If you are wanting to start running or add running into your exercise program your choice of running shoes can make the difference between running in comfort or pain and whether you will injure yourself. This has to be the number one question I am asked on a regular basis. What is the best shoe? Many want to know what shoes I run in, but what works for one person won't always work for another.
The most common mistake when one wants to find a running shoe is to bargain shop for an inexpensive first pair of running shoes right off the shoe store clearance table. It is natural to do this because
1. You may not be sure if running will be for you.
2. How will your spouse react to an investment in a good shoe and
3. Isn't it just the brand name that makes them overpriced?
The above concerns are valid, but unfortunately this thinking can cause you to have a terrible experience with running where you suffer shin splints, injured knee or major hip and foot problems that take you out of running or ,any other activity, altogether.
Choosing a running shoe can be an overwhelming task given all the high-tech shoes available today and all the special features each running shoe claims to have.
First, you need to determine the pronation of your foot. Pronation is the rolling of the foot from heel to toe through the foot strike.
If you have a neutral pronation, then your hitting the outside of the heel and up to ball of your foot evenly across the front. If you have underpronation, there is not enough evening out so the outside of your foot takes most of the shock instead of finishing in the neutral position. Overpronation is too much roll across from the outside to the inside of your foot.
To determine your level of pronation, look at your shoes you walk or run in. Most everyone will begin on the outside of the heel, the real indicator would be the wear on the forefoot.
If most of the shoe wear is:
On the medial (inside) side then you Overpronate and probably need to choose Motion-Control Running Shoes
On the lateral (outside) side then you Underpronate and most likely need to choose Cushioned Running Shoes
Uniform across the forefoot then you have a Neutral Stride and are best suited for choosing Stability Running Shoes
You can also determine your pronation based on your arch height using a wet test. To take the test, wet the bottom of each foot and stand normally on a paper bag. After a minute or so, step off and observe the imprint left by your foot.
You have a normal arch (neutral pronation) if:
There's a distinct curve along the inside of your foot with a band a little less than half the width of your foot connecting the heel and toe.
You have a low arch (flat feet/overpronator) if:
There's not much of a curve along the inside of your foot and your imprint shows almost the entire foot. People with low arches are more likely to overpronate (roll too far inward), which can lead to overuse injuries.
You have a high arch (underpronator) if:
There's a very sharp curve along the inside of your foot and your imprint shows a very thin band between your heel and toe. People with high arches typically don't pronate enough.
Typically, running shoes come in three shapes (straight, semi-curved and curved) which correspond to the three types of prints revealed by the wet test. Most experts believe that:
Overpronators should choose a running shoe with a straight shape.
Underpronators should choose a running shoe with a curved shape.
Normal/Neutral pronators should choose a running shoe with a semi-curved shape.
If you have flat feet and overpronate, choose a Motion-Control running shoe. Motion control shoes prevent your foot from rolling in too far, have a straight shape that gives maximum support to your foot and are the most rigid, control-oriented running shoes.
If you have high-arched feet and underpronate, choose a cushioned running shoe. These shoes allow your feet to roll inward (absorbing shock), have a curved shape to encourage foot motion and have the softest midsole with the least medial support.
If you have normal arches and pronate normally, a stability running shoe would be the best choice as they offer a combination of cushioning, medial support and durability. They often have a semi-curved shape and don't control foot motion as strictly as motion-control shoes.
Now that you have a good idea as to what type of shoe would work best for, now it is time to shop! I recommend going to a specialty running or sports store where the staff are very knowledgeable and can guide you to the proper shoe. Some have special equipment that can customize the shoe even more by having you step on a machine that will determine where you put most of your weight when you run. Here are some tips for shopping:
1. Shop late in the afternoon when your feet are the largest. They expand in size through the day.
2. Bring a pair of old shoes so the salesperson can get a better idea of your pronation.
3. Make sure both of your feet are measured. Most people have one foot that is larger than the other. I also recommend that if you plan to do long distance running, you get your shoe a half size bigger to avoid toenail loss from the toes hitting the top of your shoe.
4. Avoid buying the latest craze in shoes. For example, when NIKE SHOX first came out, everyone wanted a pair even if they worked for their feet or not.
5. If you wear orthotics, make sure you bring them.
6. Do the activity you plan to do in your shoes while trying them on. If you are going to run, run around the store. You might look silly, but it is worth not getting stuck with a bad pair of shoes.
7. If the shoes that work best for you are a popular brand, right down the information on the shoe, size, width, etc and then search for them online for a cheaper price or another store.
You should never have to "break" a shoe in or endure blisters until you have "broken" them in. They should fit so well the first time that you experience no pain from them. A good running shoe is worth the investment. Even if you decide running isn't for you, the shoes will still be great for you to wear for simply walking, shopping, etc.
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