Many runners have told me that one of the best aspects of running is that
it is not dependent on a team or equipment. All you need to run is a pair
of shoes, and in some places, you don’t even need those. Unlike
other sports, running does seem to be an activity unencumbered by such
trappings, which is likely why its popularity has risen so dramatically
over the years. But when your sport is dependent on a sole accouterment
(pun intended), it is important that it fit your needs-and your feet!.
For me, purchasing a pair of running shoes is akin to buying a car or a
house. I start to sweat, and my blood pressure starts to rise as the sales
person spots me and begins salivating at the easy kill. By the end of
the ordeal, I have no idea what I have purchased (usually with a multitude
of accessories I didn’t need), and I just put a double mortgage
on my house with the promise of donating a kidney in 10 years. Like the
time you spend in a car and a house, you’re going to spend a lot
of time in your shoes, so you want to purchase something you really like.
Good shoes will not only look good, they can help prevent medical issues
such as plantar fasciitis and shin splints. Finding the right shoes are
tantamount to healthy running. The most important aspects to consider
while shopping for running shoes are the shape of your feet, the fit of
the shoe, and its weight and ventilation.
Shape of your feet
The first thing you need to consider is the shape of your feet. This is
important because stores and online sites have an endless array of shoes
built for every foot width and length, and they are definitely not “one
size fits all.” Knowing your foot type can allow you to narrow the
options and find the designs that are best suited to fit your feet.
There are three main foot types:
- high arch
Flat feet have fallen arches, are very flexible and prone to an inward rolling motion
High-arched feet are the polar opposite of flat feet; they are less flexible and have a
rigid, defined arch that does not transmit motion from the outside to
the inside of the foot during the running cycle. This leads to supination
or persistently landing on the outside edge of the foot.
Neutral feet are the Goldilocks of feet. They are the most mechanically sound, displaying
a neutral arch and executing a strike pattern during the running cycle.
Identify your foot type
These days, most any shoe store has pressure plates that you place your
feet on to evaluate your foot type. Might I suggest, however, a poor man’s
method to get you in the ballpark? Use a damp towel to wipe the under
surface of your foot, and carefully step down on a piece of copy paper,
or better yet, construction paper if you have any available. The pattern
on the paper should correlate to one of the pictures below allowing you
to assess your foot type.
Once you have identified your foot type, you can gravitate toward the category
of shoes designed for your specific foot type.
Flat-footed runners should choose a shoe with higher stability to control motion and
help prevent over-pronation.
Neutral runners usually have the widest variety of shoes, but they most commonly
benefit from a shoe with moderate stability.
High arched individuals are best suited for a cushioned shoe with more padding in
the midsole and greater flexibility.
Now that you have done your homework, it is time for the fun part. Try
on several pairs of shoes and several brands. Most runners need to go
up about a half-size to allow for a little more wiggle room in the toe
box. Be sure that the heel is snug and secure though, thereby avoiding
any slippage. These days, running shoes shouldn’t need much of a
break-in period. They should feel like a part of your feet when you put
them on. Jog around the store, run up some stairs or step up on a bench
to really try them out. Many a time have I slipped on a pair of shoes,
never moved an inch except to wiggle my toes, and exclaimed, “These
feel great! I’ll take them,” only to find that they slip in
the heel when I really get going.
Weight and ventilation
The last two characteristics to evaluate in a running shoe are its weight
and ventilation. These are nuances and definitely not as important as
getting the proper shoe type or fit, but they can make a big difference
when you start logging multiple three to five mile runs every week. With
increased padding, the weight of the shoe will increase and a few ounces
can add up. Ventilation is important to dissipate the heat produced during
every step. Living in the south, the heat and moisture buildup in a shoe
can lead to premature blistering, which can defeat your run before it
even begins. Most shoes designed for running nowadays will be as light
as possible and have breathable fabrics, but be on the lookout for these
variations and how they affect your particular needs.
In the end, most runners know when they have found the ideal shoe, and
their loyalty to that shoe is akin to that of a beloved pet. Runners will
mourn the discontinuation of their favorite shoe design audibly and often.
I have one friend who heard that her favorite running shoe was to cease
production and she went online and bought five pairs to delay the inevitable.
Running really can be a form of religion to those who take the hobby to
the next level. Whether you’re an occasional pavement pounder like
me or a seasoned marathoner, a good pair of shoes will make all the difference
in your enjoyment of the exercise.