends who have done it before that one of the biggest challenges was that it was VERY cold (35 degrees) when they started the race.

I was hoping that you could touch on how to plan and train for this. It doesn't get that cold in the mornings where we live, so this will be an adjustment and an issue we have no idea how to plan or prepare for. I figure you're probably just the person to ask.

Looking forward to the rest of your marathon training posts. Thanks!

Lisa A said...

Hi Tim,

I've been looking forward to your posts.."I am a runner" !! It's my new mantra, although I've been sidetracked from actually running due to chest congestion that's lingering. I walked a leisurely 3 miles today..I'll be running soon :) And that's my goal to go from walking to running, and I want to do a 5k run on the beach in Nov, it'll be a challenge for me.

I have a couple of questions. I have a person who does a great job fitting my shoes. I agree it makes all the difference, but what footwear to wear on the sand ? I sometimes get lumps of sand in my shoe, is that a "just deal with it kind of thing," or do I want to try something else like boots which I've never owned?

And the second question since I know you have a bit of experience running in the sand is where is the best place to run to avoid injuries? In the soft sand, which tests my aerobic capacity to walk three miles in it at this point in my fitness? or on the hard sand by the water even if the tide's in and the only way to avoid running in the surf is to sometimes run on an angle, or run flat and in the surf if need be?

Thanks Tim

Tim Grizzell said...

Hello Tracy:

Great question!

When you live in a warm weather environment, it is obviously hard to replicate running a race in 35 degree weather. There still are some good training habits to start now that will help you prepare for your half marathon in December.

If possible, you should do all of your training runs in the early morning. At a minimum, you should be doing at least 50 percent of your weekly runs in the AM hours. If you do all of your running in the afternoon or evening, your body never gets used to going through the process of warming up prior to an early morning run. In the afternoon, it is easy to put on your running clothes, running shoes and head out the door. In the early morning hours, you need to go through the process of waking up, shaking out the cobwebs, doing a very light stretch, maybe some calisthenics to increase your body temperature, and heading out the door for your run. Ideally, you should run a half mile to a mile (or ride for 15 minutes on a stationary bike) first, stretch, and then go for your run. Your biggest challenge in your race will be getting all of your muscles and engine warmed up prior to starting the race. If you do not, you risk injury. Once you are warmed up, your body will deal with the cold temperatures just fine. I have seen a lot of runners in the first five miles of a marathon injure themselves by pulling a muscle or straining a tendon. More than likely, this is the result of not warming up properly before the start of the race. The last thing you want is to have a “DNF (Did Not Finish)” next to your name after all of that hard training you put in leading up to the event.

A lot of the major fall marathons (e.g., Chicago, St. George, Portland) all start in the high 30s, low 40s and end in the mid 60s. I understand that this is the case with the Las Vegas Marathon. Temperatures in this range make for perfect race conditions.

Other things to prepare for are learning how to layer your clothes properly and what to wear the day of the marathon. I will be covering this in the next couple posts of the marathon series.

One final note – I did write a post a couple months ago about running in cold weather (primarily extreme cold weather). In my opinion, most of the information in this post is not applicable to your situation but I have provided you with the link just in case you want to take a look.

Fired Up,


Joe G. said...

Thanks, Tim. These tips are extremely valuable to those of us who never had any formal exercise training.

Tim Grizzell said...

Hello Lisa:

My mission in life is to inspire others to run. So, it FIRES ME UP to hear your new mantra!

My experience running in the sand started prior to the SEAL teams. I grew up on the Oregon coast. A good portion of my middle distance training incorporated running on soft sand and hard sand.

Your first question is interesting because it brings back a lot of memories of emptying sand out of my shoes after a long beach run. We used to just deal with it. There is now a solution and it does not involve buying boots. There is no need for you to do that. The trail running industry has really grown a lot in the past few years and they make some good inexpensive running gaiters that keep out debris. The company that makes these gaiters is inov-8 ( There are other companies too.

The best place to run on the beach is on the flattest terrain, whether it be on hard sand or soft sand. If you are continuously running on the slope of the beach, you risk injury to your pelvis, knees and ankles. When you are running in soft sand, try to lean forward a little, run more on your forefoot and pick up your legs a little more because your foot just sinks in the sand. It is quite a calf workout. You obviously know that your legs get tired quicker so I would seek out as much hard sand as possible assuming you have flat terrain. Another strategy would be to mix hard surfaces (i.e., roads, sidewalks, etc.) with soft sand if all the hard sand is sloped terrain.

Thank you for the questions and please keep me posted on your progress.

Fired Up,


Tim Grizzell said...

You are welcome Joe. Have a great weekend!

Tracy said...

Thanks, Tim! I really appreciate it! :)

Lisa A said...

Yay, shoes to keep the sand out :) I appreciate the advice and I'll keep you all posted on my progress, Thanks!!!