Maybe you, or someone you know wants to take up running as a means of fitness. First and most important thing to consider is shoes. So if you're confused about running shoes you're not alone. When considering your shoes you'll want to consider just where you'll be doing most of your running. Either on hard, or trail surfaces. Today, let's help you understand running shoe technology, and picking the right shoe for you. So let's assume you run on down to your local running shoe store, and see that wall of running shoes, your vision blurs, your head pounds. You ask yourself: "What do I need to run comfortably, and stay injury free?" The "wall" has shoes with all sorts of technical features. Each seems to outdo the other with patented claims for stability, cushioning, maybe weight loss, better memory, and whatever this motion control stuff is. Then there's this year's model, and left over shoes from last year. What's a neophyte runner to do? If you're lucky, your first in store experience will be with a knowledgeable sales person who kind of looks like a runner. If they have any idea what they are doing they will quiz you with some basic questions like, what type of activity is this shoe for, what distance do you run? Are you flat foot, high arch, neutral? The first question out of 99% of every new runners mouth is "What is the best shoe?" Well, the answer is, thre is only the best running shoe for you. Every runner is unique in how much they train, the surface, and their running style, that there is no "perfect" running shoe. Hopefully in the interview process your salesperson will, at the very least measure (while standing) the length and width of both of your feet. The more testing they do to access the strike pattern of your foot the better fit you will have.
Stand up lightly wet the bottom of your feet and step on your sidewalk or dry outdoor patio, and put weight evenly on both feet. Look at your arches. Does your arch almost touch the floor? Does your foot or ankle roll in? People with low arches tend to have stability issues like over pronation.
Is your arch really high? Can you almost fit a golf ball under your instep? ( The high-arched foot usually has the opposite problem. That means your foot rolls to the outside or "supinates"
Lucky you, you're somewhere in the middle. Ok you've got lucky genes. The neutral foot is the easiest to fit and assuming you have no other structural issues you can run efficiently and comfortably with a lot of shoe designs.
If you spend some time you'll find a these days most specialty shoe stores care more about your feet than selling shoes. They have to competition is stiff. They will use all their tools to observe your foot plant while running, and get a good idea of how to accommodate your movement with your shoe. Now look at the bottom of your current shoes. Are they worn on the outside of the shoe? Then you are a supinator.
Supinators do not need a stability shoe.
Or if the middle section of the forefoot is worn the most, congratulations again. You are most likely a neutral runner who needs little or no stability features. Maybe a small medial post would be is helpful, maybe not. Or is the inside forefoot is worn out most , (blue circled areas) You are most likely over-pronating. Your foot is rolling in on toe-off and creating excess
torque on your ankle all the way up to your hip.
You're not stable. You need a stability shoe.
Running shoes come with a range of stability features, from a modest level in cushioning shoes to mid level "stability shoes" to the most stable "motion control" shoes. All stability features are designed to control the excess movement of the foot during the landing cycle. Now I'm told a common problem among runners is buying more stability than is needed for their training. This makes for heavier, less flexible shoes, and a less comfortable ride. Here are some of the features that add stability to running shoes. The heel counter (the internal piece of the shoe's upper that wraps around your heel) should be well formed and fit snugly around your heel. It centers your heel in the shoe and prevents excessive movement. Supportive upper patterns can add significant stability. Look for patterns that make your arch feel snug and fully wrap your foot.
Midsoles are no longer flat in running shoes, they have a cupped base that adds support from the counter all the way down to the flex point. Make sure the contour does not go so far as to prohibit good flexibility. The most obvious stability feature is a harder density "medial post" positioned on the medial, inside of the shoe's midsole. You can easily see the post as most manufacturers make it a contrasting color. This harder foam takes more pressure to compress and slows down the pronation motion. Make sure this medial post is not too hard. Medial posts can be many sizes. For the best stability they should start at the middle of the heel and extend to the flex point. Look at the shoe's outsole. Does it have a curve to it, or is it straight from heel to toe. Straight lasts are not for everyone. Make sure to run in any straight lasted stability shoe before you buy it. Heel board lasted or combination lasted refers to the board that is put into the heel. It is actually cardboard. To find out simply lift up the sockliner and look for a board. Beware of stability shoes that have overly hard medial posts. Sometimes shoe designs go too far towards stopping pronation and end up being too hard. Try not to compromise cushioning in you shoe choice unless you are a serious pronator. Then, they recommend a custom orthotic that controls the pronation with a stability shoe that retains its cushioning properties.
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