Selecting and Effectively Using Running Shoes

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Running shoes should be selected after careful consideration. With so many brands and styles of shoes on the market today, it is important to find the best fit for your feet and your needs.

Consider the following when choosing a running shoes:

  • Shoe size: the most common mistake in shoe selection is picking the wrong size. Be sure the shoe fits after break-in.
  • Past experiences with shoes.
  • Problems with your current shoes.
  • Biomechanical needs (arch type, pronation, orthopedic injuries).
  • Environmental conditions.
  • Running and racing requirements.

FINDING A SHOE TO FIT YOUR FOOT CHARACTERISTICS

Carefully select shoes that fit the length and width of your feet. Determine what shoe shape you require based on your foot type. The wet test can be used to determine your foot type. Moisten your foot with water, and stand on any surface that will leave an imprint of your foot.

Normal Arch: A normal foot has a normal-sized arch and leaves an imprint that has a flare but shows the forefoot and heel connected by a wide band. A normal foot lands on the outside of the heel then rolls inward (pronates) slightly to absorb shock. Runners with a normal foot and normal weight are usually considered biomechanically efficient. Stability shoes work best for a normal foot and normal arch.

Low Arch: Flat feet have a low arch and leave a nearly complete imprint of the sole of the foot, indicating an overpronated foot that strikes on the outside of the heel and rolls inward excessively. Motion-control shoes work best for a flat foot with a low arch.

High Arch: High-arched feet leave an imprint showing a very narrow band connecting the forefoot and heel. This type of foot is underpronated and is not an effective shock absorber. Cushioned shoes work for a rigid foot with a high arch. Old shoes also show a pattern of wear that helps determine running style. Examine the soles of your shoes for a pattern of wear. Next, put your shoes on a table and look from the back of the shoe to the heel. If your shoe tilts to the inside, you may have a low arch. If your shoe tilts to the outside, you may have a high arch.

GUIDELINES FOR PURCHASING SHOES

Purchase running shoes from a good running shoe store or from someone knowledgeable about matching the correct type of shoe to your foot type and stride pattern. They can help you find the perfect fit that meets your needs.

Watch for shoes with excessive wear. Worn shoes often amplify a foot problem, and injuries can occur when a shoe is worn too long before it is replaced.

Analyze the need to purchase new shoes based on the number of miles on your old shoes, not by the amount of tread left on the outer soles. Most estimates place midsole breakdown, and increased potential for injury, between 400-500 miles. For some, this means replacing shoes before they show major wear.

OTHER RUNNING SHOE CONSIDERATIONS

Most people (85 percent) wear shoes that are too small. Shoe size varies among manufacturers. Have the shoe clerk help you select the correct shoe size. The shoe should have adequate room at the widest part of the foot. The shoe shouldn’t be tight, but it shouldn’t slide around either. Your heel should also fit snugly into the rear of the shoe.

Try shoes on later in the day, and bring the socks you normally run in. Try on several pairs of shoes in the category closest to your foot type. Make sure you try on both shoes since the sizes of your feet can be slightly different, and keep them on your feet for about ten minutes to make sure they are comfortable. Most good stores will allow you to run up and down the block to experience what running will feel like in the shoes.

Consider purchasing two pairs of running shoes. Alternating their use increases the life expectancy of each pair.

Once you’ve purchased new shoes, run easily in the shoes for a short distance. It is important to allow sufficient time, between 60-70 miles, to break in the new pair.

After you have wisely selected your new running shoes, take them home, put them on and enjoy the run!

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Reprinted with permission of the American College of Sports Medicine. Copyright © 2011 American College of Sports Medicine. This brochure was created and updated by Shannon Crumpton and is a product of ACSM’s Consumer Information Committee. Visit ACSM online at www.acsm.org.

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