How to Choose the Right Running Shoes
Seems like a simple enough thing to do? Right? Well, not exactly. Running is a pretty simple sport that requires very little in the way of equipment. That's part of the beauty of it. Slap on your running shoes and you’re off. But what happens if your shoes aren't just right for your feet? The wrong running shoes can actually do more harm than good and lead to injuries. This is why it is vital that you understand the differences between shoe types and learn which type is right for you.
Let's take a look at the six basic shoe types.
Cushioned shoes are generally best for runners who have moderate to high arches. Runners with high arches tend to require more mid-sole cushioning and less arch support. Typically, runners with higher arches do not overpronate and are biomechanically more efficient runners.
Cushioned shoes are built with what is referred to as a curved last. The “lasting” refers to the inside shape of the shoe. Shoes made with this last tend to curve from the heel inward toward the toes and are designed to mimic the shape of a foot that has high arches.
Stability shoes are designed for those runners who need more medial arch support. These shoes are normally better suited to runners who need extra support and are mild to moderate overpronators. Typically runners who require stability shoes have low to flat arches.
Pronation is the term that is used to describe the rotational movement of the foot as it rolls inward and the arch collapses. Overpronation means that the foot is rolling too much and the arch is collapsing to the point where it is not providing support to the foot. Conversely, supination is when the foot does not roll inward at all but rolls toward the outside of the foot. Both of these conditions require a running shoe with features to help protect the foot
Stability shoes are generally built with a straighter to neutral last and this reflects the fact that the foot is not as curved due to the lower arch.
Motion Control Shoe
Motion Control shoes were designed for the moderate to severe overpronator. These shoes will have more rear foot control to them in addition to extra medial arch support. Motion Control shoes are usually necessary for heavier runners who need that extra support and durability. Runners who require Motion Control shoes will have flat feet with almost no visible arch.
Motion Control shoes are built on what is called a straight last. A straight lasted shoe will have little to no curve in the shoe from the heel to the toe and will provide greater medial arch support.
Racing shoes typically have very little support and are very light weight. Many runners use them only for racing. This type of shoe is really only for those runners who are bio-mechanically efficient and for whom a lighter shoe will make a difference. If you are a competitive runner and are looking for that slight edge then maybe a racing shoe is for you.
A Performance Training shoe is a lighter, well-balanced shoe that can be used for racing, speed training, or daily training. These shoes are typically worn by the more efficient runner who is training at a fast pace. While not as light as the pure racing shoe they are also not as heavy as the average training shoe. If you are an overpronator be careful using this type of shoe for your daily training as they typically are not as supportive as the Motion Control and Stability Shoes.
If you run off road on trails then you should definitely consider a trail shoe. These shoes will have better traction to deal with the various conditions found on trails. Some models will also have varying degrees of water-resistant features which will come in handy when running through those mountain creeks or in adverse weather conditions. Trail shoes are typically a little heavier than your average training shoes due to their hefty outer-soles.
What is your foot type?
Now that we know a little more about the differences in shoe types we need to figure out which type is best for us. In order to do this we need to take a good look at our feet. There are basically three different foot types and each one is based on the height of your arches.
For a fun and simple method to determine your foot type we’re going to take what’s called the “wet test”. For this test you will need a shallow pan or bucket large enough to fit your foot, water, and a brown paper bag. Simply pour enough water into your pan or bucket to wet the bottom of your foot. Step into the pan and then onto the brown paper bag. Your wet foot should leave an impression on the bag so that you can see the shape of your foot. Using this simple test will help you to determine whether you have a high arch, a normal medium arch, or a low flat arch. Knowing your foot shape can now steer you to a shoe that is geared toward your foot type.
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To select a shoe type now simply match your foot shape to the corresponding shoe type. If you have a low flat arch (flat feet) you will want a shoe with greater stability and motion control to provide arch support. Having flat feet generally means that you are an overpronator (excessive inward rolling) and as such will require shoes with extra support and motion control features to minimize the excessive rolling and collapse of your arch.
If you have a very high arch then you may want a shoe with superior cushioning. High arched runners will tend to fall into the normal or supinator category. In running supination means that your foot is rolling to the outside as opposed to a more normal roll to the inside. High arches tend to result in more impact shock traveling up the leg as opposed to being absorbed by the foot so this is why you will want a cushioned shoe with no added stability or motion control features.
For a normal arch you have a few options. Some pronation or rolling inward of the arch is actually a good thing as this helps to absorb some of the impact shock. With a more normal foot type and normal amount of pronation you can probably get away with either a stability shoe with a moderate amount of support or even a neutral cushioned shoe with no added support if you happen to be a lightweight runner.
Excellent Video demonstrating the wet test
If you are selecting running shoes for the first time it is always a good idea to shop at a running specialty shop where you can get expert advice. The sport of running requires very little in the way of equipment but the one thing that is crucial to a successful running career is good shoes that suit your foot and running style. Now is not the time to skimp. Good luck and stay healthy out there.
Other articles on running and fitness:
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- Boston Marathon Spectator Guide
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- Why Runners and Triathletes should know what Hyponatremia is?
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- Five Common Running Injuries and How to Deal with Them
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- Running over 50 - How to Stay Healthy and Motivated
Feel like your over the hill? Running as a member of the over 50 group can be a rewarding and healthy experience if you follow a few simple precautions. We may not be fast anymore but we are certainly wiser.
© 2012 Bill De Giulio