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Terry VanderWert

How Does Choosing Running Shoes Change As We Age?

How Does Choosing Running Shoes Change As We Age?
Heading out of transition for the run at the Eagle River Triathlon near Anchorage, Alaska.

After beginning to train for my first triathlon, I purchased a pair of running shoes from a specialty running store. I was happy with the shoes and the experience. I was also pleased to have learned through this fitting that a wider shoe (2E) is a better fit for me than is a standard width.

However, after that first purchase, I started shopping for shoes online, partly for convenience. I was working full-time and did not relish shopping during the precious hours outside of work.

Online shopping allowed me to take advantage of sale prices which I was sure could not be matched by brick & mortar businesses that sold shoes. (I am now convinced that this was wrong.)

For these purchases, I used internet resources, such as the shoe finder apps and calculators on the websites of some manufacturers, to select specific brands and models of shoes.

Questioning My Process for Selecting Running Shoes

Recently, I came upon a Silver Sneakers post titled 5 Steps to Find the Right Workout Shoes. The article included some new – at least for me – suggestions for lacing and tying running shoes based on foot shape, selecting socks, and breaking in new shoes.

The author’s information was useful. However, comments from the post’s readers were even more enlightening. The author stressed the point that shoes should be comfortable. Meanwhile, the readers highlighted how often shoes did not fit properly or were uncomfortable.

I had to stop and think about how I would go about selecting my next pair of running shoes. What was the most effective way to find them? And, did my needs in a shoe change with age?

Does Age Matter? Yes & No!

I asked Kurt Decker, an avid runner and General Manager of TC Running Company, if he has observed an effect of age on shoe selection.

While, in his experience, the age of the runner is not a specific factor in choosing a running shoe, he has seen some tweaks that runners tend to make with age. The two major changes are:

  1. Increasing the amount of cushioning in the shoe and
  2. Increasing the width of the shoe; feet tend to become wider, or splay, with age and more miles of running.

“Aging is like so much in life – it’s different for each of us.”

Terry VanderWert

The Running Store Approach to Choosing Shoes

Even before reading the SilverSneakers article, I had started to question the online tools I had used for selecting shoes.

Every time I used a particular calculator, a different model of shoe would be recommended even though I had given the same answers to the questions. Besides, how could static tests of balance and bending account for dynamic movements during running?

I decided to visit the local TC Running store to experience their fitting process. When we first met, I told the salesperson, Travis, that I was doing research for a Senior Triathletes post. As a result, he was kind enough to explain the process and shoes in detail.

Step 1: Evaluating a Current Pair of Slightly Worn Running Shoes

I have read that the wear pattern on a current pair of running shoes paints a picture of the owner’s running form. Therefore, I brought along a pair of shoes that were the most worn yet still being used for running.

Travis asked if the shoes had been used exclusively or nearly always for running (which they had been) or for other non-running activities such as walking around my home or office. Running creates a unique set of movements and stresses and, therefore, wear pattern.

He pointed out that while conventional wisdom involves inspecting the heel for its wear pattern, the more important area to inspect is across the width of the shoe under the ball of the foot. The uniform wear on my shoes pointed out that I have a fairly neutral gait and foot strike. He was also able to see a small but minimal effect of asymmetry in my ankles.

A moderately worn pair of running shoes. We used these as part of the process for choosing new running shoes.

Step 2: Checking My Gait Without Shoes

Before choosing a single pair of shoes, Travis had me walk with socks but no shoes across a hard surface. He observed my movement as I walked about 10 yards away from and then back to him.

From this, he selected three pairs of shoes based on the level of support he judged that I needed.

Step 3: Observing My Running Gait

Next, I tried on shoes from two manufacturers. The shoes represented two different technologies for support of the foot during running.

I did not try the third pair; I was not planning to purchase shoes that day and did not want to keep Travis from ‘paying customers’.

The first pair I tried were light gray Brooks Adrenaline 19 with GuideRail technology. GuideRails, new with this year’s models, provide support through, as the name implies, rails (rods) molded into the shoe on each side of its heel.

The second shoes, an olive green pair from New Balance, provide support through stiff foam along the edges of the shoe from the heel to middle of the arch.

I jogged about 10 yards away from and then back toward Travis in each of the pairs while he observed me. His conclusion was that both pairs appeared to provide the required support.

Both shoes were extremely comfortable and nice looking. They surely made me want to buy a pair, though I resisted the temptation since I didn’t need them yet.

Brick & Mortar or Online?

I am much more likely to purchase from a brick & mortar store, like TC Running Company, that specializes in running shoes than from an online store.

As near as I could tell from the discussions, the prices from TC Running are comparable to those from online sources. For the price-conscious shopper, TC Running also offers ‘last year’s’ models at discounted prices, just like the online stores.

Even if the prices were slightly higher, I would be much more confident in the selection of shoe based on a dynamic evaluation of my running form than from a static-only (at best) assessment with the online stores.

If the Shoe Fits, You Will Wear It

Most runner’s shoes are selected after trying on several pairs of shoes to find a pair that provides the balance of support, fit, and comfort. The same process for determining the right shoes is used for all ages, even if the outcome in terms of the specific shoes that are selected changes with time.

Remember: Shoes that fit properly and feel comfortable when running are much more likely to get used.

Leave Your Comments and Questions Below

Where do you buy your running shoes?

How, if at all, have you found your shoes to change with age?

Please share your thoughts below.

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Lessons in Ironman Triathlon Racing – Another Senior Triathlete’s Experience

Lessons in Ironman Triathlon Racing – Another Senior Triathlete’s Experience
Laurent Labbe and his oldest son before Ironman Nice. Picture courtesy of Laurent Labbe.

Laurent Labbe recently finished Ironman Nice, a long course triathlon that boasts swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, biking in the Alps, and running along the French Riviera in Nice’s historic waterfront. While the beautiful venue made the race enjoyable, Nice was even more special for Laurent. It confirmed an Ironman triathlon hydration and nutrition plan he had been working to develop.

Disappointment at Ironman Vietnam

Before diving into the story from Nice, let’s go back a little less than two months to Vietnam. It was here that Laurent competed in Ironman 70.3 Vietnam, his 10th long course triathlon.

Following a disappointing race at Ironman Vietnam, Laurent determined to come up with a better approach to nutrition and hydration for an ironman triathlon. Regarding Ironman Vietnam, Laurent said:

“The bike part was a little bit slower than I had planned, but the running was the worst leg. It was very hot. The temperature at the start of the swim was 29⁰C (84⁰F) and 35⁰C (95⁰F) during the run. I didn’t manage it well. I was overheated and the only way I found to complete the run was to put water on me every 2 km (1.25 mile) to cool down.” 

Laurent had anticipated the heat. He had prepared an adequate amount of water to carry on the bike. He also carried a cereal-based energy bar to eat about halfway through the bike course.

However, he had not included any sports drink with electrolytes. This was his first mistake. He also forgot to eat the cereal bar during the bike leg until much later than planned.

The consequence of not consuming a sports drink with its electrolytes on the bike became especially evident when he got to the run. While his body craved the electrolytes, he found the sports drinks provided by the race organizers to be “disgusting”.

And, when he tried to make up for not eating early enough on the bike by consuming bananas and gels during the run, his stomach revolted.

An Incentive for a New Ironman Triathlon Hydration and Nutrition Plan

Laurent is not alone in forgetting to eat on the bike during an Ironman triathlon. I have lost count of the number of stories of triathletes who were so caught up in the excitement of a race that they forgot to eat or drink until it was too late. As a result, they “bonked” or at least hurt their performance on the run. Maybe it’s happened to you.

With this not-so-pleasant experience in Vietnam, Laurent was determined to finding a better approach to hydration and nutrition for his next race in Nice, France. The challenge was that he had less than two months.

Hydration and Nutrition Plan for Ironman Nice

With the memory of Vietnam fresh in his mind, Laurent stayed focused on developing his race plan for Ironman Nice. He reflected on his experience in training and racing, spoke with other triathletes, scoured the internet, and tested various nutrition and hydration products.

In looking back on the Nice triathlon, he was able to say with a smile, “It seems that all the preparation and, this time, the race management was right”.

So, what was the race plan that made such a big difference?

Let’s start by looking in on Laurent a few days before the Nice triathlon while he was putting the final touches on his plan.

A Pre-Race Test of the Plan

During the week before the race, Laurent rented a bike and he and his son road to the top of Le Mont Ventoux, one of the most famous portions of the Tour de France.

He used this ride to test a bike computer having a screen large enough for him to continuously monitor his heart rate and to watch the time so that he would eat and drink at precise intervals.

It became clear to Laurent during this ride that without a clock his perception of time was wildly inaccurate. However, by maintaining a heart rate within the aerobic zone and drinking a little every 10 minutes, Laurent was able to ride the 40 km (25 km) distance to its 1,909 m (6,260 ft) elevation without stopping.

Laurent felt prepared for Nice.

Laurent Labbe and his oldest son on the bike ride to the summit of Le Mont Ventoux
Laurent Labbe and his oldest son on the climb to the summit of Le Mont Ventoux. Picture courtesy of Laurent Labbe.

Racing Ironman Nice

The temperature on race day in Nice was also high, 27⁰C (80⁰F) at the start of the swim. The day’s high of 34⁰C (93⁰F) occurred during the bike leg. Anticipating these temperatures, race organizers reduced the distance of the race a bit to 150 km (93 miles) for the bike and 30 km (18.6 miles) for the run.

Racing with a Heart Rate Monitor

Laurent used the heart rate monitor to control his effort on both the bike and run to maintain a heart rate within the endurance range.

For the bike leg, this meant maintaining an average rate of 144 beats per minute (bpm); his heart rate never went above 161 bpm. “I could have probably gone faster (on the bike) without any problem. However, the target for this race was to finish within the time limit.”

For the run, Laurent’s target was an average heart rate of 139 bpm, his endurance training rate. The highest rate came in the last 500 m during his sprint to the finish line.

“I saw many people on the bike and run forcing themselves and having difficulty breathing. In contrast, I was able to ride and carry on conversations with other racers including a Chinese guy, a Moroccan lady, and a man from Dubai. 

Hydration and Nutrition for Ironman Nice Triathlon

Laurent’s nutrition and hydration plan reflected his experience in previous hot weather Ironman races and with the week earlier ride to the summit of Le Mont Ventoux.

Specifically, the plan was as follows.

  • On each of the three days leading up to the triathlon, he took a serving of Overstim Malto. Admittedly, this was based solely on the recommendation of a friend and not on any personal experience.
  • On the bike:
    • Alternated drinking from one of the two bottles of sports drink, one bottle each of Overstim Long Distance Hydrixir and Hammer Nutrition Sustained Energy, every 10 minutes throughout the bike leg. Laurent also carried extra packages of the powders. These would be used to refill the bottles if he happened to run out before the end of the bike leg.
    • Ate one packet of a fruit-based energy gel, such as those from Overstim, every hour. Since the gels come either with or without added salt, he took one of the salted versions at the mid-point and near the end of the bike.
    • Stopped eating any solid food around one hour before the end of the bike. This provided time for the food consumed during the bike to be digested before beginning the run. Running with undigested food can cause stomach problems. 
  • On the run:
    • Drank some water with a little added salt provided by race organizers at each aid station.
    • Ate a salted biscuit or a salted gel at each of the aid stations.
    • Used showers provided by race organizers to help cool down.
  • On the day after the race, he took a recovery drink; Hammer Nutrition Recoverite is an example.
Laurent Labbe on the run at Ironman Nice.
Laurent Labbe on the run at Ironman Nice. Picture courtesy of Laurent Labbe.

Will This Plan Work Next Time?

Laurent completed the race feeling strong, healthy, and with little to no pain during and after the race. Racing with a heart rate monitor, staying hydrated, and consuming calories at the right times appeared to be the key.

Laurent found this approach to be effective, at least for one long bike ride and one long course triathlon. However, he is quick to acknowledge that he has no training in sports medicine or nutrition.

It will be interesting to hear what happens when he uses this approach in the next triathlon.

Please Share Your Questions and Comments

What do you think about Laurent’s racing plan?

Have questions about hydration and nutrition for ironman triathlon?

What are the most important lessons you have learned from training and competing in a triathlon?

Share your thoughts and questions in the Comments section below. 

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How Has Your Training Changed After Age 50?

How Has Your Training Changed After Age 50?
How does training for a triathlon swim change as I age?
Recently while skimming my email inbox, an article titled “5 Training Tips to Help You Run Strong As You Age” caught my attention. What really caused me to read further was the first part of the tagline: “Getting older doesn’t mean you have to stop running”. Judging from the comments that followed the article,  the author disappointed several readers when they realized that his definition of age differed from theirs – he is 40 years old.   It is common to generalize training plans, dismissing the age effect. Most questions I receive from visitors to Senior Triathletes are from those looking for advice on triathlon training for those of us 50 and over.  Missing from websites, blogs, and books about triathlon training is age-specific training information. Being over 50, we deal with issues that those younger seldom need to consider.  For example, a short time ago, RL posted the following on the Senior Triathletes Facebook page:

“Any of you doing tris/IMs after total hip replacement?  Got a THR 4 weeks ago – thought I would switch to aqua bike – been reading about people running post THR – still seems like a bit of a gamble with respect to increased risk of needing a revision compared to low impact activity.  Thanks for any comments.”

I doubt that the general triathlon sites answer questions about training and racing after joint replacements.  Unfortunately, I cannot answer this question with authority; I do not have the proper training. That’s why I am writing this post.

I Need Your Experience With Triathlon Training After Age 50

We, the age 50+ triathlon community, will appreciate your comments on the following:
  • Have you used or are you using a triathlon training plan specific to your age group or even for those age 50 and over?
    • Are you aware of such training programs and, if so, what have you heard about them?
  • What have you learned about training as you age?
    • What are the main changes you have made in your training?
  • How has your training for swimming, biking, and running changed as you have aged?
  • As someone age 50 or over, how do you advise someone ages 50, 60, 70, or even age 80 to train for a longer race?  For example, how does a person our age who does Olympic distance triathlons train for an Ironman?
  • Are you or someone you know able to answer training questions like that from RL (above)?
  • What can we do to achieve the goal of Senior Triathletes being a valuable resource for information, besides inspiration, for beginner and intermediate triathletes age 50 and over?

Please Share Your Comments About Triathlon Training After Age 50

Please add your comments and questions in the Comment section below or email us at seniortriathletes@gmail.com.. Also, please take a look at the questions and comments from your other Senior Triathletes.
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8 Changes in Exercise for Seniors Over 70

8 Changes in Exercise for Seniors Over 70
Photo courtesy of Unsplash

By Amanda Turner, Contributor

After 30, inactive people can lose 3% to 5% muscle mass per decade, according to WebMD. Exercise for seniors over 70 can help maintain good health and slow down this loss. If you’re wondering what exercises will be suitable for you as a senior over 70, here are eight workout routine-related adjustments you can consider.

1. Exercise regularly

To get the best benefits from exercise, it’s important that you do it regularly. Five days a week is a good starting point for moderate activities and three days for harder workouts.

2. Strength exercises (bodyweight vs. lifting weights)

Start with bodyweight exercises. Once, you’re able to handle your bodyweight, only then consider lifting weights, says trainer Meghan Kennihan. She uses exercises like squats, pushups, bicycle crunches, etc.

Work on all the major muscles of the body at least twice a week. Try to complete at least one set (up to 12 reps) of each strength exercise. Besides going to the gym and lifting weights, you can also build strength with yoga and doing the harder digging jobs in your yard.

3. Aerobic activity (moderate)

Choose one or more exercises that require moderate effort on your part. Some options include walking and riding a bike on flat surfaces. If you aren’t big on these activities, consider joining and ballroom or line dancing group or cutting your grass with a lawnmower. Go for a daily limit of at least 30 minutes and a weekly limit of 150 minutes. Divide your daily activity into separate sessions if that works best for you.

4. Aerobic exercises (hard)

If you can handle high-intensity workouts, substitute the 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity for 75 minutes of vigorous activity. There are a few ways you can go about this. Start to jog or run or ride a bike in a hilly area. If you like racket sports, considered playing singles tennis. The more energy-intensive types of dances are another option.

5. Mix moderate with hard activity

If your preferences for the intensity of exercise change often, consider a mix of the two approaches. Remember that one minute of vigorous exercise equals two minutes of moderate activity.

Exercise routines for seniors over 70 can include a mix of structured training and getting out with friends and family.
Exercise routines for seniors over 70 can include a mix of structured training and getting out with friends and family. Photo by Christian Bowen on Unsplash.

6. Mobility (bike vs. treadmill)

By age 75, about 33% of men and 50% of women do no physical activity, says CDC. And, staying sedentary for long periods hurts health. But, staying mobile has its own challenges for people with balance issues and joint pain. For its increased safety, using a stationary bicycle or treadmill can be a better choice compared to biking outside.

7. Flexibility (full-body vs. muscle group)

When stretching to stay flexible, try to incorporate full-body multidirectional movements instead of isolating a muscle group, says strength and conditioning specialist Rocky Snyder.

8. Good environment

Your workout environment, both the people and the surroundings, matter when it comes to staying healthy. Ensure that your overall health remains in top condition by maintaining the health of your home environment.

Amanda Turner is a freelance writer and a recent graduate who is taking some time to build her writing portfolio and explore her passions through writing. 

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