ShoesOne thing that I have been asked a few times is how many pairs of shoes somebody needs to consider themselves a runner. A more frequent question is how many pairs of running shoes do I own. There is no one easy answer to this, and the answer depends slightly on how you train or how competitive you are.

Pull the insoles out of your shoes to allow them to dry fasterThe easy answer to how many shoes you need to be a runner is that you do not need any. Training barefoot is certainly a viable option, and experienced barefoot runners tend to have stronger feet and are less injury prone than us shoe users. The problem, however, is that we start wearing shoes when we are very little, and you need to go into the barefoot mode slowly and carefully. Your feet will be weak due to letting your shoes do most of the work of walking around all day, and running barefoot asks a different stride of us that you may not be used to.

Realistically, though, the minimal answer is one pair of shoes. Most of us will want to wear shoes, and if you are competitive there are certainly advantages to wearing shoes in races. For a casual runner, one pair of shoes will get you out on the roads and can serve you when you are racing.

A more competitive runner, though, is going to want at least two pairs of shoes, and more likely three. It is important to rotate your training shoes between each run if you run more than once a day or more than one day in a row. Your feet will sweat, and you really want your shoes to dry completely before wearing them for another run. A competitive runner may also want to have a pair of racing shoes, whether they are lightweight trainers or full on waffles or spikes.

Personally, I tend to have more shoes than that. When I was in college, I trained in Asics 2040s. When the 2050s came out, I found a clearance sale on the 2040s and bought four pairs of them. I swapped between two pairs at a time through school. These days, I have switched up my shoe use a little and have different styles of shoes that I swap between. Amazingly, I currently have seven pairs of active running shoes, and recently threw out two pairs that had been retired.

To keep my shoes straight and to make it easier to track them in my workout logs, I label my running shoes with a letter. Right now, I have three categories for my shoes.

The first category are my training shoes. I have four pairs of shoes (labeled J through L) that I swap between each run. Even if I run twice in a day for a few days in a row, I will still have at least two days between reusing the same pair of shoes. Each shoe is a different style; two of them are Asics brand and two are Nike brand.

The second category are my racing shoes, which I also use for interval work. The first (labeled G) are last years shoes that did not get too many miles in them yet. They got covered in glass when I was broken into, but I got the glass out of them and have been using them again for my track workouts. I also have a new pair of shoes that I have only used twice.

The third category is my indoor training shoes. I use running shoes when I lift weights because I use the treadmill for a short warm up. I only use these shoes inside. Usually they are only used at the gym on the treadmill and when I am lifting, but I will occasionally use them on the indoor track.

I am a little over board, but most of my shoes were bought because I could get a good deal on them and I knew that I would use them before the rubber started to degrade. My indoor training shoes I had not planned on using until this summer as outdoor trainers, but I decided to retire my old pair of indoor trainers and there was a pair already bought and paid for to replace them.

How many pairs of running shoes do you own? Do you have far fewer dress or casual shoes, which is the case for me?