Are your running shoes fit for you?

Are your running shoes fit for you?

If you choose your running footwear by its colour then you may find what’s to follow informative.

Running shoes are designed according to a runners foot type and how much (or little) support is required whilst running. Just like an orthotic your physio or podiatrist might prescribe, shoe manufacturers attempt to cater for the various types of feet that find their way in to their product as well as for the type of activity they will be used for.

Essentially, there are 3 main types of running shoe:

A neutral shoe has no arch control built in to the design of the shoe. When viewed from behind the inside and outside of the heel is level and the shoe appears flat. This suits runners that have good natural arch control OR for runners with foot control issues that are placing a custom made orthotic in to the shoe (so as not to effect the prescription of the orthotic further).

A stability shoe has a moderate amount of in built prescription (or arch support). Different companies do this in different ways. One common way is to use a different density foam on the inside arch of the sole (as seen below). Often this appears a different colour so is an obvious feature of a stability or motion control shoe.

A motion control shoe has more arch support again built in. It typically has more of a reinforced upper at the arch just above the mid sole. It may have a reasonably thick inner sole with less drop from the rear to the front of the sole (i.e. more forefoot support). This is typically for runners with severely uncontrolled flat feet issues that haven’t gone to the lengths of having a custom orthotic constructed.

Other types:

Lightweight shoes (left) offer little support and are best suited for track sessions where volume is low but speed is high.

Cross-trainers are classically designed for sports use requiring more side to side or stop start activity. They are generally heavier, with more firm construction in the uppers, and more cushioning in the sole. They also have a wider sole (or last) and can have a lateral flare on the heel (which offers more stability when cutting or changing direction). For this reason, they are not a good option as a straight line running shoe.

Barefoot shoes (right) generally aren’t much more than a sock with more padding for your sole. Other constructions are more open and aren’t much more than a thong that is strapped to the ankle like a sandal.

Trail Shoes are much the same as cross trainers in that they may have a slightly broader outer sole to stabilise on uneven terrain. Additionally they have more cushioning for the foot built in to the sole and deeper tread patterns to avoid slipping.

Combinations. New designs in off road or trail shoes are slimming down, either catering for a barefoot market or an adventure racing one where there is a likelihood of trudging through water. A barefoot trail combines a light weight construction with low or no in built prescription but has enough features in the outersole to still remain useful on uneven or loose surfaces.

The bottom line:

1) Have some understanding of your foot type – if you don’t know, call in and ask us. The Athletes Foot also use a pressure plate that can loosely assess your type and is better than no assessment at all.

2) Buy a reputable “Running shoe” brand based on your foot type and comfort – not what colour they are! They are constructed for runners and have the material to support your foot appropriately. Ask the retailer what type of shoe you are buying.

3) Feel your shoe, twist, bend and squeeze it.

– There should be only a small amount of longitudinal torsion or twist.

– Try to push the toe box over the top of the laces – it should only bend where your toes would bend.

– Squeeze the heel cup between your finger and thumb, it should be very firm, almost hard so as to stabilize your rearfoot.

Do this with your runners from time to time as they age to test how well the foam and rubber is still resisting these forces. If they screw up like an old chip packet, it’s time to get some new wheels.

Chris Dillon, B.Phty, M.Phty (Sports) Sports Physiotherapist

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