Running Questions

I got a great comment from a reader, Beth, who had a few questions. I started typing out a response and realized that I was going to be very long winded so why not just make a whole post about it?

“I’m having trouble fitting in everything I want to do – maybe I need a schedule like yours. My primary training is biking, since I’ve got Reach the Beach in 2 weeks and Cycle Oregon in September, but I do want to squeeze learning to run in somewhere too.”


I had the SAME problem. I still have that problem. My currently workout schedule is working okay but I am struggling to find time to fit in a run three times a week like the Couch to 5k app says to do.

Last year when I was struggling with my knee injuries, I decided that I needed to give yoga a REAL shot. Like going consistently and not just once in awhile and expecting to see results. I decided that I had to drop one of my swim days. I was swimming twice a week but I was struggling to fit in all the things I wanted to do.

Weight lifting was my priority for the last two years. It was both to help tone and get rid of some of the body fat that has plagued me since I lost 100 pounds but to also heal my injury. I had imbalances in my body and that was resulting in my knee pain. The weight lifting (and the kettle bell gym) did wonders! It was so beneficial and I attribute my current injury-free state entirely to weight lifting. More so than physical therapy ever did for me.

Recently Suzanne wrote a post for me called Why Recover? In it she said: “When you add something, you have to take something away.” Seeing that in print was a big lightbulb moment. Duh! There isn’t enough time in anyone’s day to do EVERYTHING. So what is the priority?

For me the priority is strength training at least twice a week and yoga once a week for injury prevention and then running because I’m training for my 5k. But what about my swimming?

Swimming is something close to my heart. I love it, it’s meditative for me, it’s relaxing, it’s a must. I will always include that in my schedule. So maybe that means I have to cut back on something else. Maybe it’s something I do every other week instead of every week so that I can include other things I like.

My fitness schedule changes with the season. It’s really easy for me to lift weights and swim and do yoga in the winter. When summer comes, some of those things fall back and the priority becomes doing stuff like biking to work and going for hikes with Michael and the dog. While I am frustrated that I can’t always fit in 3 training runs a week, I’m okay with the 6 week program taking 12 weeks. It’s okay to repeat a few weeks in a row because I didn’t get to that third run. I’m trying not to put pressure on myself by saying I HAVE TO RUN!!!!

Long Distance Runner
The next question is more about injury. She asked:

“Is it normal for my legs to BURN from the knees down when running? They’re okay when walking and when not running… I can’t tell if I’m out of shape or if I have bad shoes or something. Any thoughts?”

When I signed up for Couch To 5k I had many months (like 6 months) to train. I wanted to give myself enough time to SLOWLY get back into running. History has proven that I need to take it easy and not increase mileage too quickly.

I’m not a doctor or physical therapist obviously, but I do have an extensive injury history. My first thought is that maybe it’s the wrong kind of shoes. OR it’s time for new shoes. Read this post about shopping for running shoes: Is it Time for New Shoes? I really think all runners should get fitted for shoes according to their stride. It’s so important in injury prevention!

If it’s a nagging ache it could just be that it’s a new activity. Running is Hard and it uses muscles we may not have used doing other activities. Take it slow, follow a running program, don’t push it too far too fast. Learning how to pace yourself while running is also crucial. It’s really easy to go FAST out the gate and then burn out before you’re done running.

If it’s pain in the shins, it could be shin splits. That can happen to new runners who aren’t conditioned yet for running. It could also be OLD or BAD shoes. If it’s the wrong fit, they could be hurting you. It could also be that running on the street is too much for you. Try a treadmill or a track to see if the softer cushion helps.

If it’s knee pain, try to figure out where the pain is. If it’s on the outside of the knee it’s most likely the IT Band. If it’s on the inside of the knees it is most likely runner’s knee. Read: R is for Runner’s Knee and So…About that Runner’s Knee….

When it comes to injury, I’ve had a few and I’ve written many posts about the subject. Here is a little list of some old posts:

Coping With An Injury

How (Not) to Train for a Half Marathon

8 Mistakes I Made While Injured

Yoga & Runners

Tip for New Runners: Foam Roller

I’ve had a lot of aches and pains with running and wondered, Uh oh, am I injured? But I will tell you this: YOU WILL KNOW IF YOU’RE INJURED. Trust me. The REAL injury pain is obvious. There aren’t any doubts. When I first got overuse of IT Band I diagnosed myself while I was out running on the track. I knew it. I just had a gut feeling that said “this pain is different.” And it stuck around and when I saw a doctor I was right.

It’s so important to listen to your body and if it’s telling you something, take note. Don’t try to push through an injury. It will just make it worse and longer to heal. Also, you can get Runner’s Knee from other activities–not just running! Just like getting fitted for good running shoes, go get fitted for your bike! It makes a world of difference. Read: Professional Bike Fit & New Doctor.

I hope I answered your questions. I’m not an expert in running by any means but hopefully some of my experience can help other new runners in their journey.

Is it Time for New Shoes?

Recently a fellow blogger asked me about shin splits and pain when she walks. I’m not a physical therapist or doctor but my first thought was: old shoes.

Running in old shoes can lead to running injuries (or overuse injuries). With time running shoes lose their stability and shock absorption isn’t the same as it was. When this happens the stress to the feet, ankles and legs can be dramatic. It might not be noticeable at first, but when the aches and pains become more frequent it’s time to look at the shoe’s quality.

You can eye-ball the shoes to see if they are worn in weird ways.  This wear and tear will depend on every individual runner and what their pronation/over-pronation tendencies are. The shoe’s mid-sole layer is what provides the cushioning and stability. This area usually wears out before the outer show shows major signs of wear. This is probably where you will feel it first. For me it feels less like I am running on clouds (like I do when I get a new pair of my Brooks Ravenna shoes) and it feels like I’m clunking along.

Even if you aren’t a runner this same wear and tear that can cause injury can happen to you. If you have shoes you walk in every day, or shoes that you wear when you go to the gym, they can cause the same pains.

Another tip I’ve seen online is that people often have two pairs of shoes that they alternate wearing to slow down the wear and tear on the shoes. That’s a great idea if you can afford a second pair of new shoes.

When to Replace Them?

There’s no strict rule. Of all the running books, websites and forums I’ve read it seems like the general rule is every 300-500 miles. That rule is good if you keep track of your mileage. This equation is different for everyone. This will be much more frequent for people that run a lot, that are training for marathons. For someone like me, recovering from injury and taking it easy with the mileage, that could mean once or twice a year.

A rule of thumb:

  • Track your mileage. 300-550 miles later it’s time for a new pair.
  • For distance runners (running 25 miles per week or more),  replace your shoes every three to four months.

Go By Feel

If you aren’t really keeping track of mileage, or concerned with increasing mileage, then my recommendation is to go by how you feel.  I can tell that my shoes are starting to wear down because when I do run I’ll feel lots of aches and pains. It usually shows up in my calves or hip joints. They start to ache with each step.  Another sign to look out for is extra muscle fatigue,  shin splints or new pains that you’ve never had before.

Or you could just go by how they look. Do they look worn out? Do they have a funky smell? If you twist the shoe does it twist easily (new shoes shouldn’t)?

Try this trick: check for signs of wear on the sole by placing your old shoes on a counter and stand behind them. If the soles are worn and leaning to one side, the midsole cushioning is probably worn out and could cause injury.

Go By Seasons

Another way to keep on top of injury prevention is to replace your shoes by the season. Fall is a good time of year to replace your running shoes–especially if you were running a lot all summer long. Getting a new pair of kicks after racing season is over is a good idea. (But remember: never run a race with brand new shoes!)

Also–how has the weather been? Have you been running a lot in the rain? (Like us poor Northwest folks.) Then maybe those shoes need more frequent replacing.


What I Do

I replace my running shoes about twice a year. It used to be three times a year when I was running a lot (and training for Hood to Coast). I usually retire my old shoes when they start to look dingy and I’m feeling aches when I run. I buy new running shoes and my old pair turn into the shoes I wear to just walk around.

When the old pair that I wear to walk around wear out I switch them out.

I want to leave this important thought with you: good shoes are WORTH the money. When I first started running I bought cheap shoes and replaced them frequently. I bought Nike shoes on clearance at the Nike Outlet. Sure they were okay shoes but they weren’t right for my feet or my gait. I waited too long to get a proper fitting at a running store. I am so glad I did it. Now I buy Brooks Ravenna shoes and they are worth the $100 price tag. They fit my feet, they don’t cause me injury and I love running in them.

QUESTION: How often do you replace your shoes? How do you know when it’s time?