There are an enormous number of choices in running shoes these days. Virtually every manufacturer offers a variety of styles, fits and prices — enough to overwhelm any buyer. The key is to analyze your own foot and then find the shoe that best suits your physique.
What Kind of Foot Do You Have?
For the purposes of running, feet can be divided into three categories:
Flat Footed/Pronated – The foot strikes on the outside of the heel and rolls inward, often leading to overuse injuries (60% of the population has this).
High-Arched Footed/Supinated – The foot is rigid, doesn’t roll inward and is not an effective shock absorber (30%).
Neutral – You land on the outside of the heel and roll inward slightly to absorb shock — the most biomechanically sound type of runner (only 10%).
Different Shoes for Different Feet
Once you’ve analyzed your feet you can choose the best pair of shoes.
If you are Flat Footed/Pronated:
• Look for a straight or semi-curved last for stability and maximum support for the inside of the foot (the last is the basic shape of the shoe and can be straight, semi-curved or curved).
• Look for features like a medial post (a stiff material on the inner side of the shoe) to help reduce overpronation or rolling in.
• Look for a dense, durable polyurethane midsole for moderate cushioning and greater stability.
• Look for a carbon rubber outsole for greater durability.
If you are High-Arched Footed/Supinated:
• Look for a semi-curved or curved last to encourage foot motion. You are not likely to need any additional medial support.
• Look for EVA cushioning, which will provide softer cushioning and lighter weight than polyurethane.
• Look for a softer, lighter outsole with greater flexibility.
• Some shoes combine heavier, more durable carbon rubber in the heel area with lightweight blown rubber in the forefoot to make the shoe more flexible.
If you are Neutral/Ideal:
• Look for a straight or semi-curved last.
• A medial post is good for motion control. A medial post is a stiff material on the inner side of the shoe to help reduce overpronation or rolling in.
• Look for a shoe with moderate cushioning, such as a 2-density midsole. The blend of EVA’s lightweight cushioning and polyurethane’s density and durability offers a nice mix of cushioning and stability.
• Look for a durable carbon rubber outsole or an outsole that combines carbon rubber with a lighter weight, softer blown rubber in the forefoot.
A good pair of running shoes should last 400-500 miles. Polyurethane mid-soles may not have the cushioning effect of EVA, but they tend to be more durable. The best way to tell if you need new shoes is to look at the soles. If they are worn or uneven, it’s time for a new pair.
While you’ll probably never be a world-class marathoner, proper running technique will make you more efficient.
Hands – Don’t clench your fist — that tenses up your forearm and impedes proper shoulder motion. Don’t carry anything (like a water bottle, iPod) that can cause your torso to rotate.
Posture – Keep straight and erect, with head up and back straight.
Shoulders – Keep your shoulders back and shoulder blades pulled down toward your back pockets. Move arms from the shoulder to save energy.
Elbows – Swing at 90°, pulled close to body (if elbows flare out, arm action will be less efficient and upper body mechanics will suffer).
Don’t Bounce – Keep your stride as low to the ground as possible. Too much up-and-down movement wastes energy. Plus, the higher you lift yourself off the ground, the greater shock you must absorb and the faster your legs will fatigue.
Use the “Wet Test” to Determine What Kind of Feet You Have
1. Get your foot wet.
2. Then step on a surface, such as a sidewalk or a piece of dark construction paper, which will show an imprint of your foot.
3. The characteristics of the imprint will determine your foot type:
• Flat Footed/Pronated — Your feet are pronated if a complete impression of your foot can be seen.
• High-Arched Footed/Supinated — Your feet are supinated if there is a large open area on the imprint where the arch of your foot didn’t touch the ground.
• Neutral/Ideal — Your feet are neutral/ideal if a moderate space is visible in the arch area.
The Basics of Stretching
Academic studies conflict on how effective stretching is to prevent injuries. However, there’s general agreement that stretching is more important after you run, to aid in muscle recovery. Stretching before exercise certainly won’t hurt, but what is most important is to warm up — take the first mile or two easy
to acclimate your body.
Some good post-running stretches:
Heel Drops – Stand on a curb with your front feet and drop your heels. Count to 5, lift again. Repeat 5-10 times. (Helps prevent Achilles tendinitis).
Calf Raises – Stand on the ground, lift your heels, count to 5, lift again. Repeat 5-10 times. (Helps prevent shin splints).
Calf Stretch – Stand against the wall, palms on the wall. Put one leg forward (bent) and one leg straight back, heel on the ground. Count to 10, alternate and repeat twice.
Quadriceps Stretch – Stand straight on one foot, bend the other leg backward with foot against backside. Hold foot, slowly count to 10. Alternate and repeat twice. (For balance, you may need to hold on to a pole or street light).