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Your Questions About Running Shoes Answered

Feeling like something’s missing in your running shoe? You’re not alone. We spoke with Henry Guzman of Flatirons Running in Boulder, Co. about what to look in a running shoe. And, with more than 30 years experience in the shoe buying and fitting industry, he had some damn good answers.

Can I do other activities in my running shoes?

It depends on what you’re doing, but, you can. Doing so will cut down on the life of the shoe by about a third. If a person is doing a lot of plyometric activities, I would steer them toward a shoe that was lower to the ground. The cushioning meant to stabilize and support a runner’s gait while running isn’t the same support you need while jumping up and side to side.

What exactly am I paying for? Some running shoes are more than $200 these days, what is the difference between that shoe, and something I’ll find for say, $80?

Moving up in price usually means you’re moving up in the support mechanisms and cushioning systems. Manufacturers will claim the more expensive shoes last longer, but that’s not the case. You are paying for ride, comfort and structure, if you need it. It’s our job to get you into the right shoe, and if the more expensive one is the best for you, we’ll let you know. People are really well informed these days and they come in with knowledge from all kinds of sources, our job is to help decipher that information for them.

Silliest gimmick you’ve ever seen from a running company:

The Vibrams Five Fingers thing. Absolutely. Do you realize how many people bought those things without even researching the validity of the claim? Americans love a story.

A couple of shoes you really like right now and why:

Brooks Adrenaline. Version 16 comes out in a couple of weeks. I like it because it’s a stable, cushioned shoe that works for a lot of different body types. A lot of times you’ll see new versions that aren’t anything like the version before. The Adrenaline has a great tradition, hasn’t changed much at all; a lot of different people can rely on these shoes.

Hoka One One. Deckers has really taken and completely escalated the brand, and there’s nothing like these shoes at all. They sit in a little silo. They have allowed a lot of people to keep running and to get back into running after injury. They are also good for a variety of people, they are both cushioned and stable with a double soul and wider base, some are more stable than others and some have rocker technology that allows easy heel to toe transition. From a distribution point, they have come a long way. I actually wrote the first order for the Hokas in the state of Colorado.

How long should a good running shoe last?

Anywhere from 300-500 miles. On average we see a customer every four months or so.

It’s important to pay attention to because one of the biggest reasons for injury is from worn out running shoes. You lose shock absorbency–they’re built to perform a function and the function wears out. It isn’t like in the old days where you’d judge by the tread. Now most shoes break down in the midsole first, and by the time you’ve worn out your tread, they’re most likely long gone.

Nine times out of ten when you start getting achy knees and/or back, your shoes need to be replaced.

If I’m moving to an urban part of Seattle and will have to endure many rainy-day city runs, should I get a trail shoe instead?

Not unless you really want another shoe. There are advantages to having a tackier, more weatherproof shoe in certain conditions, but it isn’t a necessity.

Top 3 qualities we should look for in a shoe?

Fit. Feel. Function.

It could feel great, but might not have the best functionality for you, but fit and feel go hand in hand.

Anything we should avoid when buying running shoes?

Never buy down to a price. You always want to buy up to a standard.

I’ve had shoes fitted before but they still take some time breaking in, however others didn’t need any breaking in. What’s the deal?

Most likely it’s the wrong shoe. Nowadays, the shoes are constructed in such a way that they’re pretty much ready to go out of the box. I’ve worn new shoes in ten marathons and never had a blister. It’s very likely if you get one, the functionality of the shoe is wrong and for the money you’re paying, I’d take it back

Do you fit a newbie for shoes any differently than you would fit an experienced runner?

I would sell the same shoe to a 67 year old woman or man that runs a 6:00 marathon as I would to a 40 year old woman or man that runs a 3:30 marathon. It’s all about what they need and weight ratio is important. There’s a big difference between 200lbs and 110lbs, and you want to make sure the shoe has enough guts, enough and right type of cushioning to support a person properly.

Running shouldn’t be painful unless you have an injury, and the right running shoe should. Your body changes over time and your running shoes need to change with it. I can’t run in the same shoes I wore when I was 40 (I’m 50 now).

Remember to shop local! We are the only locally owned, independent retail running store in Boulder.


If you do visit Boulder, the mecca of outdoor adventures, Flatirons Running makes a great pit stop. You can get custom orthotics in about an hour, see a chiropractor or a maxillofacial specialist. In a partnership with New Balance, the 3000 sq ft store will soon be a 6500 sq ft store that includes a treatment room, orthotics lab and coffee lounge (estimated completion Black Friday 2015).

Have other questions about running shoes? Leave one in a comment, we’d love to hear from you!

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