Running Shoe Fundamentals

by EJN Comments (0) Articles, Product Reviews, Training

By Ian Nurse, DC

Many running related injuries can be prevented by wearing the right running shoes. In this issue of Body Shop, I want to focus on some fundamentals that will help you pick the right shoe for your feet. But before we do that, let’s talk about why the proper shoe is so im-portant.

Shoes are the basis of proper biomechanical alignment of the kinetic chain (hip→knee→ankle→foot) which is a crucial com-ponent in preventing repetitive stress injuries in runners. Your foot is the base of support in the kinetic chain. Think of setting a train on the wrong set of tracks. Breakdown!

This kinetic chain leads us to pronation. What is it and why is everyone scared of it? Pronation, or the rolling in of the ankle upon foot strike, is actually a vital part of locomotion and is the body’s most effective way of absorbing the stress that is placed on it during running. Running creates a force that is five times one’s body weight. Without pronation, the entire kinetic chain would face a pretty massive jolt with each footstep. Pronation only becomes a problem in excess, either in the form of over-pronation or underpronation. This excessive pronation is one of the most significant contributing factors to running injuries such as IT band syndrome, shin splits, plantar fasciitis, and patellofemoral pain syndrome.

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Let’s look at some important factors when being fitted for shoes:

  • Weekly mileage
  • Injury history
  • Orthotic use
  • Previous success or failure with footwear

Mileage: replace your shoes every 300-500 miles and possi-bly sooner depending on environment (temperature), running gait (heel v. mid/forefoot strike), duration between use, and stature.

Size: properly fitting running shoes are usually . to a full size larger than your typical dress shoe due to the typical swelling of one’s feet, and to reduce the likelihood of bruised toenails and blistering.

Blisters: While annoying and painful, unfortunately, they do happen. To minimize their occurrence always wear a good pair of synthetic (wicking) socks and make sure your shoes are the right size.

Proper break-in mileage: usually after 20-30 miles, shoes have molded to the contours of your feet. Expect more time if one is switching between brands and levels of support.

Lacing: there isn’t one right way to lace your shoes! Lacing is a common cause of pressure spots and discomfort. Don’t be afraid to try a different lacing style (i.e. stair-stepping or Lydiard) to help take some of the pressure off. As long as the shoe is staying on your foot, the laces are doing their job.

Multiples: two pairs are better than one. While shoes can be quite expensive, it’s actually cost effective to alternate your training runs between two different pairs of shoes. This practice will not only extend the life of your shoes but will also help prevent injuries by allowing the cushioning of your shoes to return to its pre-run state.

Minimalist: while it’s quite the rage right now, special considerations need to be made before making the switch. In general, minimalist shoes are an important, but often very risky, tool within your training toolbox. For runners of all levels, it can be a great supplemental means of strengthening your legs; however, it’s one that requires professional advice and counseling.

Cost: unlike cars, a sneaker’s higher price tag does not inherently imply that it’s a better shoe than the moderately priced one.

With so many styles, colors, and brands of running shoes, one has quite a selection from which to choose. It can be overwhelming. The best advice is to ask an expert. Go to a running specialty store that can analyze your stride. Many stores now are equipped with treadmills and video cameras that are an excellent tool for examining an individual’s gait cycle. With that said, here are some things that you should look for:

1. Cushioning is not the only thing a shoe provides: a properly fitted shoe will also work with the biomechanics of your body to make you the most efficient runner possible and keep you injury free.

2. Forget about what the shoe looks like. Yes, we all want to look cool while we run, but find one that works for your foot and appeals to you aesthetically. Those super cool shoes won’t look very good in your closet collecting dust while you nurse your latest injury.

Make picking out your next pair of running shoes a well informed experience that is fundamental!

Ian Nurse works at Active Recovery Boston. You can reach him at drnurse@activerecoveryboston.com. This article originally appeared in the Jul/Aug 2014 issue of Level Renner. Get your free subscription today (box in upper right portion of screen). Since it’s all free, the little things like getting on our subscriber list go a long way in helping us grow!
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