Today, I’m going to tell you a love story. Nope, not the bodice ripping, jaw-dropping, heart pounding love fest you were hoping for (keep your mind out of the gutter.) This story is about feet.
Do I have your attention now?
Once upon a time, there were two feet who decided that after trying tap dancing, pointe ballet and high heels, they were going to start running.
The running started modestly with short two or three mile jaunts in a trusty old pair of sneakers that the feet had relied upon for several years. You know the type of shoes I’m talking about: They were flashy, and really cool and even the high heels were a little jealous of them. But the shoes were not very supportive and they squished the toes too.
Yep, they were that kind of shoe.
However, the feet were a tolerant bunch and so they figured that these problems were the normal sort that every couple experiences and they would work themselves out in time.
Spring turned into summer, and the feet started running longer and faster distances. But by midsummer, the honeymoon glow had dulled, and a nagging pain started up in the knees and soon spread to the bottom of the feet – before too long even walking was unbearable.
The feet, pretty sure that they were out of the running business forever, went to the doctor’s for an official confirmation.
But the doctor wasn’t ready to relegate the feet to a life of walking. The prescription: new shoes and orthotics.
Skeptical that the shoe was the source of the problems, the feet decided to take a trial break with the fancy shoes and try something else. After a nerve racking session at the running store, the feet found themselves toe to toe with the polar opposite of the old shoes.
These new shoes were sturdy and practical, and their insoles came out so that orthotics could be placed inside the. The feet were skeptical. After all the shoes were boring white, completely off-trend and not very cool.
After a few weeks of rest, the feet finally got up the courage to take a run in the new shoes. Surprisingly, the run was effortless and painless. Before long, the feet and shoes were running all over the big city, miles and miles of pain free running. The feet knew that they had found the one.
Some months later, the feet and shoes took the big plunge and ran a marathon together. And they lived happily ever after.
Ok, but seriously so you want to know about how to find the perfect running shoe?
Well, I am going to give you the simplest, best advice ever. It’s the only thing you really need to know about shoes: Go to a running store and ask the sales people to pick one out for you.
Here’s what they’ll do: When you get to the store, they’ll assess your foot pronation. A good store will ask you to run to assess your gait (some might ask you to simply walk around, but you should really run in sneakers to get the right assessment).
Foot pronation refers to the way that the body weight is distributed during a step. There are three types:
Normal pronation: The distribution of weight is even throughout the entire step.
Over pronation: The foot rolls inward after making contact with the ground.
Under pronation: The foot rolls outward after making contact with the ground.
Check out this article and the videos for more information. The videos really help.
Then, the running store will do an arch test. You can assess your own by doing a test on a paper bag. (The running store clerks are usually pretty good as sizing up an arch by sight.) Get a paper bag that you aren’t going to use anymore, dip your feet in some water and then step on the paper bags. Don’t get your feet too wet, because you want to be able to see your foot prints.
Flat feet: The entire shape of your foot is imprinted on the paper.
Low arch: There is a small dry area on the inside middle portion of your foot.
Average arch: The dry area extends to the middle of the foot, to two-thirds of the way.
High arch: The dry area extends almost across the foot. A thin line connecting the ball and heel may or may not be visible.
The running clerk will recommend a shoe based upon your pronation. I wear a nuetral shoe from Brooks called Ghost 3. I have stuck with the Brooks neutral line for the last five years, only changing up the shoes to get lighter models. The running store will be able to help you find a shoe that fits your arch type and gait, but beware of these things:
(1) Pronation may change over time. I was once a severe under pronater, and now have a very neutral gait. The shoes changed my running style.
(2) Custom arch supports are necessary for every runner. You might not need orthotics like me, but do expect that you will have to buy separate insoles.
(3) Good running shoes always have removable insoles.
(4) Expect to buy running shoes 1 to 2 sizes larger than other shoes. They should be really loose when you try them on unless you have just run for several hours. Your feet swell during running so you need to have room for them to swell. (Sometimes after long, hot runs in the summer, my feet don’t fit into many of my high heels –eek!)
(5) Make sure the running store assesses your gait while running. It could be completely different than when walking.
(6) While you’re at it, get running socks, as they will help prevent blisters. A lot of blisters from running are just caused by sweaty cotton socks that are rubbing at the skin. (In fact, cotton is pretty much the enemy when running. The only mostly cotton thing I wear are men’s undershirts.)
(7) Replace shoes every 300-400 miles. You don’t need to be super diligent about this. I can usually tell when I need new ones because a whole host of aches will suddenly spring up during a run. You can just estimate your total mileage on the shoes.
(8) Run around in the store on the shoes. I don’t care if you feel dumb doing it. You will feel dumber if you take the shoes home and find out you can’t stand to run for one minute in them.
(9) Go to a running store, if at all possible. Most running stores will let you try out the shoes and actually run in them, with a full exchange policy. If you don't have a running store close by, try a sporting goods store. Try to avoid going to a department store or shoe warehouse. If you really don't have access to these places, try using this site to help you find a good shoe. (It's not the best site but should help you narrow down some models, which you can then make a list of and try on at the store. Also, note that Asics, Brooks, Mizuno or Nike are the most popular running shoe brands.)
The cardinal rule of a good running shoe is that it should feel good to run the moment you put them on. There is no break in period where you suffer through blisters or have to stretch out the shoe. They need to fit right and feel 100% awesome immediately.
So before you start whining about how running hurts all your joints in the your legs and maybe a few in your arms, make sure you’ve got the right shoes on your feet and that they still have some miles in them.