When your foot hits the pavement or path, you want the best cushion you can get. Your primary equipment in running is your footwear. The right pair of running shoes can make all the difference between a comfortable run and potential injuries. Here are some keys to help you find the pair you need.
Respect Your Feet
Feet work hard… very hard. Your feet bear the weight of the entire body. But, no matter what your weight, you can find shoes that work with your feet to provide the support and structure you need. Protecting your feet from the very beginning is what matters when you start running.
There are three types of arches:
- normal arch
- high arch
- flat arch
When your feet are normal, they don’t roll inward or outward. The foot maintains a neutral position when you are standing or walking. In the sand, you’d have a footprint that is missing the inside, the arch, and that’s all.
If you have a high arch, you are generally a supinator. This means that your feet roll outward when you stand or walk. This puts pressure on the outside of your feet. Your footprint will barely show the middle section.
When the arches are basically flat, you will walk on the inside of your feet, meaning you are a pronator. The footprint you would leave in the sand would look like an oval with toes.
Choosing Shoes Based on Your Feet
Each different type of arch has a different type of shoe that will help you run more efficiently. For the normal foot, a stability shoe is better. The foot stays in that neutral position which keeps the hips and knees in line.
People with high arches need more cushioning. That space between the arch and the bottom of the shoe can be a problem causing the foot to roll outward unless there is something to support the arch, keeping it more neutral. A shoe with supporting arches rolls the feet inward towards a neutral position.
For people with a flat arch, rolling inward will affect the hips causing pain because the body is out of line. For you, there are motion control shoes which have something like a cup in the center of the shoe that forms an arch, holding the foot in place in a neutral position.
Beyond your arch type, your foot has a shape. Take into consideration the width as well as the length. The toe box as well as the heel depth and width will vary on each shoe, even within brands and styles. That is why it is so important to spend time researching and trying on shoes before choosing the pair for you.
Now that you know about arches, be sure to inspect your own footprint in the sand to determine the type of arch your foot possesses. Then consider your foot’s shape, contour, and special needs. When you shop for your running shoes, follow these tips to help you get your shoe choice right the first time.
- Find a specialty store – A store that specializes in running shoes will have associates that are knowledgeable about measuring feet and identifying arch types and special foot needs. They can offer recommendations on what shoes to try on and will help you find the right fit.
- Try on shoes with your running socks – Bring the socks you will be wearing when you run (more on running socks in the chapter on choosing apparel) and put them on when you try on shoes. This will give you the real fit and will alert you to any hotspots right away.
- Try on shoes during time of day you will run – Your foot swells during the day. If you run in the evening, your shoe may need to be bigger than if you run in the morning. Shop for your shoes at the time of day you will be running so your feet are in the condition they will be in at that time.
- Spend time trying out the shoes – Running shoes are all about comfort. Try the shoes on and walk around the store to be sure there is enough space in the toe box and your arches fit properly. This could take up to an hour to decide. Don’t walk around for ten seconds, walk around for ten minutes in every pair you consider buying. Pay attention to any discomfort. Once you’ve narrowed down your choice to a few styles, ask a sales representative to point you in the direction of a clear spot to actually run. That’s how you will know if your foot slides forward or your heel lifts when you hit your stride. Any good shoe store will clear a path for you and help you make your final decision.
- Ignore the size – Many people make the mistake of buying a size they think they wear. Sizes really don’t matter. Start at your usual size, then grab a couple sizes smaller and larger. Through the years I’ve bought shoes anywhere from size 6 to size 8.5 just because of the make, model, and shape. Saying “but I’ve always worn a 7” won’t get you a shoe that fits properly. There is no regulation for sizing, so the manufacture can stick any label they want on their shoe. The size is just a guide. The fit is what’s important.
- Structure matters – What’s the difference between walking, running, and cross training shoes? Quite a bit. Shoe manufacturers have made a science of foot movement and when you choose a shoe that fits the activity you are participating in, you are doing your feet, and yourself, a favor. If you are buying shoes for running only, stick to running shoes. When you walk, wear your walking shoes; when you play tennis, wear your tennis shoes. Your feet, back, legs, and knees will thank you.
Without the proper equipment, injuries are more likely to occur. Choose your running shoes carefully. Consider your shoes the first expense and everything else secondary. More beginning runners stop running because of poorly fitting shoes than any other reason. Spend time and money on your shoes first and you won’t regret it.