Paige Claassen - Fitting your Shoes

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Choosing the Right Shoes and Size

By Paige Claassen

I’ve never been a runner. Maybe I have small lungs. Maybe I have weak legs. More likely I’m just comfortable with pain in my forearms rather than in my legs and chest. I’ve always wanted to use running as a form of cross training for climbing, yet every time I try, something seems to hurt – in a bad way. Heel bursitis, Haglin’s deformity, pain in my knees, tendonitis in the top of my foot, hip flexors that won’t stretch – I’m one giant excuse.

That is, until I decided that I really wanted to run. When I graduated from University this past winter, I knew that I wanted to put my whole heart into climbing, and to do that I would need to train my body in more ways than simply scaling rocks. So I went to Boulder Running Company in search of an answer to my podiatry problems.

Boulder Running Company will film anyone who walks through their door on a treadmill to pinpoint errors in stride and determine what shoe might best support their running style. As I walked through the retailer’s door, I expected an answer such as “your stride is terrible, you run like an uncoordinated third grade boy. Try actually picking your feet up when you run and use a little more control”. I was prepared for a harsh critique, but I was willing to accept the truth if it meant I could better my performance. Instead, I learned that my stride was great, but what I needed was bigger shoes.

My whole life I’d been told to downsize my climbing shoes. The pros crammed their toes into tiny shoes, so I needed to as well. Eventually, this application trickled into my sizing of street and approach shoes as well. My La Sportiva Testarossas were four European sizes smaller than my Raptor approach shoes, a pretty average size difference. When Boulder Running Company put me in a size 41.5 running shoe, I felt like I was swimming. My foot slid all over the place and I looked like a clown. How was I supposed to run in this condition? Wouldn’t I get blisters? I couldn’t even feel the end of the shoe with my toe!

Reluctantly, I headed home with a new pair of Ultra Raptors (size way too large) in hand. On my first run, something magical happened. My feet didn’t hurt, my legs didn’t tire as quickly, my side stitch wasn’t sending searing pain through my stomach. I was running. One mile, two miles, three miles. I stopped at three because that was triple the amount I’d ever run before. My body felt tired, but I wasn’t in pain. I had no idea that the majority of my discomforts could be fixed so easily.

The moral of the story? If you’re not achieving your dream, you probably just need to take a walk in a different shoe size. But truly, the type and size of shoe make all the difference. Apart from size, I learned that my low arches require a shoe with serious support. Thus, the Ultra Raptor is a perfect choice for me, while the Helios might be a bit too low profile. Additionally, I’d always worn running shoes as approach shoes – they’re lighter, sexier, and comfier. But for long approaches with a heavy pack, a stiffer, more supportive shoe is essential. Now I wear Xplorers to the crag, and as a result I’ve noticed less ankle rolling and happier feet.

When I take my testarossas off at the end of the day, I slip into a nice pair of extra large running shoes for a nice cool down. Since I’ve begun running more over the past few months, I’ve noticed a tremendous improvement in my fitness level. I spent a good portion of the summer sport climbing in South Africa on very long, physical, endurance style routes. I’m recovering better at rests, I’m not as out of breath when I lower off a route, and I’m completing routes more quickly than I have in the past. While trying hard on South Africa’s many beautiful routes certainly deserves some credit, I know that running has played a major role in my improvement. For that reason, I’ll continue to run in my big shoes. It’s almost like wearing bedroom slippers, but with a Sportiva logo for good measure.









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