If you are one of the millions of people that buy running shoes based on the color, the brand of shoe or whether or not it matches your outfit or makes you feet look smaller, I have wonderful news just for you and your feet.
Here it is:
While I am sure you are great at something (counting backward in Spanish, reciting the Gettysburg Address, making cool puppets with your hands) that something is probably not selecting the running shoes that best suit your body. We all have different needs. You might be a slight runner type that has high, rigid arches, and runs on your toes while your best friend is 200 pounds, flat footed, and lands on his heel. In either case, you should not be running in the same shoes as your friend. If you are, one or both of you is probably in pain. So if the recommendation of your runner partners favorite shoe is not the way to go, what is?
The best running shoes are the ones that selected by you (hopefully with the help of a trained professional, like me) based on these five key factors.
1. The wear pattern on your old shoes
2. The information contained in your feet
3. What you weigh
4. Your running style
5. What your body has been trying to tell you when you run
1. Wear Pattern of Old Shoes
Have you ever wondered, “If these shoes could talk…” Well, I am here to tell you that they can and do. They contain valuable information both inside and out. Turn your shoes over. Do you have excessive wear on the outer or inner heels? No wear on the heels at all? In the case of excessive outer heel wear combined with excessive wear of the big toe side of the front of the shoe, you are in the same category that about 60 percent of all all runners fall into. That group is called Pronators. This simply means that you have too much inward lateral rotation of your feet (and the rest of your lower body that is attached to them). If this not addressed either with a anti-pronation shoe or with the help of a running form coach, you will most likely not be able to run longer distances without discomfort or pain. What kind of pain? Neck, back, hip, knee, shin, ankle, and/or foot pain are all possible.
Conversely, if your shoes have heavy wear on the smallest toe side of the shoe from the middle of the sole on the forward half of the shoe you may be turning in the opposite direction or what is otherwise known as supinating. This can occur when runners who have less flexible feet wear running shoes made for that 60 percent of runners who we said over-pronate. Oh, and remember the inside of the shoes? If you inspect the heels and see large chunks of material seem to be missing. This is most likely caused by shoes that have too wide a heel counter that is allowing your heel bones to slide around and dig into the inside walls of the shoes. It’s time for new shoes!
2. Listen to your Feet
Look at your feet right now. Yes, take off your socks.
Are your toes tender and red? Are your feet flatter than they used to be? Do you have callouses on one side of your big toes? Does your your second toe seem longer than your aforementioned “Big Toe”? Is the space between your first two toes of each foot smaller than the other? Lastly, do you have bunions?
The answers to these questions will help a professional shoe fitter or podiatrist recommend the best shoes models for your situation. For example, say you have lower arches with bunions and callouses on you big toes. It would not surprising if you also are complaining of inner shin pain from over-pronation that was permitted to occur in poorly structured shoes that you might have gotten a great deal on, but are designed for someone else’s foot.
3. You have not gained a pound since college. Are you sure?
Your precise weight is not what’s important. What is, is whether or not the shoes you are running in are made for a runner who weights much more or less than you do. Believe it or not, may shoe manufacturers make a women’s size 6 with the same soft cushioning materials that they also put into a men’s size 14. One of you is wearing a shoe that is way too hard or soft and in this example neither runner is in the best shoes for their specific needs.
Here is a rule of thumb: If a shoes is very light weight and you are not, it is in your best interested to pass on it unless you are a very efficient runner who also has several pairs of shoes to rotate so that you are not in a very light weight shoe that leaves you prone to injury every time you run.
4. Are you born to run?
I believe that we all are, but some people think that we all should all conform and learn what they feel is the “ideal running form.” The truth is that you can be a healthy and even a fast runner whether you land on your heel, your mid-foot or even your toes. Whatever running style works for you is that one that you should stick with. The key is to select running shoes that best suit your style of running.
If you do not really land on the heels of your shoes, then you should consider lower heeled shoes that will allow you to land flatter and let more of the bottom of your new shoes come into direct contact with the ground. This will help spread the load (typically 1.5x to 4x your body weight) over a greater surface area and greatly reduce the shock to you body. Makes sense, right?
5. Yes, your feet are trying to tell you something
If you feel pain when or even soon after running it is most likely related to running in the old and/or inappropriate footwear. Your body is great at telling you what is going on with you. All you need to do is listen and act on it. If you go for a four-mile run and after one mile your lower back is in pain, instead of running through it, you should stop and consider the possible reasons.
Are you wearing old and very tired shoes? Are you wearing shoes made for someone who is much heavier than you? Are your shoes one or more sizes too small? Any one or all of these situations could be the proximate cause of your discomfort. Other reasons for this type of pain could be running on very hard surfaces that are harder that you normally run on or spending too much time looking down directly in front of you while running.
Well, I sincerely hope that you found this article useful. If you run and want to for a long time to come, do yourself a favor and seek out experienced running shoe fitters at a well regarded running specially store.