Video Q&A with Coach: What Shoes Should I Wear When I’m Not Running?

by Jason Fitzgerald

Successful running – and injury prevention – is really a full-time job.

Hopefully that didn’t scare you off from accomplishing your race goals. But truthfully, what makes you faster is often what you do in between workouts than what you do while running.Running Shoes

So get enough sleep every night.

Avoid hours of CrossFit AMRAP sessions in the weeks leading up to your marathon.

Eat a healthy diet (no need to be perfect) and try not to party too hard.

All of these “little things” help you stay healthy and feeling good every day. Compare two runners doing the same training: the person who takes care of herself will always adapt more effectively to the workload than the person who skips sleep, eats a ton of fast food, and likes to go out to the bar four nights a week (I feel old just typing this…).

But you already know this. It’s no surprise that you need to rest, eat clean, and take care of your body.

Recently Brian emailed me with an interesting question about running shoes. Taking care of yourself goes beyond the basics of sleep and solid nutrition. What you put on your feet – when you’re not running – every day can still impact how you feel while running.

It’s a new twist on the age-old question of “what shoes should I wear?” Brian asked:

I’m a doctor so I do a lot of standing throughout the day. Since I can wear scrubs, I’m allowed to wear tennis shoes or clogs. Traditionally my retired running shoes become my work shoes, but I’ve noticed that my knee starts to hurt when I do this. Do I need more cushion or arch support? I have an average arch height and I’m not much of a pronator.

How many times have we obsessed over what the best running shoe is for us but then change into ill-fitting dress shoes or (worse) high heels to go to work?

We know that running shoes come in a spectrum of sizes, shapes, heel heights, and levels of cushion. How do you decide what to wear when you’re not running?

There are virtually limitless options for what to wear every day if you have that flexibility. Just remember:

  • Stiff dress shoes with an elevated heel can make your feet and lower legs sore if you’re not used to them
  • High heels can shorten the achilles and prevent a host of leg problems. Avoid them if possible.
  • Old running shoes with no support and significant wear patterns can also make you sore – it’s best to donate them
  • Some people tolerate long periods of standing with little support (like me). If that’s you, go with a lightweight shoe with a minimal heel-toe drop and a softer sole (like boat shoes, minimalist running shoes, or drivers)
  • If you need more support, a new(er) pair of neutral running shoes will work

Whatever your choice, remember that what you wear outside of running should complement your training. In other words, your casual shoes shouldn’t negatively impact your running because they’re old, stiff, or six inches off the ground.

To give you a visual illustration of how elevated heels can impact your overall posture, I borrowed this image from the blog of Tim Ferriss:

Bad Posture

No wonder why my legs hurt after just a few hours in dress shoes! I can’t imagine how women feel after a night in stilettos.

Now I’m curious: what do you wear when you’re not running? How do your casual shoes impact your workouts?

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CJ

Vivobarefoot Gobi boots for work. Took a while to get used to walking around in them, now I can’t wear anything else. Very good.

Chris

Really cheap aqua socks while working around the yard.
Merrell Tough Gloves (the leather ones) at work.
Rainbow leather flip-flops out and about.
But mostly I wear no shoes at all.

Cabe

At work it depends on what I am doing that day. It could be rubber knee boots, mid weight leather hiking boots, or 12″ wildland fire boots. I used to wear the fire boots all the time, but they are tight and have a high heel. I only wear them on fires now. At home, I work outside alot, so I usually wear my old hiking boot.

Steve

Any suggestions for those of us who were steel toe boots at work??

Linda

I’ve transitioned to wearing as flat a shoe as I can find that’s also dressy enough to wear to work. Easier to find summer shoes, not so easy with winter! I wore heels to work a few weeks ago and my feet hated me afterwards. Not doing that again anytime soon!

Stephanie

I wear leather flipflops in the summer, converses in the winter, and low-heeled (1/2 to 1 inch) dress shoes to work. I only wear heels for job interviews or social occasions where I’ll be mostly sitting down.

I’m new to running so I haven’t actually retired a pair of running shoes yet, but I wonder: would used/retired minimalist shoes be a good choice when not running?

Jason Fitzgerald

Depends – if they’re Nike Waffles or Vibrams the rubber doesn’t really break down. But others with a foam sole are just like normal shoes and will degrade after a few hundred miles.

John Parker

My favorite indoors footwear are Crocs. When I’m going outdoors I prefer Hush Puppies.

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