Breaking in running shoes requires a combination of finding the right fit and building up to shoe usage. Taking these factors into consideration, you're more likely to lessen the risk of injury to your feet and other areas of your body.
1. Get the Right Fit
Running shoes should fit properly right off the bat, even before you break them in. MedlinePlus recommends that running shoes be flexible, light, supportive and impact-ready with cushioning and sturdy arch support.
The Better Health Channel of Victoria, Australia, suggests leaving at least 1 to 1.5 centimeters or 0.4 to 0.6 inches at the end of your shoe. Overall the shoe should feel secure without feeling too tight, snug or constricting. Moreover, the shoe should feel comfortable, cushioning and support the foot.
2. Break in Running Shoes Slowly
You can leave the mad dash for the racetrack because when it comes to breaking in running shoes, slow and steady wins the race. Or at least a slow build-up will be easier on your feet.
HRSA.gov advises breaking in new shoes slowly over several days. They suggest wearing the shoes for 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour in the afternoon. If there are no problems, you can steadily increase your wear time.
A 2011 study published in BMC Research Notes found that there was an increased risk of foot or ankle injury when shoes were changed frequently. To prevent injury, they recommend breaking in new running shoes gradually and using them for mild exercise.
3. Rotate Shoes to Reduce Injury
Another study, from November 2013 in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, found that rotating running shoes reduces the risk of injury. This may be especially helpful in the break-in stages of running shoes when the risk of injury is higher.
The researchers attributed the lessened risk of injury to the fact that running in different shoes distributes impact forces and lessens strain. Overall, multiple-shoe wearers had a 39 percent lower risk of injury than the single-shoe wearers.
4. Prevent Injuries to the Foot
Properly breaking in running shoes can prevent injuries to the foot. Overusing new shoes or getting the wrong fit can lead to injuries, such as shin splints, Achilles tendon pain, bunions corns and ingrown nails.
If you're experiencing foot discomfort even after the break-in period, you may need to make some alterations to your shoes. Better Health Channel suggests using a heel cup, arch supports or a metatarsal pad, which can be used to relieve pressure or pain beneath the toes.
5. Help the Whole Body
Properly breaking in running shoes can also prevent injuries to the whole body, not only to the foot. For instance, improper footwear or incorrectly breaking in shoes can lead to postural issues or lower back pain. According to the Better Health Channel, it can also worsen existing issues, such as arthritis in your ankles, feet, knees and hips.
- HRSA.gov: "Footcare for a Lifetime"
- Better Health Channel: "Choosing the Right Shoe"
- NCBI: BMC Research Notes: "Are Old Running Shoes Detrimental to Your Feet? A Pedobarographic Study"
- MedlinePlus: "Exercise Clothing and Shoes"
- Scandanavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports: "Can Parallel Use of Different Running Shoes Decrease Running-Related Injury Risk?"