Whether you are new to the running game, or starting a new kind of activity like hiking or cross training, picking out the right kind of shoe can be a stressful task. As a podiatrist and an athlete, I will tell you that it is very important to find a athletic shoe that fits your specific needs. So here’s a few tips to help simplify the process. Happy shopping.
1. The shoe should fit the activity
The first step is to decide which activity you want the shoes for. Do you like to run on the road or on trails? Do you spend most of the time cross training in the gym doing classes like Zumba or Body Pump? Road running shoes are designed to be light and flexible with cushion and not a lot a tread. Trail running shoes add aggressive tread to provide protection while on rocks and uneven ground. Cross training shoes are designed to provide more contact with the ground while still giving you support and comfort. So make sure you think about what activities you will primarily be wearing these shoes for.
2. Find out your foot type
Now that you have a primary activity in mind, we can we start to look at your foot type. Typically, shoes are made for 3 different foot types.
The most common are neutral pronation shoes. This is for people whose arch is maintained during the gait cycle. When you strike the ground, initially your heel will slightly pronate or turn outward to allow for shock absorption. You may notice slight wear on the inside portion of your shoes at the heel.
The next is overpronatation. This is for people who are generally more flat footed and their arch is not maintained during the gait cycle. In this foot type you will notice excessive wear on the inside of the heel of your shoes and wear along the inside at the ball of your foot. For this foot type, added stability is placed into the shoe along the arch to help prevent your arch from collapsing. Often you will notice a different color of material along the midsole of the shoe, which is generally stiffer then the remaining portion of the sole.
The last type of shoe is for people who have high arches, or who supinate (also called underpronation). In this foot type you will notice excessive wear on the outside of the heel and along the outside of the ball of the foot. This is the least common in runners, but with this foot type, added cushioning and flexibility is necessary.
3. Now it’s time to try them on
The most important thing is comfort. Try to shop for shoes later in the day when your feet are generally a little more swollen. You will want about a thumbnail width in added length at the end of the shoes, but the width should be snug. You do not want to feel like you are sliding around in the shoe. Consider having your feet measured to ensure a proper fit. Also, if you wear orthotics, bring them with you to make sure they will fit appropriately.
When it comes to brands of shoes, I have tried multiple over the years. Generally, most are made similarly with the different characteristics I have mentioned above. I typically will defer to comfort over a certain brand and recommend you try various brands to see which one you find the most comfortable. Most runners I talk to have found one they love, and will keep going back to that brand and model of shoe.
And one final tip. If you are experiencing a training-related injury like plantar fasciitis, tendonitis or a stress fracture, don’t keep running on it as can make things worse.
Just take a break and come see us. We can help get you back on track as quickly as possible.
If you need to be fitted for an athletic shoe, go see our friends at Runners Roost and tell them we sent you! They can help you find the perfect shoe for you.