Selecting The Proper Running Shoes

Posted: December 7, 2010 in Uncategorized

I am frequently asked, “Can you recommend the best running shoe for me?”  There is no simple answer to a fairly complex question.  I commonly indicate that the best shoe is the one that fits your foot the best.

I realize how overwhelming it can be to walk into a running store and see hundreds of running shoes on the wall; it can be so confusing trying to determine which shoes you should focus on without simply gravitating to the look of the shoes.

In the early 80’s I was a tech rep for New Balance and was trained to understand completely the construction of running shoes and subsequently travel the country teaching others about this fascinating business.  I currently struggle to balance the scale of having all that knowledge and my current belief that running shoes have been overdeveloped and, in many ways, provide a disservice to runners because they prevent the foot from performing in its natural state.

I have been a huge fan of Marathon Sports here in the New England area because their staff is so well-trained and are extremely customer focused.  You would be well served by having the staff at Marathon Sports analyze your running gait and the movement of your feet in an effort to determine the best shoe suited for your biomechanical needs.

I recommend that you try on running shoes after a run or later in the day as your feet will swell throughout your run or throughout the day.  To allow for this expansion you should have at least a thumbs width between the end of your longest toe and the end of the shoe.  Many runners wear their shoes too short and ultimately lose their toenails because of all the pressure being placed on them.

It is also important to rotate two pairs of shoes as your shoes need to rest just as you do.  The midsole of a running shoe is the heart of the shoe as it provides support, cushioning, and protection from the force of running and the road.  Most midsoles are comprised of EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate).  It’s essentially an air-blown plastic/rubber material that is composed of thousands of tiny air bubbles that compress as your foot strikes the ground.  These air bubbles compress and act as a shock absorber and require at least 24 hours to expand back to their full resiliency to provide the ultimate protection.  If you’re a consistent runner and wear just one pair of shoes, you can wear them out prematurely by not allowing them sufficient rest.  Rotating 2 pairs of running shoes will outlast 3+ pairs of shoes worn individually.

I recommend that you treat your running shoes like the family pet (i.e,. don’t leave them in the car overnight or place them in the washing machine or dryer).  I do wash my shoes in the kitchen sink using dish detergent and my wife’s vegetable brush when she is not home (please don’t tell her).  Be sure you rinse them thoroughly, otherwise you’ll be extremely embarrassed the next time you wear them in the rain.  Don’t ask me how I know this!

You can determine your foot type by standing on a dark towel when you come out of the shower.  Step directly down on the towel, allowing your footprint to be imprinted, and step away.  Pay close attention to the arch area as that will determine whether you have an average foot, a high arch, or a flat foot.  The more cut away the arch area the higher the arch, the less cut away the flatter the foot.  Runners with high arches tend to have rigid feet and require more flexible or cushioned shoes and runners with flat feet tend to have a more flexible foot and require greater support. 

I often hear runners talk about pronation and how bad it is.  The reality is that pronation is not bad, it’s the normal movement of the foot that allows for the dispersion of shock.  You place  3-4 times your body weight on your feet with every foot strike, that is a ton (literally) of force your feet are expected to absorb during a typical run. Over-pronation is what causes the problem because you’re going beyond the normal range of motion and placing additional force on your lower extremities when this biomechanical misalignment occurs.  The result is typically knee or ITB (illiotibial band) syndrome.

So the message is simply to visit your nearest Marathon Sports store to determine the best possible shoe for you, treat it like the family pet, rotate it with a similar model that’s proven to work for you, and always rinse them thoroughly if you share my need to always run in clean shoes!

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