Are My Running Shoes Right for Me? 

running shoes
Chris Cooper
PT, DPT
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Shoes come in a myriad of shapes, sizes, colors, and fashion styles. We all wear shoes, and we wear different types of shoes for different types of activities. Finding the right shoe for the specific activity you are participating in can often be a confusing and complex process. Flashy advertising can be misleading, and you may end up buying a shoe that sure looks great and has a fancy name but is not the best for your foot or activity.

What’s the foot’s role in running?

Because your feet connect the rest of your body to the world, they play a vital role in keeping joints and structures functioning in a safe manner. Foot/ankle position during the stance phase of running, for instance, is key to avoiding injury in the knee, hip and lumbar spine. The forces through your foot/ankle/lower extremities increase 3-5 times your body weight during running, so small, intrinsic deformities can be significantly magnified in relation to body weight, lower extremity flexibility, length of run and running surface. The body’s ability to compensate to these forces is magnificent in general, but there is a breaking point when the weakest link tissue’s tolerance is exceeded, and injury develops.

One key to decreasing the probability of injury during running or prolonged walking is choosing a proper shoe for your foot. Shoes designed specifically for running tend to give the best support and come in enough varieties to fit a range of foot types.

The key to understanding foot types.

The three main foot types that most running shoe companies design shoes for include: 1) pronated (flat arch) foot, 2) supinated (high arch) foot, and 3) neutral (normal arch) foot. Pronated, supinated, and neutral are general terms that help identify approximate amounts of support needed in a shoe.

To assess your own foot type, one easy way to get a general idea is to look at your footprints in the sand. If you tend toward a pronated foot, your print will be fat or flat with little to no curve. A supinated foot will have a skinny and sometimes minimal print laterally (the outside part of the foot). A neutral foot will have a nice even print with curvature laterally.

Running_Stretch

Learning about different types of running shoes.

Most running shoe store salespersons should be able to identify your foot type and steer you toward a good shoe for you.

How do I make the proper shoe choice for injury prevention?

Wearing running shoes constructed for specific foot types, with the intention of 1) controlling motion (pronators), 2) providing extra cushioning (supinators), or 3) increasing stability (neutrals) should help runners to stabilize joints and minimize soft tissue vibration. This, in turn, can decrease peak pressures and relative load patterns in the lower extremities, which may then reduce injuries. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to theorize that matching a foot type to a proper shoe may reduce injuries.

All shoes, regardless of the amount of use, will begin to break down due to the properties of the internal materials after a certain amount of time. Even new shoes that have sat on the shelf (previous year models) or in the warehouse (shoe outlets) prior to being purchased may begin to break down faster than new models at specialty running shoe stores. In general, it has been suggested that running shoes should be replaced every 500 miles and/or every 6 months, whichever comes first.

Are your shoes properly supporting your body during running?

Physical therapists can help you assess your foot type and determine if the shoes you run in are right for your feet. If your feet ache after a run, you lose toenails or end up with blisters, or you develop plantar fasciitis, your shoes may not be giving you the support you need. Let us help!

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