Thursday, January 17, 2013

Shoes Don't Make the Runner Part I - Finding the right shoe fit

Today's Workout: 6 miles with running group.

I love shopping. love love love. So obviously, when it comes time to get new running gear, I love checking out new options. I am guilty of sometimes purchasing running wear that is more cute than it is functional. One place I don't make this mistake is my shoes.

Shoes can't make you faster. Only dedication, hard work, and true effort can help you improve. However, the right shoes are important for staying healthy.

For first-time shoe purchases, I strongly recommend going to a specialty running store where the staff members are trained to watch your gate and be able to suggest an appropriate shoe. One thing that is difficult for runners, especially us ladies, is to go with the right shoe, not the cute one.

I worked in such a store in high school, and will share some pointers I have. If any of you are ever in the Minneapolis area, I recommend stopping by my old stomping grounds, Marathon Sports. You'll be very well taken care of :)

What the "analysts" will be watching for in your running gates:

Whether your pronate, supinate, or are neutral. If you want to test yourself at home - try the wet test: (1) Pour a thin layer of water into a shallow pan, (2) wet the sole of your foot, (3) Step onto a paper shopping bag or a blank piece of heavy (preferably colored) paper, (4) step off and observe your arch type.

If you see half of your arch, you have the most common foot type and are considered a normal pronator. Contrary to popular belief, pronation is a good thing. When the arch collapses inward, this "pronation" absorbs shock. As a normal pronator, you can wear just about any shoe, but may be best suited to a stability shoe that provides moderate arch support.

If you see almost your entire footprint, you have a flat foot, which means you're probably an over-pronator. You need either stability shoes, which employ devices such as dual-density midsoles and supportive "posts" to reduce pronation and are best for mild to moderate over-pronators, or motion-control shoes, which have firmer support devices and are best for severe over-pronators, as well as tall, heavy (over 165) or bow-legged runners.

If you see just the heel, ball of your foot, and a thin line on the outside of your foot, you have a high arch, the least common foot type. This means your likely and under-pronator, or supinator, which can result in too much shock traveling up your legs since your arch doesn't collapse enough to absorb it. Under-pronators are best suited to neutral-cushioned shoes because they need a softer mid sole to encourage pronation. It's vital that an under-pronator's shoes have no added stability devices to reduce or control pronation.

What you should look for:

1. Your heel should fit snug, but not too tight. When laced up (but not tied) you should be able to slide you foot out. Lacing your shoe up through the final eyelet minimizes slippage. There will be some movement, but it should not be uncomfortable. Any irritation you feel in the store will be amplified when you hit the road.

2. You should feel snug and secure, not tight and pressured.

3. Your foot should be able to move side-to-side in the shoe's forefoot without crossing over the edge of the insole. You should be able to pinch a quarter inch of upper material along the widest part of your foot. If the shoe is too narrow, you'll feel the base of your little toe sitting on the edge of the shoe last.

4. Don't underestimate the importance of wiggle room. Feet swell and lengthen over a run, so make sure there's a thumb's width of space between your longest toe (which isn't always the big toe) and the end of the shoe. Someone besides you should measure this for you as you stand tall with shoes laced up.

5. Check for bends. You can do this by holding the heel and pressing the tip of the shoe into the floor. The shoe should bend and crease along the same line your foot flexes. An improperly aligned flex point can lead to arch pain of plantar fasciitis, while a lack of flexibility leads to achilles-tendon or calf strain.

6. Go for a quick jog. Knowing your arch type isn't the whole story, and you won't get a good feel for shoes just standing there. Many running stores have treadmills you can hop on, or you can just step out side and jog back and forth on the sidewalk.

Avoid these mistakes

1. Don't buy for looks. As I mentioned before, it's really important to not let your concern for fashion cloud your judgement.

2. Don't forget to ask for deals. When paying, ask if there are discounts available for running club members. Most specialty stores offer discounts (usually 10 to 20%).

3. Don't buy shoes that are too small. Women are especially guilty of this, as many for some reason equate smaller shoe size with femininity, and we are also used to wearing shoes that are more close-fitting. Tight-fitting shoes lead to blisters and black toe nails - now THAT is unfeminine.

4. Be cognoscente of the time of day you go shopping. Your feet start swelling in the morning and don't stop until around 4 p.m. That is as big as they are going to get, so do your shoe shopping in the evening.

5. Don't assume your size. Just because you are a size 8 in a Nike shoe doesn't mean you will be a size 8 in New Balance. Have your feet measured every time you buy, and always try the shoe on for fit.

In part 2 of my post, I will break down the different brands available to you, and what their strengths and weaknesses are for your respective foot type. 

(images from google images)

1 comment:

  1. The post might not look such if the images are not present in this post :)