Shoes are a runner’s best friend… or foe, depending on how they fit. My first running shoes were a pair of bright blue Adidas with white stripes and spikes. They were made for sprinters and I was a distance runner at our tiny high school in the mountains of Idaho. My coach didn’t know the difference; perhaps there weren’t any differences in the mid-70s for sprinting and distance runners. Luckily, I didn’t suffer injury, but running was a painful sport. In the ensuing decades, running shoes have evolved into 4 categories: Neutral (Cushioned) shoes, Stability Shoes, Motion Control shoes and Minimalist running shoes for elite runners (these look like my old sprinters with a tractioned sole–aaah the circle of life continues!). Now there is a shoe for every foot and running is more pleasure, and less pain.
Finding the right shoe is the key to pain-free running. Determining your running mechanics will determine the type of shoe right for you. Although your running mechanics are caused by many factors, we can find out your basic category by looking at two things: how your foot hits the ground and the height of your arch.
Are your arches low, medium or high? The easiest way to tell which type of arch you have is to step on a piece of paper after showering when your bare feet are still wet. If you have a low arch, your foot will have hardly any curve on the medial side of the foot. If you have a medium arch, you will see the classic footprint, with a curved instep. If you have high arches, the middle of your foot will barely be visible on the piece of paper, only about a one inch along the outside of your mid-foot will be traced. The type of arch you have largely determines how you land on your foot while running.
In runningadvisor.com, they state:
The 3 most common types of running mechanics are:
1.High Arch and Under-pronation foot mechanics—Need to buy neutral or cushioned shoes
2.Medium Arch and normal pronation foot mechanics—Need to buy stability shoes
3.Low Arch and Over-pronation foot mechanics—Need to buy motion-control shoes
A good way to tell how your foot lands when you walk or run is to examine a worn pair of your shoes. Look at the ball of the sole and note where it shows the most wear and tear. If the worn down part is on the outside, you tend to under-pronate your foot. If the worn part is on the inside edge of the sole, you over-pronate. Most people tend to pronate a little, but if the wear is mostly even across the ball of the foot, you have normal foot mechanics. Although you can get a coach and train yourself to run with almost normal mechanics, good shoes will correct many running deficiencies.
If you are a runner with normal arches, you would normally need stability running shoes as they do not change your running style, but support it.
The best stability running shoes are designed to provide cushioning and a secure foot so your foot will not develop bad habits when you get fatigued. The cushioning is focused on the arch and heel. Although heelstrikes were advocated for years, many running experts now feel that a midsole strike is less shocking to your skeleton, minimizing shin splints and alignment problems in the ankle or knee. In stability shoes, both arch and the heel are protected. As your foot rolls through the stride, leaving the ground via your big toe, your foot remains aligned, without rolling inward or outward. Because there is no excessive pronating (or rolling inward) taking place, stability shoes do not need the bulkier, heavier foam or gel cushioning on the inner arch like motion control shoes have. Therefore, stability shoes are lighter than motion control shoes.
Many runners buy at online shoe stores. Because my feet are so wide, I do not feel comfortable buying shoes I have not tried on, but most online stores offer shoes in every width as well as every size. If you go to a retail store to buy, go in the afternoon when your feet are the largest. Running expands your feet too. If you try on the shoes, here are a few tips for a proper fit:
- Check the length—there should be space for your thumb between the end of the big toe and the end of the shoes.
- Check the width—the shoes should not pinch across the ball of the foot. Debunk the old myth that shoes are supposed to hurt when you first buy them and you “break them in” by wearing them. Shoes should be comfortable everywhere when you try them on in the store; if they are not, do NOT buy them!
- Adjust the laces so your foot is comfortably supported; not moving around and not too tight. Running with the laces too tight can cause tendon strain around the ankle and knee.
- See that the heel does not slip up and down—a recipe for blisters. If it does, find a ½ size smaller.
Top Ten Best Stability Running Shoes—These shoes range in price from $90-150, and were chosen by the experts at American Academy of Podiatry, Runners’ world, Consumersearch.com, and runningadvisor.com, for their stability, flexibility and lightweight features. The cushioning is either gel or foam, but all these shoes have won awards or raves from doctors, runners and running experts. I found a pair of the Asics GT-2160 on sale for $50 in a department store. Last year’s version is cheaper and still a great shoe.
1. Asics GT-2170 New generation of the Asics GT-2160
2. Brooks Adrenaline GTS
3. Saucony ProGrid Mirage
4. Asics Gel Kayano 18
5. Mizuno Wave Nirvana 7
6. Mizuno Wave Alchemy
7. Nike LunarGlide
8. Saucony ProGrid Hurricane
9. Adidas Supernova Sequence
10. New Balance 817