Hit the Ground Running

Choosing The Right Shoes

Runners have access to all types of high-tech gear. The choices are limitless including GPS enabled watches and cell-phone apps. The most important accessory, however, remains constant: shoes.

Improper running shoes can wreak havoc on the body. A runner who buys the wrong kind of shoes off of the sale rack may find their running career cut short by shin splints, foot pain, hip problems and other injuries. Putting a little time into finding the proper pair of running shoes is a worthwhile effort, but where should runners start?

Ira Kraus, DPM, FASPS, managing partner of Advanced Foot Care Centers and member of the national board of trustees for the American Podiatric Medical Association, recommends going to a store with knowledgeable salespeople. He explains, “Go to a running store that is experienced in fitting shoes. After getting measured for the appropriate size, try on a variety of different brands and find the one that you are most comfortable with. Once you know what brand you prefer, search for the right category of shoe.”

Arches and Pronation

woman tying her running shoes

To determine which type of shoe a runner needs, he or she must determine their individual pronation. Dr. Kraus explains, “Pronation is a collapsing of the arch when you run.” Proper or neutral pronation happens when the weight of each step is absorbed evenly across the foot. Underpronation or supination occurs when the outside of the foot absorbs most of the shock of each step, and overpronation occurs when the inside of the foot absorbs the bulk of the impact.

To determine pronation, runners can turn to a podiatrist or a trained shoe specialist. Dr. Kraus explains, “We can look at the wear pattern on a person’s shoe, and depending on the length of time and amount of wear and tear on the heel, we can determine the amount of pronation and if they are in the right shoe type.”

Another simple test that is used to determine individual pronation is called the “wet test.” This test, as described by TheRunningAdvisor.com, consists of wetting the bottom of each foot and standing normally on a dry paper bag for a minute. The imprint left after tracing the outline will reveal the degree of pronation for each individual. While the wet test does offer some insightful information, Dr. Kraus encourages runners to seek expert advice to determine their pronation.

Types of Shoes

Once runners have pinpointed their specific pronation, they can determine what type of shoe to purchase.

According to Dr. Kraus, there are four different types of running shoes:

  1. Motion control: for people weighing over 180 pounds or with flat feet (overpronation)
  2. Light stability: the most common running shoe with very little pronation, for people with neutral or proper pronation
  3. Neutral: very cushioned shoe, for a light person (under 180 pounds) and people who have a cavus or high-arched foot (underpronation)
  4. Completely unstructured: designed for the emerging trend of “barefoot” or alternative running

Using this information, along with finding the proper fit, runners can wade through the sea of different choices to find a shoe best-suited for their individual needs. Once they have found a good pair, Dr. Kraus encourages runners to shop around to save money, including online stores.

Finding a proper running shoe is a science based on individual variables. A little research and a trip to the podiatrist can do wonders for ensuring a pleasant, injury-free experience when you hit the ground running.

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