Runner’s Guide Part 2: Proper Footwear with Running

By Kaci Cruthis 

In the last blog, I discussed proper form and pace with running.  Hopefully, I have inspired you to get out and run.  All you need now is the right pair of shoes. Proper footwear is important!  The best running shoes can help or hurt your form and can withstand long runs, or fall apart during your run.  Have you ever regretted purchasing that trendy running shoe after it started hurting your feet,  knees, hips, or back, during running?  That’s because not all brands and styles of running shoes will work for everyone.

If you remember from the last blog, midfoot or forefoot striking is the most optimal landing position when running, resulting in increased shock absorption and energy conservation.  Conversely, heel striking slows your momentum and thus requires more energy to overcome the braking impulse to maintain speed.  This braking impulse results in the need for increased vertical displacement.  A mere 2 inches of vertical displacement adds an extra 2 miles to a marathon.  Believe it or not, heel strike running was not prevalent until the introduction of heavily cushioned shoes in the mid-1970s.  

Heavily cushioned footwear can also sometimes limit necessary pronation (weight shifting to the inside of your foot) during loading response.  Too much cushion can also prevent the ankle from resupination (weight shifting to the outside of your foot) properly.  The opposite can happen with too little cushion.  The level of heel to toe drop (cushion) can vary from minimalist shoes (0 mm drop) and up to 12+ mm drop.  It has been said that a 0 mm heel to toe drop contributes to more of a forefoot strike.  A 6 mm drop contributes to a midfoot strike and a 12+ mm drop contributes to a heel strike. 

If you have high arches in your feet, you will likely have less shock absorption.  Therefore, you will want a running shoe with a cushioned arch.  If you have low arches, you will likely have poor shock absorption, so you will want a running shoe with more of a stable, more rigid arch. In some cases, abnormal foot position may require the addition of orthotics/inserts to achieve a neutral position in standing. 

When picking out your own running shoe, please keep these tips in mind, in addition to the information I discussed above. 

To determine the type of “last” a shoe has, bisect the shoe down the middle of the bottom of the shoe.  Then, look at the inner part of the shoe for the amount of curve. Find a shoe with a curved last for high arches, semi-curved last for neutral arches, and a straight last for low arches, to match your arch type.  

  • You should have a thumbs width from your great toe to the end of the shoe for proper room in the toe box.
  • The shoe should flex at the same area that foot flexes, like in the forefoot.
  • Keep in mind that a higher inset (heel to toe drop) usually leads to higher likeliness to heel strike
  • The shoe should feel comfortable at the top, bottom, side to side, and front to back.  It shouldn’t feel too tight or too loose.

If you are still hesitant about picking out your own running, visit to the SHOE DOG running shoe finder section of roadrunnersports.com to determine the proper running shoe for you.  It asks questions including gender, usage, surface, mileage, fitness goals, weight, arch, knee angle, aches and pains, cushion, shoe size, and shoe width.

Most running shoes will last 300-500 miles or 6 months.  Worn shoes can start affecting your form in the various ways mentioned above.

I hope this relieves some anxiety you might have regarding finding the right shoe and also make you think twice about buying based on looks! But, if you do find a shoe that looks and feels good, that’s a win-win!

Stay tuned for my last blog, where I will discuss more running tips to prevent injury!

 

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