4 Good Reasons (From a Doctor!) To Buy New Shoes [Fitbit]

It might seem like a ploy to get you to buy new kicks more often, but the materials in athletic shoes really do have a shelf life—they break down with use and over time. “The soft, bouncy materials that make up a shoe are designed to provide cushioning and support,” says Jordan D. Metzl, M.D., a sports medicine physician and author of Running Strong. “But the more you wear your shoes the more those materials pack down and lose that springy-ness.” Which is why most companies recommend trading in running and walking shoes after anywhere from 300 to 500 miles.

That certainly doesn’t mean you need to buy the priciest sneakers on the shelf. In fact, a survey completed by a Danish company reveals expensive running shoes are no better—and in some instances, according to consumer reviews, worse—than cheaper options. Still, the signs of wear and tear remain the same. Here’s how to know when it’s time to buy a new pair of athletic shoes.

1. YOUR SHOES ARE LOOKING WORN

Look for general wear and tear, says Metzl. “If the treads are gone, they will no longer provide grip or traction and could lead to slips and ankle twists.”

2. YOUR KNEES FEEL ACHY

Worn out cushioning material can lead to achy knees and hips. “When your shoes reach the point where the midsoles no longer compress, it’s a sign they are no longer cushioning your movement, which puts more pressure on your body, especially on the joints,” says Metzl.

3. YOUR KICKS HAVE TOO MUCH GIVE

If they still feel loose—no matter how tight you lace ‘em, it’s time to slip on a new pair. “Shoes stretch out over time, and if you continue to use them you may notice friction from rubbing in certain areas, which can lead to blisters,” says Metzl.

4. YOU SET AN INTENTION TO MOVE MORE!

An investment in your attire might be just the push you need to stay motivated beyond January. “I love the way a new pair of shoes feels,” says Metzl. “That extra spring always encourages me to take more steps!”

Originally published by Fitbit.

Advertisements

“Make New Friends, But Keep the Old” Shouldn’t Apply to Running Shoes

So long, old pals! Thanks for the miles and the memories!
So long, old pals! Thanks for the miles and the memories!

I have a hard time throwing away my old, worn out running shoes. The minimalist in me (Yes, Michael K. Farrell, there is an ounce of my being that hates my magazine piles, too) wants to immediately toss them in the trash when a shiny new pair enters my life. But the packrat in me has a hard time letting go of my running buddies. These foot huggers protected me from the pavement, cushioned my joints on long runs, and added spring to my speedier efforts. Clearly, we have a bond like no other.

I’ve read that you should collect memories, not mementos. That advice could not be truer when it comes to sneakers—there’s no need to hang on to worn out foot gear. But how do you know, I mean really know, when it’s time to say goodbye?

Most experts recommend retiring a pair when they’ve supported you through 300 to 500 miles. The wide range has to do with how they’re constructed—minimalist styles will break down faster than ultra cushiony models. Still, keeping track of the mileage on a pair can get confusing, especially if you happen to rotate a second set in for special workouts (maybe you’ve got running shoes you only wear at the track, or perhaps a pair that just gets laced up for long runs). I usually decide it’s time to let them go when my legs feel flat or achy, even after short, easy runs. That’s the point when I’ll think to myself, “Oh yeah, I bought these two seasons ago,” and know for sure they’ve passed their prime.

Remember when I got these Brooks Glycerin 10s? They had so much pavement potential!
Remember when I got these Brooks Glycerin 10s? They had so much pavement potential!

In the past, I’ve donated not-quite-worn-out sneaks to charities, like Shoe 4 Africa, which puts them on the feet of children to prevent the spread of diseases such as hookworm. Others have been lovingly washed, wrapped in plastic bags, and tossed into Good Will bins. But I can’t bear the thought of someone less fortunate logging a few miles in these old things—I wouldn’t wish angry joints on anyone. So this pair of Brooks will be going to the Nike store. Nike recycles all brands of used sneaks into Nike Grind, a substance used to make sports surfaces like basketball courts, turf fields, and tracks. How’s that for putting old shoes out to pasture?

Is it tough for you to toss old running shoes, too? Where do yours end up?

Running Reader Q: Why Are My Feet On Fire?

Feet Treats: Shoes that fit, high-tech socks, and anti-friction products keep burning and blisters away.
Feet Treats: Shoes that fit, high-tech socks, and anti-friction products keep burning and blisters away.

When you’re just getting into running, there are a lot of little aches and pains—muscle soreness, side stitches, skin chafing, and the like—that might make you stop in your tracks. But when you push through, they ease up and running begins to feel better. Usually.

Tracey H. started running in the spring. “I’m new to running, so I thought I’d stick to softer surfaces,” says Tracey, who was hitting the trails three to four times a week, logging about 3 miles at a time. “My legs feel great, but somewhere around the 2-mile mark the soles of my feet start to burn. Any idea what’s going on?”

My initial thought was that Tracey’s sneakers were too tight and perhaps she should loosen up the laces—you want snug shoes when navigating roots and rocks on trails, but tying them too tightly can cause friction, making your feet feel like they’re on fire. To be sure I was giving her the best advice possible, I reached out to Brooke Jackson, M.D., marathon runner and associate professor of dermatology at the University of North Carolina, for a more official diagnosis.

Dr. Jackson, what could be causing that burning sensation? “Your assessment that her shoes are too tight is a good one, but it might be more than the laces. I would also make sure she’s wearing the right size. It’s normal to go up one half to a full size bigger in running shoes than regular shoes, so Tracey should head to a reputable running store for a proper fitting.”

Do you think she’s heading to Blister-ville if she runs longer distances? “Not at all! I’ve been running for over 10 years, and I rarely get them. Blisters are caused by friction, which can stem from too-tight shoes that rub or socks that get bunched up.  I like to coat my toes and heels with Aquaphor before heading out for long runs to reduce potential hot spots. Tracy might also benefit from rubbing some on the soles of her feet before slipping on her socks.”

Do you think her socks are part of the problem, too? “If she’s wearing cushiony cotton ones, definitely. Cotton doesn’t breathe the way technical fabrics do, which can add to friction and chafing when your feet start to sweat. If she’s serious about running, I would suggest Tracey trade in thicker socks for thinner, CoolMax or dri-fit ones—they really do make a difference.”

Thanks for the anti-friction advice, Dr. Jackson! “My pleasure!”

Tracey took all of this info to heart… and sole. She picked up a new pair of shoes, fancier socks, and a tube of skin lube. Then she hit the streets, added miles to her training routine, and recently participated in a 200-mile Ragnar Relay. That “on fire” feeling? “It’s totally gone now!” say Tracey. Hooray!

Have your feet ever been on fire, like Tracey’s? How do you prevent hot spots, blisters, and chafing?

Gear Check: My New FlipBelt Rocks!

Hip Hugger: I slip my ID, iPhone, and keys inside, give the tubular pocket a flip, and the FlipBelt secures everything inside.
Hip Hugger: I slip in my ID, iPhone, and keys, give the tubular pocket a flip, and the FlipBelt secures everything inside.

I’m really proud of myself for not being too spendy lately, but a recent trip to Sports Basement put me to the test. All I really “needed” in there was a water bottle, and instead of walking out after only buying that, my hands were very full on the trip back to the parking lot. I had refused the bag at the checkout counter, choosing to leave the store clutching the bottle and an extra goody, like a 5-year-old with a new toy. I’m happy to report that my money was well spent, and I ended up “needing” a FlipBelt after all!

Ever since Michael K. Farrell put his foot down about me running with my cell phone for safety last year, I’ve been resigned to wearing a nerdy waist belt. I’ve always hated the stupid thing. It sags. It bounces. I can hear my keys clanging around inside of it. I hate it. (Hate it. Hate it. Hate it. And I don’t hate much.)

The FlipBelt is a game changer. It seemed a bit risky to try it out on an 8-miler this past weekend, but I was almost home again when I realized I hadn’t thought about it once. The FlipBelt fit flush against the waistband of my shorts, the stretchy fabric didn’t ride up, and it never bounced, not once. My next runs with it were just as fantastic!

Clearly, my new little running buddy is a winner, and priced at $20 (at Sports Basement; online it’s $25) the FlipBelt is a reasonable running investment. (Unlike the new energy gel I decided to try—yuck! They keep those near the registers for impulse buyers like me, you know.)

Have you picked up any great gear lately? How do you carry your necessary items when you’re running?

Disclaimer: This post was all me. I didn’t receive compensation or nudges of any sort from either of the companies mentioned. 

Shoe Hack: Make Your TOMS More User Friendly

I cut OrthoLite Fusion Insoles to fit inside my TOMS in mere minutes—this is my kind of DIY project!
I cut OrthoLite Fusion Insoles to fit inside my TOMS in mere minutes—this is my kind of DIY project!

TOMS have become a wardrobe staple in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I couldn’t be more pleased. My injury-prone hip region prefers a cute flat to a sexy heel most days (and nights…and weekends…). But while they’re easier on the legs and lower back, TOMS aren’t so great for your arches. Like flip-flops, they don’t offer most feet enough support to accomplish a full day of commuting, running errands, walking three blocks in the wrong direction because you misread your map app, and more. Which is why I came up with this shoe hack.

Step 1: Find New Insoles There are tons of insert options on the market these days, but it’s important to find one that’s customizable. TOMS are on the narrow side, and many insoles are too wide to fit inside the foot bed. A good option: OrthoLite Fusion Insoles. Designed for athletic shoes, these inserts offer comfy padding and light arch support, and they wick away moisture and prevent odor. You can buy them online, or if you’re lucky, like I was, you’ll meet some OrthoLite reps and they’ll hand you a pair just for saying, “Hi.”

Step 2: Cut to Fit Getting your insoles to fit inside your shoes is very simple. I simply traced the bottom of my TOMS onto the OrthoLite insert with a pen, and then used some fancy orange scissors to snip away the excess padding. You might need to carefully trim away a bit more to get a perfect fit.

Commuting to San Francisco in style and comfort. (Notice the dorky backpack—that takes pressure off the lower back and hip region, too.)
Commuting to San Francisco in style and comfort. (Notice the dorky backpack—that takes pressure off the lower back and hip region, too.)

Step 3: Slip ‘Em In and Enjoy! TOMS have a hump built into the arch of the foot bed, but it’s tiny so your new insoles will have no trouble sitting on top to give your feet even more support and cushioning.

Do you have special insoles in your running shoes? Have you ever added insoles to your casual shoes?

Disclaimer: I received a pair of OrthoLite Fusion Insoles free of charge. I was not paid to review OrthoLite, and I did not promise to include the brand in a post. All opinions are mine and unbiased.

I Cried “Wolf!” with React Mobile (And The Response Was Awesome!)

I took this selfie on St. Joe's trail. Most of my runs are solo. I always carry my phone, and React Mobile adds another layer of safety and security.
A selfie on St. Joe’s trail. Most of my runs are solo. I always carry my phone, and React Mobile adds another layer of safety and security.

I recently heard about a cool new app targeted to runners called React Mobile that allows a select group of family and friends (or your entire Facebook community, if you’d like) to track your whereabouts. In an emergency situation, you can simply tap your smart phone screen and an alert message is sent out along with a map pinpointing exactly where you are.

The system sounded a little awkward to me at first. I’m supposed to pull my phone out of my waist belt, log in to my home screen, find the app, and then tap it? Precious minutes would tick by, allowing an attacker to do his damage and get away. But after playing around with it a bit, I realized it’s a very simple and effective process. You start the tracking function, “Follow Me,” at the beginning of your run, and the app is ready to go if and when you actually need it.

The React Mobile home screen is very user friendly—one tap is all it takes to ask for help.
The React Mobile home screen is very user friendly—one tap is all it takes to ask for help.

The first time I activated React Mobile I was sitting safely at my desk. Within seconds, my Dad called from across the country asking if he needed to book a flight, and my cousin texted from across town to let me know she was loading the babies into the minivan and coming over to help. Oops—I really should have warned them ahead of time that this was only a test. I also should have figured out how to turn the alarm signal off before activating it. (Here’s a video explaining how to do that and more.)

All in all, this app is great! I felt super safe—not to mention super loved—and I recommend it for anyone who runs unpopulated trails or paths alone. Oh, did I mention React Mobile is free? Go get it already!

Have you tried React Mobile? What helps you feel more secure when you’re running alone? 

What To Pack For A Trail Run (Hint: It’s Not The Kitchen Sink)

This stuff comes with me on every trail run.
This stuff comes with me on every trail run.

I’m an efficient suitcase packer. I keep it simple, only bring the essentials, and make sure everything fits neatly into the overhead bin. But when it comes to packing for a nice little run in nature, I have an overwhelming urge to load my backpack with all kinds of “might needs” and “just in cases”— like a headlamp (even though I only run trails in daylight) or a poncho (it never rains here in Silicon Valley!). In an effort to cut weight, I’ve forced myself to come up with this barest-of-the-bare sundries list that acknowledges my paranoia but doesn’t indulge it too much.

The North Face Enduro Pack Hydration Pack Better than a bulky backpack, The North Face Enduro Pack was worth every penny. It comes with a bladder to store my water, and the small size forces me to fill the pockets wisely.

Badger Sport Sunscreen CreamSunscreen Burns, brown spots, skin cancer—no thanks! I apply SPF head-to-toe before leaving the house, and then every two hours when I’m in the sun. I like this Badger Sport Sunscreen Cream SPF 35, because it blocks out both UVA and UVB rays, and it’s 100% certified natural.

Cortizone 10 Poison Ivy PadsPoison Ivy Pads The best way to avoid a painful rash is to steer clear of over-grown paths. Still, contact happens. Last summer Michael K. Farrell stood knee deep in 3-leaf itchiness—these single-use Cortizone 10 Poison Ivy Relief Pads would have been super helpful.

GU for the trailEnergy Gel I’ll suck down a GU on runs lasting more than an hour, but I usually carry four with me on the trails—you know, in case I get lost and need a “meal.” (GU Peanut Butter is still my fave flave.)

Toilet paper in a baggieToilet Paper Mother Nature doesn’t always provide this for you. I bring mine in a baggie, and I pack it back out with me to a garbage can if I end up using it.

The North Face Women's Verto JacketLight Jacket Shady woods and Bay Area winds can make temps drop fast, so I keep The North Face Women’s Verto Jacket handy—it scrunches up (hence, all the wrinkles) into its own pocket! It also happens to be water resistant in case of pop up showers. (Seriously, this fear is unfounded. Weather.com shows a 0% chance of precipitation around here most days.)

I also carry along my cell phone, sunglasses, and car keys—those are necessary for actually getting me to the trailhead and then home again.

Am I missing anything important? What do you pack for outdoor runs?

“Nice Socks! Nice A$$, Too!”

These socks got me some unwanted attention, but I still love them!
These compression socks from Lunatik Athletiks ($44) got me some unwanted attention, but I still heart them!

Uh, what did that guy just say?!?

I was just starting out on a long run when some creepy guy driving a late 90’s pickup decided to yell out to me. (Why are they always driving beat up trucks?) This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten a catcall, but no one has ever commented on my socks before. My initial thought: “Yeah, my socks rock!” My next: “YUCK!”

I spent the next few minutes trying to shake off that icky someone’s-watching-me feeling, and was relieved when I could turn onto a pedestrian path headed in a different direction.

Every female runner I know has a story like this—making it extremely important to be prepared for unwanted taunts and to know what to do if the harassment escalates.

Run steady and ignore, ignore, ignore More often than not this creep just wants to get a rise out of you. When he doesn’t, he’ll likely move on. If he stays with you…

Go where he can’t Run up to someone’s front door, into a store, or to a place with other people. If you’re not close to anything like that…

Do a 180—and pick up the pace It’s hard for a vehicle to completely turn around in the middle of the street. This move will buy you time to figure out how to get somewhere safe.

Have your cell phone ready Just seeing you whip it out could be enough to make him stop. Try to take photos of the driver, the car, and the license plate if you can. And call the cops!

Buddy up in sketchy areas If your route sends you through a neighborhood where you’ve been harassed before, consider finding a new course. At the very least, run with a friend—there’s power in numbers.

It’s sad that we need to be ready for these types of scenarios. But it’s better to be safe than sorry.

 

Now, back to my awesome socks… I’m a big fan of compression socks (I’ve written about them before), and this particular pair is really cool. They’re Zuza Performance Compression Socks from Lunatik Athletiks—and I love them. Not only are they super stylin’, they hug my calves in a way that promotes circulation and improves muscle recovery. My legs felt great after 9 miles and I plan to wear them on all of my long runs going forward. (And, hopefully the attention I get in them next time will be more positive!)

 

Have you ever been heckled while running? What did you do to diffuse the situation?

 

Disclaimer: Lunatik Athletiks sent me a pair of Zuza Performance Compression Socks free of charge. I was not paid to review Lunatik Athletiks or Zuza Performance Compression Socks, and I did not promise to include the brand or the product in a post. All opinions are mine and unbiased. 

Stay Back Hair, I’ve Got Some Running to Do.

From polka dotted to tie-dyed, and in every color of the rainbow (but really, who would want something other than purple?), Maddyloo hair ties (from $1 each) come in tons of different styles.
From polka dotted to tie-dyed, and in every color of the rainbow (but really, who would want something other than purple?), Maddyloo hair ties (from $1 each) come in tons of different styles.

I pull my hair back into a ponytail for every single run. I’m also a huge fan of purple—one peek into my closet and you’d think I wear that color exclusively. So when I opened an envelope and found a handful of purple hair ties from Maddyloo inside, I was delighted (ecstatic, thrilled, overjoyed—honestly, I danced around my living room). As happy as I was to have new hair accessories in my favorite hue, it took me a while to take one of these babies out for a test run.

Something about the soft elastic and the happy-go-lucky prints and patterns just didn’t scream “effective” to me. They were great for around-the-house activities. I wore one on my wrist for days, where it was always ready to get my hair out of the way so that I could write a quick email, boil water for tea, or scrub the sink. (Attn: Michael K. Farrell, it’s your turn to clean the tub.) And yet, I never tested one out with the ultimate “Keep the Hair Out of My Face Challenge”—running. Until today…

A little sweaty, and not as taut as when I first set out (typical), this ponytailer got the job done in style.
Post run: A little sweaty, and not as taut as when I first set out (typical), this ponytailer got the job done in style.

I ponied up with Maddyloo and went out for a six-mile run at an easy pace. I felt a typical hair sway as I turned onto the Los Gatos Creek Trail, and immediately wondered if I should have brought a back up hair elastic. Nearly being clipped by a cyclist also entering the trail, I quickly forgot about my ponytail and ran on. At the three-mile turn around, I briefly considered my hair again, reached back and gently yanked on two sections to check the tightness—everything was holding up nicely. Upon returning home, I gladly discovered that Maddyloo was still hanging on, and my ponytail was in decent shape.

Maddyloo, you adorable little ties you, I’m sorry I ever doubted your strength and endurance.

Do you pony up for all of your runs, too? Have you discovered any new hair accessories lately? 

 

Disclaimer: I received several MaddyLoo hair ties free of charge. I was not paid to review MaddyLoo, and I did not promise to include the brand in a post. All opinions are mine and unbiased.

I’ve Got Cellulite. So Do You. Here’s How To Get Rid Of It.

These Proskins SLIM Ladies Short Length Shorts ($80) might be tackling my cellulite as I stand here—but I’m not looking back there to find out.
These Proskins SLIM Ladies Short Length Shorts ($80) might be tackling my cellulite as I stand here—but I’m not looking back there to find out.

Up until last week I didn’t know I had cellulite. Believe it or not, I never looked for it. But after reading a press release for a line of anti-cellulite workout apparel, I precariously climbed onto my bathroom counter and discovered some not-so-cute, back-of-leg dimples of my very own. (I don’t have a full-length mirror—which is usually only an issue if you care about your pants matching your shirt.)

I’m now convinced that everyone has cellulite. I’m also convinced that it’s not such a big deal.

Those unattractive blobs that can show up on your butt, thighs, and tummy are a result of fat trapped in the connective tissue between the layers of your skin. Tissue loses elasticity with age and during periods of rapid expansion and contraction (hello, yo-yo dieting!), and once it loosens up it’s hard to get it to snap back again. There are tons of treatments and procedures—ranging from $5 to $5,000, that can reduce the appearance of cellulite, but I’ve found two ways to deal with it that don’t involve tingly creams or dipping into your 401K.

#1 Stop worrying about it You’ve heard the phrase, “Out of sight, out of mind,” right? Well, that’s my first line of defense against cellulite. I’m just going forget it’s back there. Like I said, I was blissfully unaware of it a mere ten days ago, so I’m returning to that mind state. My legs are powerful machines that allow me to run, hike, bike, and pretty much kick butt, so if they want to “relax” and look a little dimpled, fine by me.

#2 Wear tight pants Research suggests constrictive garments like compression tights improve blood circulation, which helps clear cells of toxins and could reduce cellulite buildup. If you pick a pair from Proskins SLIM, you may improve the situation back there even more. Proskins SLIM leggings, capris, shorts, and tops are made from yarn that contains microencapsulated caffeine, retinol, ceramides, aloe vera, fatty acids, and vitamin E—agents that are all considered cellulite busters. Independent clinical studies found women who wore Proskins SLIM clothing daily for about a month noticed a 63% reduction in their cellulite.

I’m not sure if they had any impact on my cellulite (because, again, I’m not looking), but I spent an entire day in a pair of Proskins SLIM shorts and can vouch that they’re breathable and super comfy.

Now, I’m off to Bed Bath & Beyond to buy a mirror, so I no longer risk breaking my neck to see my bottom half. (I’m going to miss Michael K. Farrell asking me if his outfits look OK before leaving for work…)

My cellulite-kissed thighs held an 8:15 pace this morning. What did your imperfect, powerful legs do today?

 

Disclaimer: I received a pair of shorts free of charge from Proskins SLIM. I was not paid to review Proskins SLIM, and I did not promise to include the brand in a post. All opinions are mine and unbiased.