Many people do not realize they are wearing an inappropriate shoe. The majority of the reason for this is because they do not know the selection of shoes they can choose from and how they differ.
This article will look at the factors that will help you determine the best running shoe for your feet. By the end of the article, you should be able to find the shoe that fits your feet’s needs and makes your running smoother, faster, and more enjoyable.
Your Foot’s Anatomy
Foot shape is inevitably the most important factor in determining the best shoe for you. To determine the anatomy of your foot, take a peekat your current running shoes, which will show the pronation of your foot.
Pronation is the natural inward roll of your foot following the striking of the ground.
Neutral pronation relieves the pressure on your knees and other joints by absorbing the impact of the step. This is the basis of every good runner’s gait.
Overpronation is obvious when looking at the bottom of your shoe; if you overpronate, there will be wear patterns on the inner edge of your shoes.
Overpronation is common in runners, and it is necessary to prevent injury by using stability or motion control shoes. Underpronation, also known as subination, can be seen in wear patterns on the outer edge of your shoe. It is marked by an outward rolling of the foot.
This can lead to poor absorption of impact, leading to a higher likelihood of injury. Few runners actually subinate, but those who do need plenty of cushioning and flexibility in their running shoes.
Your style of running also has a huge impact on which type of shoe suits you best. There are three styles of running: backfoot, midfoot, and forefoot.
Each style of running has its advantages and disadvantages and each style is appropriate to different people. No one style is the “right” way to run for everyone.
Striking the heel when running is a natural style of running for a vast majority of runners and is easy to take up, but this does not mean it is the perfect way to come down on the foot. The disadvantages of running on the hindfoot include:
- It is not suitable for quick runs, since the foot strikes the ground well behind the center of your body’s gravity, thus slowing the body down
- It causes a high amount of shock with every strike of the foot
- It causes a high eccentric load on the calves, which can lead to shin splints
- It requires a stronger knee flexion to absorb the shock, often resulting in “runner’s knee”
- It leads to tension loss in the Achilles’ heel and calf, which can result in an inflammation of the achilles’ heel
Though this style of running typically has to be learned from a fresh start, midfoot running can properly make use of the body’s natural cushioning system and balance pressure. Midfoot running also maintains the foot closer to the body’s center of gravity, allowing the runner to move faster than with backfoot running.
Made popular by the book “Born to Run” by Chris McDougall, this style of running is certainly the fastest, as the foot strikes below the center of gravity. Some runners believe that they will prevent all injuries by running on their toes or the balls of their feet.
However, while it certainly reduces the number of injuries a runner experiences, it typically simply shifts the injuries to another part of the leg.
Forefoot running (especially if you are running on your toes) can cause higher pressure on the forefoot, sole, tendons, and Achilles’ heel, increasing the possibility of inflammation, and can also lead to spurs on the heels.
Knowledge about the risks and benefits of the three running styles can help you determine what works in a running shoe for your particular needs. As an example, let’s take a look at the heel-to-toe drop.
The Heel-to-Toe Drop
The drop of a shoe is the difference between the height of the heel and the height of the toes. This heel-to-toe drop mainly affects how your foot will hit the ground.
While a high drop of ten to twelve millimeters promotes backfoot running, a low drop of under eight millimeters will promote forefoot or midfoot running.
If you wish to change your running style from heel striking to forefoot running, you may want to consider getting running shoes with a lower heel-to-toe drop.
The All-Important Cushioning
Cushioning acts as a sort of spring for your feet, converting impact energy to heat, reducing the forces working on your body, which can be at least twice your body weight!
The cushioning of your running shoes thus does more than make your feet comfortable. It also protects the joints, particularly the ankles and knees.
The material of the outer sole also plays an important role in the cushioning of the shoes, since more resilience in the outer sole material means a better spring effect.
Apart from this, the type of cushioning you need is directly related to the type of running you do. For example, lightweight cushioning is best for fast runs since the less weight pulling your feet down, the quicker you will run.
Moderate cushioning is good for running to the limits of your abilities as the balance of weight and comfort will allow you to run longer and still have a quick pace.
For long and well-paced runs, you will want extensive cushioning, because the cushioning will help prevent injury to your feet during the extended time you are running.
Finally, if you want the best comfort and a soft feeling, go for the maximum cushioning. Just be aware that you will sacrifice speed for comfort.
Note that heel-to-toe drop and cushioning are independent factors in a running shoe. It is possible, for example, to find shoes with a great deal of cushioning that have a low or zero drop.
Another key factor is the type of surface you will be running on. Lightweight shoes allow the leg to do less work, but they also provide less protection from what’s underfoot.
If you are spending most of your time running on a track or on the road, a lightweight shoe with minimal protection would be fine. However, if you are one of those runners who prefer to run on trails and on rough terrain, you’ll want a shoe with more protection.
If this is the case, look for a shoe that has a good amount of cushioning and shock absorbence. The shoe should be heavier overall. This kind of shoe will offer more protection against the ground you are running on.
All the best designs cannot make up for a good-fitting shoe, which directly influences your flexibility. A wide shoe will allow for more freedom of movement and a more comfortable-feeling shoe, while a tight fit will provide more stability and control.
Thus we come to the most important question to ask yourself: what size shoe do you need? The best method for determining your proper shoe size is to measure your foot using a Brannock device.
The Brannock Device and Shoe Sizing will show you the method used by specialty shoe shops to pick out the best size shoe for your feet. You may want to do this in the afternoon, as feet tend to swell by this time.
Keep in mind that you should always leave one finger’s width between the shoe and your foot. Getting the fit right is a key factor to having the proper running shoes.
The above are the 5 key things to remember when choosing running shoes, as you can see it is not as easy as going into the store and picking up a random pair. Not as easy if you want to get your money’s worth that is.