Triathlons are high impact sports that require equipment designed to handle the stress of training and racing. Running shoes are an important but often neglected item of apparel for triathletes. They make a huge difference for performance, recovery and even preventing injuries.
Injury prevention is important for triathletes, particularly because training for the running stage of the race increases one’s chances of sustaining an injury. Research suggests that over 50 percent of people who identify as runners suffer at least one injury in any given year.
Runner’s knee, shin splints, tendonitis and plantar fasciitis are all common injuries suffered by runners. They primarily derive from the stress that comes from pounding the pavement, particularly if you are running regularly to prepare for a big race. In other words, if you are training for a triathlon, the most common injuries are hard to avoid.
You can never prevent all running injuries, and you definitely cannot prevent them with shoes alone. Injury is a complex thing, and it affects different genders and ages differently. It is also affected by your weight, height and injury history. Training errors and programming mistakes also heavily contribute to running injuries. The repetitive and high impact nature of running does not do the sport any favors.
Running comes with a risk of injury built into the program, but many shoes promise to fix running defects. Instead of looking for a cure-all for injuries through your shoes, look at your running shoes as a way to support your body enough to prevent injuries that come with overuse.
You can reduce the likelihood of running injuries by wearing the right shoes. Though shoes cannot protect you from the wrong training plan, they can help mitigate the biological issues associated with previous injuries, your feet, and the way you run. Basically, the right shoe allows you to use your preferred movement path, and it makes it comfortable for you to stay in that path, which reduces your risk of injury.
Finding the Right Shoes
Forget about brands
There is no need for brand loyalty unless you are being paid huge sponsorship money by a particular shoe manufacturer. Still, it is easy to fall into the trap of preferring Nike over adidas or Asics over Saucony—not because you like the shoes, but because you like the way they sell them to you.
Getting out of the brand trap is the first step toward finding the right running shoes for your feet, because it prevents you from immediately ruling out the right shoe based only on the brand.
Check out your foot shape
Your foot shape is determined by the shape of your arches. This is one of the primary ways you will determine what type of shoes to buy. The basic way to determine foot shape is to find out whether you have normal, high or flat arches.
Do this at home by taking the wet-foot test. Lay a piece of sturdy brown paper on the floor. Place your foot in a bucket of water (make sure it is covered up to your ankle). Take your foot out and place it on the paper. Then, examine the shape of the footprint you left behind, to get a basic idea of whether you have normal, high or low arches.
Perform a gait analysis
A gait analysis shows you exactly how your feet land on the pavement when you run, and it should be a requirement for buying new running shoes because it helps you choose the right shoe overall.
The person performing the analysis might also be able to point to potential issues in your stride, which you can correct through practice and through running in the right shoes.
Try on a minimum of three pairs
Get your feet in at least three, if not five, pairs of shoes before making your decision. Walk around the store in them. A good running store will let you use the treadmill they use for performing gait analysis. Choose the shoe that stands out among the crowd. If you do not like the design or color, ask if it comes in another style that the store can order for you.
Finding the right shoes can help you mitigate the risk of injury and keep you more comfortable both in training and on race day. Just remember to supplement your well-fitted shoes with a solid and practical training plan, and you will likely enter your next race feeling strong and confident.