Selecting the proper shoes for your biomechanical needs can be overwhelming and confusing. It’s further complicated by the number of choices and the lack of product knowledge by most staff in running stores.
Determining your foot type is step one in this important process. Understanding your foot type allows you to narrow your focus to the genre of shoe that’s designed specifically for you. For instance, there are 3 basic categories of shoes (i.e., stability, neutral and cushioned). One of the best ways to determine your foot type is to step on a dark towel after you shower. This footprint will reveal the type of foot you have. Look closely at the arch area to determine whether you have a flat foot, a high arch or a normal foot.
Someone with a flat foot will barely see an indentation in the area of the arch. A high arched runner will have an extremely cut-away in this area and and normal foot will have a slight cut away (see below):
This diagram is a perfect illustration for determining the type of shoe required for the aforementioned foot types. Once you know the type or genre of shoe the next step is to visit a reputable running store and try on several models from that category. Fit is the ultimate deciding factor in selecting a proper shoe. It’s better to try on shoes after a run or later in the day when your feel have fully expanded. I purchase all of my running shoes from Marathon Sports because their staff is the best trained and can be instrumental in ensuring you are fitted to the best shoe. They will analyze your gait and allow you to test the shoes on a treadmill or outside the store. Runners tend to wear their shoes too short so be sure you allow one thumbs width of space between the end of your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Don’t worry about the size on the box as they can vary considerably between manufacturers.
Running shoes will likely be one of your most expensive investments so it’s important to take great care of your shoes. While expensive, it’s been proven that rotating two pairs of shoes will last longer than 3-4 pairs of shoes worn individually. Your shoes require rest just like you. Most midsoles are composed of EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate or air blown rubber) and contain thousands of air bubbles that act as shock absorbers for the 3+ times your body weight that you place on your lower extremities with each foot strike. It requires 24-48 hours for these compressed air bubbles to expand back to their full resiliency. Your midsoles will wear out prematurely if not allowed to return to full strength.
Treat your running shoes like the family pet and they will last longer. Don’t place them in the washer or dryer and certainly don’t leave them in your car, particularly on a hot or extremely cold day. Be proactive in replacing your shoes by introducing a new pair long before your current shoes are exhausted. You can literally become injured by waiting too long to replace your shoes. Your feet go through an exaggerated gait when wearing shoes with a compressed midsole or extremely worn outsole. A new shoe narrows the gait considerably and can ‘shock’ your tendons and ligaments and place additional stress on them. Having a plan and strategy for your shoes will reduce the risk of injury and provide more enjoyable running.
Running is a relatively simple and uncomplicated activity. Taking the mystery out of shoe selection is relatively uncomplicated once you determine your foot type. Selecting a shoe for your foot type, providing proper care to your shoes, rotating and replacing them between 400-600 miles are the keys to success!