The low down on running shoes

In 1960 Abebe Bikila created a stir at the Olympics. Not just by being the first East African to win a medal, but by doing it barefoot. Years later in 1984 Zola Budd did it again. Both athletes subsequently began wearing running shoes due to injuries, which suggests that shoes might be best. But not all running shoes are created equal.

So, how do you choose a running shoe? Obviously, the colour is the most important thing! No? OK, well maybe not. But when there are so many shoes on the market, and most of them are pretty comfortable, what should you look for that separates one from the pack?

Firstly, if you are serious about running, it is worthwhile getting a proper gait analysis from a qualified Podiatrist. This will tell you what type of foot you have:

  1. Flat feet – are generally very flexible. People with flat feet tend to overpronate – roll inwards on their feet. People with flat feet should generally aim for Stability shoes.
  2. Neutral – this is the most biomechanically sound structure for feet. People with a neutral gait can run in a wide range of shoes, but tend towards moderate stability shoes
  3. High Arches – tend to be rigid, which leads to supination – landing on the outer edge of the feet. These feet require a cushioned shoe with midsole padding and flexibility.

When choosing a size, aim to go for ½ to 1 size up from your normal shoe. About a centimetre, or a thumb-space is needed so you can wiggle your toes. It is also important to ensure the heel is snug and does not slip.

When looking at the structure of the shoe, there are four main areas to consider:

  1. Fore Foot
    As you might have guessed – this refers to the front of the shoe. It should be flexible in an upward direction, but not able to be bent downwards, or twisted sideways, as too much flexibility here can lead to injuries like ankle inversion strains.
  2. Outer Sole
    This is often made of differing types of materials, which can result in uneven breakdown or wear and tear, creating postural changes. This is where the type of shoe and level of stability versus flexibility is particularly important.
  3. Midsole
    This part of the shoe should be stiff to act as lever propulsion, and is therefore under a great deal of pressure when running. Since it is enclosed in the outer aspects of the shoe, it is easy to miss when this area begins to break down. Once this part of the shoe starts to become flexible, it is important to replace the shoes, as this flexibility can lead to instability and therefore injury.
  4. Heel Counter
    This is the cup at the rear of the shoe which holds the heel in place. If this part of the shoe does not fit properly, blistering, sprains and Achilles tendon injuries can result.

Finally, running shoes should be replaced every 500-600 kms, depending on the surface. Worn out shoes are one of the biggest causes of injury in runners.

If you think you are in need of new runners, it really is worthwhile to have a Gait Analysis first. Not only will it help narrow down the enormous range of options, but may save you wasting money on the wrong shoes, and help avoid injury.

If you would like a gait analysis, call or email the Clinic and book an appointment with our Podiatrist. Armed with the proper advice you really will just need to choose between the blue ones and the orange ones!

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