With a zillion running events cropping up all over the place and several people now taking up running as an easy way to fitness, running gear has become quite important. Whether you are a new runner or a seasoned one, basic facts about ‘the right running shoe for you’ (unless you are a barefoot runner) are very important to understand and implement. Your choice of running shoes can make the difference between running in comfort or pain, and most importantly, whether you stay healthy or get injured. Too often I find runners experimenting with expensive shoes only to end up in pain.
Understanding the basics of buying the right running shoe for you will save you lots of time, money and will keep you running for long.
The shocking things that I find runners do are: pick a shoe based on its color (pink is my lucky color), pick the one on sale (why spend so much on a mere shoe), get the exact same shoe that worked for his buddy (if it worked for him, it will work for me), run in a shoe till the sole peels off (get full worth of my money), wear it to run, to work, to the grocery store(make it count), take the salesman’s word on what is the best shoe(who has the time to do R&D), and many more! These not only shock me, they flabbergast me. To me, your shoe is the best investment you will make (whether it is a running shoe or a work shoe). Being careless about shoe etiquette does not help anyone except the healthcare system – since you will end up with an injury sooner or later!
Just like your running gait and your thumbprint, your foot is unique and it needs to be fitted with the right shoe. The basic criteria for choosing a running shoe remains unchanged: comfort, safety and injury prevention. Running shoes are designed to prevent stress fractures and a quality shoe will perform two functions for the long-distance runner: shock distribution and heat dissipation. However running shoes should be replaced regularly; the shock absorbing capability will be inadequate after 350 to 550 miles; even though the upper part of the shoe may not show much wear the shock absorption may be gone.
Before you go to a shoe store you must know the following:
What is your foot type- do you have a neutral arch, low arch or a high arch? More important to know is that whether your arch stays neutral, over pronates or under pronates while running.
This is difficult to assess on your own; even a wet test has limitations in accuracy. A sports physical therapist can assess this thoroughly and accurately via a ‘gait analysis’.
If this is not possible, use the results of the wet test and buy a shoe that matches your foot type.
- Normal arch: There’s a distinct curve along the inside of your foot/you have a neutral foot/you pronate mildly (Stability or neutral Running Shoes)
- Low arch: There’s not much of a curve along the inside of your foot. People with low arches are more likely to overpronate (roll too far inward) which can lead to overuse injuries (Motion-Control Running Shoes)
- High arch: There’s a very high curve along the inside of your foot. People with high arches typically don’t pronate enough/rather they supinate (Cushioned Running Shoes)
Now that you are at the store, take the time to do the following:
- Shop in the late afternoon when your feet are at their largest; your feet expand while running.
- Wear the socks you’ll wear when you run. If you wear orthotics, bring them also to see how the shoe fits with the orthotic inside.
- Do NOT make the most common mistake new runners make by buying the latest fad shoe.
- Be sure that the shoe selection is always current. An older model shoe that’s been discounted may not be the best choice because some materials within the shoe, such as gels and rubbers, do have a limited shelf life, typically about 2 years.
- Make sure the salesperson measures both of your feet. Often, one foot is slightly larger than the other. You should be fitted for the larger foot.
- Check for asymmetry from side to side on each shoe. If the shoe can be rocked, then it may not adequately support the foot from rolling excessively when worn.
- Check for adequate room at the toe box by pressing your thumb into the shoe just above your longest toe. Your thumb should fit between the end of your toe and the top of the shoe. The shoe shouldn’t be tight, but your foot shouldn’t slide around, either. The heel of your foot should fit snugly against the back of the shoe without sliding up or down as you walk or run.
- Once you’ve found running shoes that feel right, walk/jog/run in them as much as you can.
Follow these guidelines and Run Often, Run Long and Run Happy!