Header Image - Information for Triathletes Over 50

Category Archives

7 Articles

How To Train For A Faster Triathlon Run

How To Train For A Faster Triathlon Run

“How can I, a 70-year-old triathlete, run 10-minute (or better!) miles?”

I received this question in an email from a visitor to SeniorTriathletes.com. His question was the inspiration for this post. It has also become the nudge I needed to train for faster triathlon runs this season.

Click here to jump directly to the Update at the end of this post. There you will find my experience and results with the training plan described in this post, originally published on January 17, 2022.

Getting Back to a Faster Triathlon Run

While I have never been a fast runner, I ran 10-min and even faster miles in sprint triathlons while in my early 60s. For various reasons, mostly related to inconsistent training, I now run 11-12 minute miles in a sprint triathlon. However, as I approach age 70, I want to get back to running 10-minute (or better) miles in a sprint triathlon.

So, after reading the question in the opening sentence, I dusted off several books on training for running and triathlon. I also listened to videos and podcasts from Phil Maffetone and trainers at Coach Parry (“Faster After 50”).

In the end, I decided to not only share what I learned, but to make myself accountable to you while training for a faster triathlon run.

I hope you will share your questions and experience by posting in the Comments section at the end of this post.

Let’s get started.

Three Pillars of Becoming a Faster Triathlete

Years of reading about triathlon training for the older athlete have convinced me of three pillars to becoming a faster triathlete – purpose, consistency, and preparation.

Purposeful Training Is Key

In their book Peak: Secrets From The New Science of Expertise, researchers Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool share what they have learned about what makes people achieve more than previously imaginable. The book documents stories of many everyday people who strove to become experts in a particular activity. These covered a wide range, from memorization, chess and music to mathematics, golf and karate. They even cite accomplishments of 100-year old athletes in running.

With the realization that age is not the limitation it was once thought to be, more and more older adults are training harder and harder. Indeed, during the last few decades, the performance of master athletes has improved at a much higher rate than that of younger athletes.

Anders Ericcson, Robert Pool, “Peak: Secrets From The New Science of Expertise”, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016, p. 195

Did you read that? During the last few decades, performance of master athletes – that includes us – has improved at a much higher rate than that of younger athletes.

Their research has shown that practicing the same skills over and over leads to a stagnation of improvement. In my experience, this means running the same distance at the same pace day-in, day-out without a plan leads to becoming slower with age.

On the other hand, the researchers document how consistent, structured training designed to improve the key factors affecting performance will, with time, improve one’s performance.

Consistency Is A Must

As much as I have tried to make up for missed workouts by running harder the next time, this has not worked for me. I am not sure it works for anyone.

In fact, I am more likely to be injured, even if mildly, by going too hard. This then leads to shortened or more missed workouts, starting to a death spiral for my training plan.

For the older runner, avoiding injury serious enough to cause missed workouts is one of the top strategies for maintaining consistency. The approach to building aerobic fitness described in the next section is good for avoiding injury.

You are better off training more consistent, and by that I mean a day less, and then also training at the right intensity so you can recover better before your next session. By training consistently, I can guarantee you are still building on your aerobic fitness which is what’s going to help you more than anything else.

Markus van Niekerk on “Running After 50: Tips To Run Faster As You Get Older” podcast

Come Prepared For Training

Running puts significant stress on our body. This includes stress on muscles, joints, connective tissue. It also requires a base level of heart and circulatory system health.

To avoid injury or burnout, we need to make certain that our bodies are ready to begin a consistent, structured training program.

Before training to run faster, we must be able to run the distances required in the training plan.

More on this later.

Minimizing Injury Is Key To A Faster Triathlon Run

A common message throughout the run training plans I have read is to (1) set reasonable, achievable goals and (2) follow the plan, especially when it seems too easy.

It is far too common for runners, especially new runners, to set goals based on what they would like to achieve rather than on what they can achieve. Patient perseverance is a virtue in most endeavors. It certainly is for running.

Training to run faster as a senior goes hand-in-hand with preventing injuries. Injuries, from which we recover more slowly with age, can easily interrupt a training plan aimed at making you faster in the run.

People think because I’m getting slower I need to run fast in training so I can run fast in a race. It’s not the case. By slowing down your body is also able to recover after sessions.

Markus van Niekerk on “Running After 50: Tips To Run Faster As You Get Older” podcast

Start By Building Base-Level Fitness

As mentioned above, it is important to prepare oneself for a structured training program. First, it creates a base level of fitness that will, hopefully, support your body as you train to become faster.

I like the approach to building aerobic base fitness described in Training to Train – Building Aerobic Fitness for Senior Triathletes. Results in the post came from following the MAF-180 method.

This approach is easy enough that I could train using it five or more days per week without injury.

This method is also effective. I have repeated the results included in the post three more times with the same results – steadily faster times per mile while maintaining my heart rate within a relatively low range. On top of this, I lost some weight, even though weight loss was not a goal.

A little over a month ago, I added one 5k run per week, ignoring my heart rate monitor. The ability to run a 5k without walking showed me that my fitness was improving. It was also a prerequisite for the training program described later in this post.

part of plan for a faster triathlon run. Aerobic fitness using MAF-180 method
MAF-180 test results for run/walk on the same 3.5 mile course while maintaining my heart rate in the prescribed range.

Next – Add Structured Training to Increase Speed

Consistent with the evidence from Peak: Secrets From The New Science of Expertise cited above, I feel ready to move to the next phase of my run training.

[T]here are some changes that need to be made to a training regimen as the body ages. The first changes in run training involve focus and frequency. . . . It is no longer quantity that is required for the masters runner, but quality. Every workout should be a quality workout, pre-planned with session goals and targets.

Ian Stokell, “Triathlon For Masters and Beyond”, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2013, p.140

A structured run training program I have used in the past is FIRST (Furman Institute Running Scientific Training). This method is the subject of Runners World Run Less, Run Faster by Furman University’s Bill Pierce, Scott Muir, and Ray Moss.

Email discussions with co-author Bill Pierce over the past ten years have shown me that the authors promote a conservative approach to increasing speed. Success of the plan requires each training session to be done at the prescribed speeds. They also know that success requires avoiding injury.

Fundamentals of FIRST

The FIRST run training program includes three runs per week based on conservative goals. Aerobic cross-training activities, such as swimming, biking, and kayaking, supplement the three runs per week.

The goal of the three runs is to improve what the authors consider the three key factors affecting running performance. According to the authors, the goals of each of the three runs are:

  • #1 – Improve VO2max, running speed, and running economy.
  • #2 – Improve endurance by raising lactate threshold.
  • #3 – Improve endurance by raising aerobic metabolism.

With only three runs per week, one can train harder for greater effect plus recover longer between sessions to prevent injury.

Also Useful for Beginners

Another reason I like this book is that includes plenty of advice for new runners. It includes a ‘5k novice training plan’ that initially combines running with walking.

My Plan To Train For A Faster Triathlon Run

I have completed the base-building phase of the run training through four months with the MAF-180 plan. The next phase is to follow the FIRST run training method based on details in the 3rd edition of Runners World Run Less Run Faster.

Run Training

The twelve week plan will use times for the three runs prescribed in the FIRST method. The basis for these will be a 35:40 min 5k time recorded about one month ago.

With a sizeable gap between my current 5k time and the goal of a 10-min 5k in an upcoming triathlon, I realize I may need to repeat the program after the first twelve weeks. Of course, I expect the second time through the plan to be based on a faster 5k time.

By the time I complete the first cycle, I will know how well the plan is working for me. I will also know how well I have been applying it. I am confident that I will have a faster run in my next triathlon.

Cross Training

The FIRST plan also requires a minimum of two cross training sessions per week. For these, I plan to complete one session each of biking and swimming.

For the days when the biking is through a cycling class at my local gym, I will continue to perform a series of core exercises and weight strength training before the cycling class.

We all know that triathlon differs from a running race because it requires running after biking for a significant distance. Therefore, I will add a short run after completing a cycling class or bike ride.

My weekly swim will, at least initially, involve swimming 1,500 to 2,000 yards in a lap pool near my home.

Updates On My Journey To A Faster Triathlon Run

I have reserved this section for updates on my progress with the plan. These will show my experience with the sessions, what is working, what is not working, and new 5k times.

I will keep you informed through Senior Triathletes Highlights, our monthly newsletter, when I have updates.

Update #1 – After eight weeks of the 12-week 5k plan

Here is what I had learned through the first eight weeks of the 12-week 5k plan:

  1. I realized early on that I benefit from accountability to you. Knowing that I would provide this and at least one more update has made me stick to the plan.
  2. In pursuing a faster triathlon run, I have tracked results of three weekly runs from the FIRST training plan and cross-training (swimming, biking, strength training) on a Google sheet. I included a calculator for the paces of the various runs. This will make it simple to use the sheet for future repeats of the plan.
  3. It is important to base the paces for the plan on the time to complete a run of the distance for which you are training. I had started on the FIRST plan a few years ago. However, because I based it on my 5k goal rather than a recent 5k, the paces for the various runs were too high for me to complete. I eventually stopped before completing the plan. This time, I used an actual 5k race time and have been able to complete the runs.
  4. It has been surprising that the interval runs (Run#1) have been the easiest of the three runs, while the slower, longer runs (5 to 8 miles) have been the most difficult. I suspect – and the results seem to support this – that this difficulty comes from one hip being weaker than the other. Therefore, I have added strength training to the plan, something prescribed by most running coaches.
  5. Despite my best efforts to follow the schedule, visits from family and friends took priority. I will finish the plan about two weeks later than the plan.

Update #2 – After completing the first iteration of the 12-week 5k plan

I finished the 12-week plan, which ended with a 5k run to measure the results. The results were positive, with a 5k time that was reduced by 8%, from 35:40 to 32:48.

While I have not reached my goal, the improvement is significant.

I have already started to repeat the 12-week plan. This time, I will use the new, faster 5k time as the basis for each of the runs. By the end of this second iteration, I expect to be at my goal.

Stay tuned for additional updates

Share Your Questions and Comments

There are many triathletes age 50 and over reading this post with more experience in triathlon training than me. Some of you have hired coaches or subscribed to virtual training programs. Many have also completed various distances, from sprint to Ironman.

No matter where you consider yourself – beginner or experienced triathlete – you probably have questions, comments on my plan, or experience to share. Please include these in the Comments below.

Affiliate disclosure

Training to Run for Senior Triathletes

Training to Run for Senior Triathletes
Hill repeats are a great way to increase anaerobic fitness and running power.

If you are among the tens of thousands of beginner or intermediate senior triathletes, this post about training for the run is for you.

Once you have a base level of aerobic fitness, it is time to add higher intensity to gain speed and endurance from your training. This post provides an overview of higher intensity run sessions. It also includes links to books with training plans you can use to prepare for your first or even your hundredth triathlon.

First, the Ground Rules of Run Training for Senior Triathletes

Before adding higher intensity to your training, it is important, even critical, to be aware of some of the key ground rules:

  • Observe the 80:20 rule of aerobic to anaerobic (high intensity) training.
  • Do not run all-out. Before beginning higher intensity sessions, run a 5k. Use your pace for this as the basis for the pace during high intensity portions. Most programs specify a pace for intervals that is below the race pace. A goal of the intervals, or even longer runs, is to use a pace that can be maintained throughout each of the repeats within a set.
  • Avoid increasing distance and speed by more than 10% per week.
  • Pay attention to running form.

More on these later in the post.

Start With Realistic Goals

Injury is the greatest risk when adding higher intensity to your run training. First, you are excited to get into the ‘real’ training. And, if you are like me, you imagine being able to run faster than your body is able.

Why do I say this? Because I have been there more times than I care to admit. Running too fast at this point usually leads to injury, enough to send you back to the start.

The best place to start is by using your last race time. However, if that has been more than a few months in the past, run the distance for which you are training. Use this time as the basis for the next 12 (sprint) to 18 (Ironman 140.6), or more, weeks leading up to a race.

Don’t Forget the Warmup

Every run session begins with 10 to 15 minutes to warm up the muscles. An easy jog will accomplish this. However, the warm-up will be even more effective using one or two of the following1,2:

  • Strides – 80 to 100 yard (meter) runs at a fast but relaxed pace; gradually accelerate over the first three-fourths of the distance and decelerate to the warm-up pace during the rest of the distance.
  • Butt kicks – 20 meters of running on the balls of your feet while trying to lift your feet high enough to kick yourself in the butt. These are often included in the first part of the strides. Butt kicks help with leg turnover speed, hamstring strength, and heel recovery.
  • High knee lifts – These are also often included in the first part of each stride. For this drill, the goal is to lift your knees as high as possible with each step in order to increase leg turnover and strengthen calves and hip flexors.
  • Skip – Combine jogging and skipping for 100 yards (meters) two or three times during the warm-up.

Types of High Intensity Runs

  • Track repeats (or repeats on a relatively flat section of a paved or concrete trail) – these runs include distances of between 400 and 2,000 yards (or meters) followed by short periods of recovery. The distance of the repeat will gradually increase throughout the training program. The goal for these is to increase maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 max) and improve running efficiency, speed, and power.
Graph shows running power (in Watts) and pace (in minutes per mile) that is part of run training for senior triathletes.  The graph shows three repeats of higher power and speed near the end of the run.
Power (in Watts) and pace (in minutes per mile) versus time from a Stryd power meter. Note the three intervals (gold and blue colored spikes) on the right third of the graph.
  • Hill repeats – According to the running power meter manufacturer Stryd, start with 2 x 15 to 20 seconds running up a hill with at least 8% grade (8 feet [meters] rise over 100 feet [meters] distance). Repeat every 7 to 14 days adding two repeats each session to a maximum of 10 per session.

Longer runs

  • Tempo runs – These are runs at a pace considered hard but still comfortable. Tempo runs are designed to increase anaerobic performance and, more specifically, the lactate threshold. The distance of these runs will vary with the distance of the race for which you are training and where in the training plan you are at the time. For example, the distances for tempo runs typically peak at about three-fourths of the way through a plan.
  • Long runs – These are the longest but also the slowest runs. The aim of these is to increase aerobic endurance.
  • Brick runs – These are runs of at least one mile immediately after a bike session. Brick runs train your body to run with good form after having completed the bike leg of a triathlon. Since this transition involves significant changes to body position (from the hunched over, aero or similar position to running), pay extra attention to your running form. An article on Training Peaks highlights typical problems with form when running after biking. It also describes the importance of proper running form in a triathlon using Olympic gold medal triathletes as examples.

Related post: Why Seniors Should Use Interval Training

Typical Run Training Session for Senior Triathletes

A high intensity run training session will consist of the following in order listed:

  • Dynamic warm-up (NO STATIC STRETCHING of cold muscles!) for 10 to 15 minutes by jogging or combining jogging with one or two of the warm-up drills described above.
  • Main set consisting of either repeats, tempo runs, or long runs.
  • Cool down by jogging for 10-15 minutes. Proper cool down provides the benefits of active recovery.
  • Stretching of warmed muscles immediately after completing the cool down portion of the run. This portion should include stretching the hamstring muscles, quadriceps, calf and Achilles tendon, and back.

The references at the end of this post contain detailed training plans for 5k (sprint) to full marathon (Ironman 140.6) distances.

Watch Your Form

Some books on triathlon training provide detailed descriptions of proper running form. These point to proper foot strike, head orientation, elbow angles, stride length, and so on. Kind of intimidating and too much for me to remember when I am running.

That’s why I appreciate that Joe Friel3 boils these down to simply ‘running proud’. You get most of the way if you think about looking proud – head high, standing tall, clearly defined steps, modest stride, etc.

Leave Your Questions and Comments Below

What have you learned to make your run training more effective? What is your favorite high intensity routine and why? Least favorite and why?

References

  1. Linda Cleveland and Kris Swarthout, Train To Tri – sprint and Olympic distances only (paid link)
  2. Bill Pierce, Scott Murr, and Ray Moss, Run Less Run Faster – 5k to full marathon (paid link)
  3. Joe Friel, Triathlete’s Training Bible – 5k to full marathon (paid link)

Affiliate Disclosure

Pros and Cons of Running in the Heat

Pros and Cons of Running in the Heat
After a run in the Minnesota heat and humidity.

When first thinking about this post, I expected to find plenty of support for not running in the heat.

In the past, I had done almost anything to avoid running in hot, humid weather. This included getting up before the crack of dawn to complete my run while it was still reasonably cool. Or, I would go inside for a run on a treadmill or an indoor track.

This made sure I got in the miles. However, I now realize I missed out on the benefits of waiting until later in the day to complete my run.

In this post, I share what I have gleaned about the pros and cons of running in the heat. After reading it, you will understand why I am now more inclined to ignore the temperature when deciding when and where to get outside for a summer run – with my water bottle, of course.

Benefits of Running in the Heat

Science shows that running in the heat can help us prepare for races that take place in hot weather. This is not surprising.

However, what is surprising is that the benefits carryover to those races that take place in cooler weather. Beyond this, running in high temperatures can lead to improved overall fitness even if you are not racing this year.

The key, however, is to be careful when running in the heat. More about that under the ‘Cons’ section.

So, what are the benefits?

Adapt to racing in high temperature

Running in the heat helps the body adapt to the heat, or ‘acclimatize’. This is especially important if you have races that will take place in warmer climates.

In an article titled “Coping with Heat for Summer Training“, the Barbell Logic Team writes “One of the best ways to insulate yourself against heat-related problems is acclimatization, allowing your body’s built-in controls to adapt to higher temperatures.”

“Aerobically fit persons who are heat acclimatized and fully hydrated have less body heat storage and perform optimally during exercise-heat stress.”

Michael N. Sawka, C. Bruce Wenger, Andrew J. Young, and Kent B. Pandolf, (1993), ‘Physiological Responses to Exercise in the Heat’ in Marriott BM, editor, Nutritional Needs in Hot Environments: Applications for Military Personnel in Field Operations. Washington (DC): Available from National Academies Press (US).

Accelerate overall fitness gains

A second benefit of running in high temperatures is that this training can speed up fitness gains, even more so than training at a higher altitude.

An article in the Journal of Applied Physiology titled Heat acclimation improves exercise performance (Lorenzo et al., 2010) reports the major benefits of endurance training in high temperatures as:

  • Increased maximum cardiac output (measured in liters/minute of blood flow) and increased blood plasma volume, both contributing to an increase in VO2max. (VO2max is the maximum rate of oxygen consumption, often referred to as the size of one’s ‘engine’.)
  • Increased lactate threshold in cooler temperatures. (In practical terms, the lactate threshold relates to the pace one can sustain for an extended period. A higher threshold implies a higher speed for swimming, biking, and running.)

These benefits also lead to improved performance in cooler conditions. However, the benefits are finite, lasting for 1 to 2 weeks.

Click here if you want to read the technical details of the study that led to these conclusions.

Cons of Running in the Heat

Running in high temperature must be done carefully. Failing to do so can lead to physical and psychological effects that offset potential fitness gains.

Greater discomfort

Running in high heat can be just plain uncomfortable. With more blood being directed toward cooling our body, less is available for our muscles. Trying to maintain a running pace typical of cooler temperatures can lead to a spike in our heart rate and labored breathing.

Nevertheless, having learned of the important benefits of running in the heat and humidity, I slow down and push through the discomfort more easily. However, if it’s too much to handle, look for some firm that specializes in AC installation in Manassas, VA or wherever you are located, so that you can return to the cool and comfortable room to relax and relieve your discomfort.

Risk of heat exhaustion

Without properly hydrating or adjusting your training plan, high temperature can lead to heat exhaustion or muscle cramping.

In “Physiological Responses to Exercise in the Heat“, authors Michael N. Sawka et al. (1993) included among their conclusions:

“Dehydration from sweat loss increases plasma tonicity and decreases blood volume, both of which reduce heat loss and result in elevated core temperature levels during exercise-heat stress.”

More sweat

Sweat is our body’s way of controlling its core temperature. And, my sweat mechanism works very well.

During a run in humid heat, I quickly become a sweaty mess. On some days, this includes sloshing wet shoes. (There is hardly anything more unsettling than to see my wet shoe prints on the otherwise dry running trail.)

The problem with sweaty running gear is that it can rub against the skin, laying the groundwork for painful abrasions.

Tips for Safely Running in Heat and Humidity

The conclusion of an article in Podium Runner is “training in heated conditions, two to three times per week for 20 to 90 minutes, can produce a multitude of beneficial training effects.” The benefits include those listed above.

However, consider the following to gain the most and avoid injury from this training.

Avoid becoming dehydrated

For seniors, it is even more important to be conscious of our hydration. In Six Principles of Triathlon Training for Seniors, I noted that our thirst sensation becomes less sensitive with age. Waiting until we become thirsty can give a false sense of hydration.

First, it is important to begin the run properly hydrated. The most reliable way to ensure you are hydrated is to observe the color of your urine. If adequately hydrated, your urine will be clear to light yellow.

Then, during the run, Motion Works Physical Therapy recommends drinking 6-8 ounces of water or sports drink every 15-20 minutes. 

Finally, be sure to rehydrate after the run. An approach to rehydrating recommended by Motion Works is to weigh yourself before (dry clothing) and after a run (sweaty clothing) without clothing to determine the water lost during the run. Knowing the amount of fluid lost during a run will help determine how much water to drink after the run.

Consider electrolyte supplements . . . carefully

Electrolyte supplements may be beneficial during acclimatization. Hyponatremia, a condition resulting from electrolyte depletion caused by consuming too much water during exercise, can be avoided by consuming low doses of electrolytes (e.g. sodium, potassium, and chloride are the main ones) along with water during exercise.

However, remember that our bodies have built mechanisms to control the proper amounts of electrolytes. It is foolish, even unsafe, to consume too much of these necessary elements.

Supplementing to avoid becoming seriously depleted is a more appropriate strategy. An article by Dr. William Misner, former Director of Research & Development at Hammer Nutrition, titled “The Endurolytes Rationale” concluded that “low dose repletion rate generates electrolyte balance [homeostasis] without interfering with the electrolyte levels delicately monitored by natural endogenous processes”.

Fueling before, during, and after a run in the heat may include sports drinks and low dose electrolyte supplements.

Use the right gear

Using lightweight, light colored (to reflect the sun) wicking fabrics can promote evaporative cooling and reduce irritation from sweat-soaked running gear.

I have found that snug fitting shirts that cling to my body prevent the irritation when wet. Conversely, even loose fitting, wicking fabrics rub against sensitive parts of the body making for a painful post-run experience. Tape also works but can fall off when it becomes wet.

Pay attention to your form

On a recent run, I realized that my running form had worsened as I became tired. I now pay more attention to my posture to maximize the benefit of the run.

Did I Miss Anything?

What is your experience with running in the heat? At what point do you call it too hot to run outside and move indoors?

I know that many of you are more accomplished runners than me, so will appreciate your comments.

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. Websites like barbieinablender.org were super helpful and I quickly began to realize that shopping online may be better than shopping in-store. You could buy a pair of shoes at the click of a button!

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. At the very least, I may have looked for the best deals online to satiate my curiosity! However, I refrained from 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, rather 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.

I understand why businesses choose to sell online. After all, an online store allows you to cater to shoppers who cannot browse and buy when retail locations are not traditionally open. As well as that, an ecommerce platform (visit this link to see one) can provide data and analytics about products and customers much quicker and easier than if that were to be analysed in a brick & mortar store. But for me, the actual store always wins.

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.

error

Enjoy this post? Please spread the word :)