It might seem like a simple task, picking your next running shoe. Just pick the one that looks coolest, has some cushioning, and is pricey enough to offer quality… right?
There are now more running shoe options on the market than ever before, each of them offering different claims about comfort, speed, injury-prevention, and technology. While having so many choices is great, it can also be overwhelming and hard to narrow down just what it is you actually need.
Why is the “right” shoe important?
Finding a running shoe that works for you is more important than you might think. Every body, stride, and running form is slightly different, meaning what you may need from a running shoe is different than what your running partner needs.
A running shoe that fits your needs can promote stability throughout your kinetic chain, which ultimately prevents injury and irritation. A good shoe also can encourage natural running form and correct muscle activations in your lower body. Lastly, a boot that fits your running style will help you find a natural foot strike and cadence to keep you floating down the run path.
Picking any old shoe off the shelf can lead to basic things like blisters and foot discomfort, but also to more serious situations like joint and muscle dysfunction. The last thing anyone wants is to end up at a provider’s (although we do have some awesome providers!) office because a shoe threw off their natural run form, causing the patient injury and frustration.
How to pick the “right” shoe
The first place to start is to understand what type of foot strike pattern you have: pronation or supination.
Pronation is the most common foot strike pattern, and means that the medial bones in the midtarsal region of the foot and ankle rotate inward. Basically, when you walk, you put your weight more on the inside of your ankle and foot than the outside region.
Supination is the opposite! Supination means that the foot and leg roll outward, creating an elevated arch and bracing most of the body’s weight on the outside part of the ankle and foot. Supination is more rare, but thousands of people still strike this way.
A DIY-way to see which way you strike is to look at the soles of your shoes. If the inside tread of the sole is worn, you likely pronation. If the outside tread is more worn, you probably supinate.
A surefire way to understand your strike is to visit a running store or provider who offers gait analysis. Usually free or relatively inexpensive, gait analysis by a professional will give you a great starting point for not only choosing a running shoe, but for strength and functional movement regimens, too.
After understanding what kind of footstrike you naturally achieve, think carefully about the types of distances you usually run per week. Longer distance or higher mileage runners may want to choose a more cushioned, durable shoe. Those who focus on short distances may want to consider a highly responsive and lightweight boot.
How footstrike affects shoe choice
One of the most critical aspects of selecting a running shoe revolves around your footstrike.
A “stability” shoe offers the capability of offsetting the inward-rolling motion a pronating strike creates. The stability in the shoe prevents excessive inward rolling of the ankle, and also offers some arch reinforcement to prevent the arch from completely collapsing.
Many running stores will group shoes by “stability” and “neutral,” but a key way to easily tell if a shoe is meant for pronators is to again look at the sole. Most stability shoes have a hard plastic or rubber piece right under the arch location in the sole. This is the part of the shoe that offers the stability that is key to preventing injury and ankle rolling in pronators.
A “neutral” shoe will likely have no hard plastic or rubber reinforcement in the sole. Neutral shoes are often just rubber sole and allow the foot to move freely and roll outward without being inhibited by a stiff sole. Again – just flip the shoe over to do a quick check of the sole to determine if the shoe is neutral.
Still feeling overwhelmed by the shoe buying process? Many of our GritLink providers are runners themselves and also experienced in offering counsel on the right shoe for a runner based on the runner’s mobility, range of movement, and past injuries. Book a consultation with one of our awesome providers today!
By Kristin Goett. Kristin is a social media marketing and public relations professional who currently resides in the Denver area. A triathlete herself, Kristin knows firsthand how important it is to have access to great providers. When she isn’t checking Instagram or posting to Facebook, Kristin is spending her days in the Colorado mountains and training for her next Ironman.
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