Have a question about running? You’re in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon’s Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.
How many miles should I put on a new pair of shoes before using them on race day, specifically for a marathon?
Runners definitely need to test any new pair of shoes before racing in them. You might be able to get away using expo-new shoes in a 5-K or 10-K, but not in a marathon. Blisters might not even appear until after the 20th mile.
Thus the conundrum: You need to test new shoes before going 26.2, but put too many pre-race miles on the shoes, and they lose some of their freshness. Perhaps more important, you lose the psychological advantage of showing up on the starting line with shoes so sparkling everyone near you must wear sunglasses.
Less important than number of miles may be how often you wear the shoes to see if they fit right. I suggest taking at least two or three runs in new shoes to see how they feel. In the last three weeks of my Novice 1 marathon training program (the taper period), there happen to be five runs at 3-4 miles. Perfect time for a pre-race test. Also, do at least one semi-long run. The last long run in my program is 8 miles at the end of Week 17. That might offer a final test to make sure that what works in training will work in the race itself.