I went into a sporting goods store the other day because I wanted to get a new pair of running shoes. I asked him which shoes he thought were the best cushioned shoes. He told me he didn’t know anything about that, but “this is the most popular shoe, and is the best seller.” From the novice point of view that sounds pretty good, if everyone else likes this shoe should be good for me. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Lucky for me, I knew better so I left, and I want to help you get into the right shoe. In my experience, more pain and discomfort from running has come from improper shoes than any other source.
There are three basic kinds of running shoes. Each shoe is based on what your arch does when you run. Each is explained below and what pronation means. Many of you might have heard that you over pronate and if you didn’t want to feel dumb and ask what is that, I will take care of you in this article.
Pronation is how your foot rolls when it lands on the ground. During normal pronation, your foot will hit on the outside of your foot and roll inward slightly and then push straight forward (neutral arch). Over pronation is where the foot when it rolls inwards continues to roll inward more than forward (low arch). If you are watching people walk from behind it looks like people’s ankles are buckling inward when they walk. It is very common with people who are overweight or have flat feet. Under pronation is where the foot when it lands on the ground stays on the outside of the foot (high arch). It looks like a person is running on the outside edge of their shoes.
The best way to find out what kind of arch you have is to go to a specialty running store that tests people’s arches. Most will do this for free, if you buy your shoes there. If you are going to do it at home there is a test you can easily do. First take off your shoes and socks and be completely bare foot. Next find a piece of blank, white, copy paper. Fill up your bath tub with just a little water and place one foot in the water. You don’t need much water. Then place your wet foot onto the piece of paper, hold for a couple of seconds and then lift off. You should see an imprint of your arch. If you can see the balls of your feet, a thin line which is your arch, and your heel you have a neutral arch. If you see your balls of your feet, a thick arch line, and your heel you have a low arch. If you see your balls of your feet, no to barely an arch, and then your heel, you have a high arch.
Cushioned shoes are for those people who have mid to high arches. They typically are biomechanically efficient runners which mean their feet land right at the front edge of the heel closes to the toes. These shoes provide maximal cushioning to absorb the shock of your feet striking the ground. Cushioned shoes also have minimal medial arch support, which means if you are an over-pronator in these shoes your feet will have no support.
Motion Control Shoes
Motion control shoes are for low arches or over-pronators. These shoes have good medial support or what is called a roll bar. This support keeps your foot from rolling too far inward, keeping your arch pushing more forward. Also, these shoes have excellent rear heal support as most over-pronators strike the ground to far back in their heel. If you are more than 20 pounds overweight there is a good chance you need motion control shoes. This is a rule of thumb though and I would still get my arched checked before buying shoes.
Stability shoes are the best of both worlds. If you over-pronate a little these shoes are for you. They combine excellent cushioning with some medial support. There runners have good biomechanics which means they strike the ground in the front edge of the heel closes to the toes and roll a little inward and forward through the foot.
Running shoes are not just about the money you spend or how great they look. Make sure you put your shoes on in the store and walk around in them for awhile. If you buy them online make sure the store will take them back if they don’t fit, no questions asked. Running shoes should fit good the day you buy them. You don’t break in running shoes. Breaking in running shoes means breaking your foot every time you run. Pick the right running shoes and your feet will want to kiss you.