How To Make The Switch-New Shoes

If you follow this blog you know I learned a very hard and valuable lesson this past spring.  I switched shoes within my own shoe brand and ended up with a terrible case of Achilles tendonitis.  It was painful and embarrassing.  As a running coach I constantly preach to runners about sticking with the same shoes and being smart about making changes.  But apparently I thought I was invincible.

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Different models of shoes have very different specifications.  You might not be able to see them but they make a huge difference.  For example, I have always run in a “stability” shoe from Asics.  Last spring I switched to a “neutral” shoe.  I didn’t think it would matter because I didn’t buy the initial shoes for the stabilizing.  But seeing as how I often run 200+ miles a month, my feet and body had become accustomed to those specifications.  When I went to see my massage therapist due to my Achilles pain he noted that it seemed my injury was coming from some rolling in my ankle.  Bingo!  Later I realized what I had done.

Even your favorite shoe model can change from year to year.  When shoe companies release the newest version of their models they often make small modifications.  These small changes can make a big impact on your feet and legs.

So how do you transition to new shoes?

First learn the art of alternating.  About 3-4 weeks before it is time to make the switch go out and buy a new pair of your current model.  Mark the old shoe as “A” and the new one as “B.”  Begin alternating between runs but make sure to use your old shoes for your longer runs.  If you are training for a race I find it best to use this method throughout training so that you can keep your body healthy and don’t have to stress about breaking in new shoes right before race day.

If you chose to switch to a new model or even brand take it slow.

Continue to wear your old shoes for the majority of your runs for about four weeks and occasionally wear the new shoes for your shortest runs..  I personally would recommend only running a mile at a time in a new brand or model for the first two weeks.  Then slowly increase your mileage.  Go ahead and wear the new shoes for some walks to help break them in without stressing your feet and legs too much.

If you begin to feel any pain go back!

If you start to feel any pain or niggles switch back to your old shoes.  Wait until you are pain free again before trying to transition once more.  If you do choose to continue take it even slower during the transition process.  Don’t be afraid to do just a half mile at a time in the new shoes.

If you wear inserts or orthotics keep using those in the new shoes.

Enough said.  Don’t change those and bring them along for the ride.  I love my Super Feet so I just switch them between pairs as I go.

If all else fails use them for something else.

Once I realized what I had done I put the new shoes away for awhile.  I was upset with myself and bummed that I couldn’t use my pretty new shoes.  But later I just started using them as my walking shoes and for my strength workouts.  They don’t mess with me on walks and because I walk so much everyday it really keeps my good running shoes from breaking down too quickly.  Plus are fun to wear when I am doing my leg workouts!

Just stay patient.  Listen to your body and know when it is time to back off.  By learning to transition safely from shoe to shoe or even brand to brand you can keep your body healthy and running smoothly.  Please note though that it is easiest to make a transition between similar brands or models.  It would take a lot of time and patience to move from something like a Vibram to a Hoka One One (I have witnessed this and it was not good).  Happy running!

Can you believe how many pairs I go through?!

Can you believe how many pairs I go through?!

47 thoughts on “How To Make The Switch-New Shoes

  1. This makes me laugh because I have been guilty of this! Thank goodness I stopped using the shoes before I had any major injury! I do wear a different brand for racing than I do for my training shoes.

  2. This makes me a bit anxious – I bought my first running shoes because they felt comfortable and fitted well, but I am far from certain these are the best running shoes for me. They were not too expensive as I figured for a beginner I simply need good shoes, not the best shoes… I certainly do not have a mileage as you do, but I also do not like the feeling of getting stuck in my initial choices from when I was completely new to running.

  3. I just won a free pair of Newtons. While I ran in Newtons for about a year, I switched it up and was wearing Brooks and Nikes for a while. I’m excited to wear my Newtons and almost took them out for a 6 mile spin yesterday but thought against it because I figured I needed to transition into them slowly again. Thanks for the good tips/reminders!

  4. Great post – I think many people underestimate the potential negative impact of the wrong shoes! Even when I was swapping between the Saucony Kinvara 4 (4mm drop) and Virrata (0mm drop) I felt the difference for a couple of weeks until everything settled in.

    I think the key is to make small steps, and to listen to your body and feet. I have a friend who has moved in the last year from ‘standard’ running shoes to Hoka due to his body not handling the miles well (he just wants to still be running at 50 in a couple of years!), and he made a smart transition and felt no effects.

  5. I definitely like these tips- I just got some new shoes, and even though they are the same model/make as my others, I’m just wearing them on very easy runs and warmup/cooldown until they get “worn in”. Also, sometimes it does take a few runs for a pair of shoes to really feel worn in too, it took me maybe 35-40 miles to like my Mizuno Wave Riders but I really do like them a lot now. So sorry about your achilles issues with the shoes, though!

    • That is a great point. It definitely can take a bit of mileage for them to feel really good. I definitely had a pair that for some reason kept making my toes go numb 3 miles into my runs for a week or two. Super frustrating but then went away.

  6. This is a great post! I’ve got just over 200 miles on my current shoes (Saucony Mirage 4), and I’m thinking it’s time to get some new ones to alternate in. But I’ve never been 100% happy with these, so I want to try something new and hopefully find a better fit for me. With all the foot trouble I’ve been having, it’s good to have a plan for when I make the transition.

  7. I can’t even imagine how many shoes you go through. Rotating shoes is so important, as is getting rid of them before they go blarg. I hold on to a few of my faves for comfort runs, but there definitely comes a time when i realize that it is time for them to go byebye!

    • The other day I had some girls over for a group training session and they were definitely commenting on how many pairs of shoes I have both new and retired. It is pretty ridiculous. I do have a hard time parting with them but love being able to donate them to various charities.

  8. I love new shoes and feel like my running career has been the quest for a perfect pair that I could just buy over and over…but then they change them, or something new comes along…and the pull is strong. I’ll be happy to buy my 2nd pair of Huaka’s in the next few weeks, but might (of course!) bring a new one into the rotation, too, just to keep my eyes open. Great post.

  9. I bought some Altras back in September that I have been dying to try. But I wanted to wait until I was finished my marathon. And then I got injured. I took them for a short run on Sunday but I could definitely feel a difference. Now I’m just going to reference this blog post to work them into my rotation. Thank you Sarah!

  10. Perfect timing for this because I just switched to Newtons. I have been taking it slow but the new pair is the only pair I brought home for the holidays. This week I bought a pass to a treadmill/strength gym. I wore my Newtons this morning to the class – 4 minutes on treadmill 4 minutes strength – and my calves are already feeling a little sore. I am definitely going to have to take it careful with these shoes.

    • I would love to try Newtons but I think they are so different from any other pair that they really do deserve some time for adjustment. That being said I think that once you do transition to them you will find that you love them! I have heard nothing but stellar reviews.

  11. Good stuff! I used to bounce from shoe to shoe and wondered why I was always getting hurt. Now I’ve been in Pure Flows for a few years, and I’ve been injury free! Not messing with what works!

  12. “Even your favorite shoe model can change from year to year. When shoe companies release the newest version of their models they often make small modifications. These small changes can make a big impact on your feet and legs.”

    I experienced calf cramps with a “new” model of my current running shoe (Asics Nimbus Gel’s)…why do shoe companies change the model of the shoes if they know it’s going to cause problems for the runners?
    I tried your steps of switching back and forth from old to new…but it didn’t do me any good. I like the Asics Nimbus Gel’s because they have excellent arch support for my high-arched foot, but for some reason I can’t seem to get ride of calf cramps with the new shoes. Other than stretching and not running hills, any advice in that area?

    • Give the Super Feet inserts a try. I had plantar fasciitis and the arch support of these keeps my feet so happy. It is a shame when shoe companies make changes. I am sure most changes are made with the research showing it will improve shoes. I am also a big fan of compression sleeves AFTER a run and even while you sleep when dealing with cramping. I have constantly tight calves so you have my sympathy. Good luck!

  13. This is great advice! I’m definitely going to keep this in mind next time I switch to a new pair… this is all stuff I wouldn’t have thought about. Thank you! 🙂

  14. I need to be better about shoe transitioning. I always stick to the same shoes, but these companies keep releasing new version so quickly! I wish they would slow down. Great post!

  15. Such great tips! I feel like I am still new to the whole world of buying new shoes. I bought a pair last March (?) and won a pair in June so I alternated between the two but it took a few months to like the pair I won. Now I love them both and am getting ready for a new pair!

  16. I alternate shoes regularly. I always try to have at least two different pairs available for any run. That way I can switch without worry if for some reason one pair doesn’t feel right that day. And while I agree that sharp transitions are not good, I have gone from Virratas in the summer to Hokas in the winter without any problems. It’s all about giving the body time to adapt.

  17. These are really great tips and really handy as I need to go out and get some more running shoes. Mine were wrongly fitted so have repetitive strain in my left leg. Will follow your advice when looking for new ones, thanks!

  18. My first pair are the current ones I have. They felt so different but then I ran in “sports shoes” before hand. Now I have no idea if it’s my lack of stretching firstly (even though I now spend more time doing so) – the way I run (it appears my foot is not straight on when I hit the floor) or whether despite a gait analysis the shoes maybe weren’t the right ones! But now I have no idea if I need more support or not or just a visit to a physio….

    Nice post though I’ll definitely follow this when I get the new pair. 🙂

    • Yikes! I too don’t land on a flat foot. I actually supinate. I think the best bet is to have a good running store determine what works for you. Key is once you find what you like stay with it.

      • I know I pronate and the shoes cater for the that but I think I just need to find the perfect shoes. And then stick with them! Happy Christmas! 🙂

  19. I always try to rotate shoes…makes them last longer! It took a while for me to transition to the shoes I currently wear (Pure Flows) because I used to wear Asics Nimbus. Had to change my running form completely and slowly increase my time/distance in them before they became natural to run in.

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