Our Services - Choosing A Running Shoe
Choosing a Proper Running Shoe: A Guide
Running shoes have, through the years, morphed into the most sophisticated footwear available today. Shoe manufacturers have poured time, money and technology into analyzing lower extremity biomechanics in their research efforts. Most high-end shoe companies have hired biomechanists and utilize state-of-the-art Computerized Gait Analysis laboratories in their pursuit of quality shoes. The result is an array of shoes that are unique for a specific sport and a foot type. In this section, we will concern ourselves with running shoes solely - pun intended!
Running shoes have unique features dedicated to the needs of running mechanics. This is why shoes are sport-specific; a tennis shoe will provide greater support in medial to lateral movement, as demanded by that sport. A cross trainer will attempt to be a hybrid -- combining some elements necessary for support in the medial to lateral direction, while providing some elements for walking or light running. Basketball shoes cycling shoes, volleyball shoes, and cleats are inadequate for running. It is imperative that an athlete utilize the correct shoe for their sport, as incorrect shoe gear can often be a source of injury.
When choosing a running shoe, one needs to become familiar with the construction of running shoes, categories of shoes, proper fit and shoe life span. It is crucial to evaluate the patient's foot type, training and sports participation, and wear pattern on previous running shoes. A good running shoe store can help with this.
Running shoes are made around a “last”. Removing the sock liner will expose the last type. A slip last is stitched to itself, and generally characterizes a lighter, more flexible shoe. "Board" refers to the last being firmly stitched to the shoe, and is found in shoes that are more resistant to pronation. Many shoes are combination lasted, using slip lasting in the forefoot and a board last in the mid and rear-foot.
The shape of the last is also important in defining the type of shoe. A curved last, which appears concave on the lateral border, is found in more flexible shoes; a straight last is indicative of more controlling shoes.
Flexibility in the forefoot has received more attention from manufacturers recently. Flexibility at the metatarsophalangeal joints (i.e., the "ball of the foot") is essential for allowing the foot to make the transition to push-off; this has been addressed through the use of flex grooves in the forefoot area. The flex groove is a groove in the rubber outsole.
Shoe cushioning is achieved through the use of EVA midsoles. Often, these are dual-density to allow for variation in the amount of cushioning throughout the regions of the foot. Gel cushioned and air cushioned pockets are used for shock absorption, and can be found in the rear-foot and/or forefoot, again varying with shoe type.
The counter is the area of the shoe that surrounds and cradles the heel. This should be firm and resistant to bending in order to keep the heel as vertical as possible. The toe box should be of adequate height to accommodate hammertoes, if this is a consideration.
Evaluation of the current running shoe is an excellent diagnostic adjunct, if available. Care should be given to the wear pattern on the outsole, looking for any abnormal areas of wear or asymmetry. Look at the wear on the inside of the heel counter and the pressure pattern on the innersole. Place the shoes on a flat surface and evaluate the heel counter for signs of medial or lateral listing.
The fit of the shoe should be checked. There should be adequate room from the tip of the longest toe to the end of the shoe to accommodate your thumb’s width. This will allow for forward migration of the foot in the shoe and allow for slight swelling of the foot, which both occur in running.
Keep in mind that running shoes have a lifespan of approximately 500 miles. One should track their mileage to avoid overuse. If mileage is consistent, writing the date of purchase on the shoes can limit problems. Do not rely on the condition of the rubber outsoles, as the midsole of the shoe will wear out long before the outsole shows much wear. Midsole wear is not very obvious; mild horizontal ridges will appear when the midsole reaches the end of its functional life, but these can be very subtle and difficult to observe.
The most important factor in choosing a running shoe is matching the foot type to the category of shoe. An incorrect shoe type for foot type will inevitably cause injury.
Running shoes come in three categories: motion control, stability and cushioned.
- Motion control shoes are the most supportive type of running shoe and are utilized for overpronators. The heel will generally contain a dual-density material in an attempt to limit pronation. A roll bar is present on the medial aspect of the heel, and some recent shoe models extend the roll bar into the medial arch. The "feel" of these shoes is firm to stiff, depending on the manufacturer.
- Stability shoes are used for the neutral foot to mild overpronator. These shoes will blend mild anti-pronation techniques with shock absorption. These shoes will be lighter in weight than their motion-control counterparts.
- The most flexible and lightweight shoe will be the cushioned shoe, which is used for the supinator. These shoes will pack a wallop of cushioning with very little anti-pronation devices. When left on their own to choose shoes, most people will gravitate towards this category due to their light weight and soft feel, but they will be inadequate for the demands of the pronator or heavy runner.
Once the correct category of shoe has been determined, one must be familiar with the various shoes in that category. There are several ways to keep up with this information. Visiting a running store will prove an excellent resource. Runners World and Trail Runner magazines perform quarterly running shoe evaluations in their publications. The American Association of Podiatric Sports Medicine also has a recommended shoe list available on their website.
A proper running shoe is an invaluable training tool. The correct shoe, in combination with a proper training regimen and professional podiatric attention to alleviating faulty foot mechanics, will allow a lifetime of optimal injury-free running.
To learn more about selecting the proper running shoe, please contact Dr. Karen Langone today.