Running shoes are the most basic equipment that a runner has. It gives you support where it is needed, absorbs shock from the impact, prevents road injuries and lets you perform better. For this very reason, the shoe market industry has grown vastly. These companies invested substantial amount and effort in incorporating new science and technologies to meet every runner’s needs.
For this very reason, there are hundreds of choices for running shoes that leave runners, especially those who are still beginners, clueless. While most of the running shoes will feel comfortable when you first try them on, the real test of the shoes’ performance and supporting abilities is when you hit several miles on the road. You can figure out that the ideal shoe for you won’t be your running buddy’s perfect shoe, not even the shoe’s brand, but has more to do with the shape of your foot and your running style.
The Wet Test and Gait Analysis
Your chances of landing in a quality pair of running shoes increases when you know your foot shape and your running gait. The “wet test” is a test to give you a basic idea of what kind of shoes you will need based on the height of your arch. You just have to take an imprint of your wet foot on a brown paper bag and examine the contours especially the band between the balls of the feet to the forefoot.
If the imprint shows almost your whole foot is left behind, with hardly any curving inwards where your arch is, then you have very low, flexible arches or flat feet. Most overpronating runners are flat-footed and they can be better off with stability or motion-control shoes.
On the other hand, if there is a very big curve between the ball of your foot and your heel or it might seems like the band between your heel and toe is non-existing, then you have high-arched feet. High-arched runners need more impact protection. It means that neutral-cushioned shoes are recommended for them.
If your foot is somewhere between the two descriptions mentioned before, then you have a normal arch. There is a slight curve inward but not too much. Depending on your weight, you can choose shoes from all running shoe categories.
On the other hand, the Gait Analysis is a more elaborate wet test that takes in your running gait style in consideration. It is conducted in shoe stores so the shoe specialist can correctly identify the ideal shoe for you. They will look at your foot in motion so they can assess the proper biomechanics and your rate of pronation. Pronation is the inward rolling of the foot. A biomechanically efficient runner is someone who follows the natural gait cycle: landing on the outside edge of heel and rolling through to push off from toes. If you have excessive inward rolling of foot, also known as overpronation, or excessive outward rolling of foot, or supination, you have poor biomechanics and more vulnerable to injuries. Getting your gait analyzed is very advantageous because you would be able to buy the correct footwear to avoid future problems.
The Four Shoe Categories
There are four main running shoe categories. Although most shoe manufacturers do not use the same categories when describing their footwear, you can easily identify that some shoe models can fall in between these four categories.
First category is the neutral-cushioned shoes. These shoes have maximized midsole cushioning but with minimal arch support. They are highly recommended for normal to high-arched runners or those who tend to midfoot or forefoot strike.
The second category is the motion-control shoes. These shoes have maximum stability and usually have support on the medial (the big toe – arch) side of the shoe. They are suitable for flat-footed runners who are moderate to severe overpronators. It is also recommended for heavy runners who seek supportive shoes.
The third category has a good balance on support and midsole cushioning and it is called stability shoes. These shoes are recommended for runners who have low to normal arches and have mild to moderate overpronation.
The first three are categorized by the runner’s biomechanical needs. In contrast, the fourth category, the performance shoes, are more specialized. They are recommended for racing and if used for training, by biomechanically efficient runners. Amongst the shoes, the performance shoes are the lightest. Because of their light weight, they usually have varying amount of support and cushioning.
Other Factors to Consider
Maybe you already have an idea what running shoe you should get but you also have to consider other factors that might help you in choosing your ideal shoe.
First, know where you strike the most and the hardest. You can look at your old shoes and observe the wear patterns of the shoe. You will need a pair that has extra cushioning to the area where you strike, also, a very durable outsole.
Second, if you are a supinator (you roll your foot outward), look for a shoe with soft midsole foam and a curved last. You must not use motion-control shoes especially those with medial post for stability.
Third, if you are wearing orthotics look, for shoes that are roomy enough to accommodate it. Most running shoes have removable sock liner and you can replace them with your orthotic. You can also consult your podiatrist to know what type of shoe would go well with it. The podiatrist will probably recommend a neutral-cushioned shoe with a lot of support or for extreme overpronators, a motion-controlled shoe.
Fourth, if you have wide feet look for running shoes with wide toe boxes. As a rule in picking the right size for a running shoe, there should be a thumb’s space between your longest toes to the end of the shoe. On the other hand, if you have narrow feet, there are lacing techniques to help you avoid slippage. You can also look at performance shoes as they tend to be narrow.
In conclusion, choosing a running shoe can be an overwhelming task. In determining how to choose a running shoe, your choice can make it or break it. Depending on it, you can run in comfort or in pain, or you can stay in shape or get injured.