Millions of Americans run on a regular basis. But because of the wrong shoes for the wrong person, millions of Americans also experience painful and often debilitating foot, ankle, and leg injuries that keep them off the road or track.
Wearing the wrong type of running shoe can hurt your body. These injuries – from plantar fasciitis to shin splints – can sideline you and keep you from exercising at all, which is the last thing we want.
But what is the “right” type of running shoe? Aren’t they all the same? They’re not – and understanding the difference between a great fit and a bad one can make all the difference.
Understanding Your Foot Type
To begin, you have to understand your foot type, and that means knowing how your foot pronates.
Pronation is when your foot rolls inward, toward the other foot, when you run. As your feet strike the ground, they’ll naturally roll toward the inside of your body by roughly 15 percent, which helps create a steady gait that absorbs the shock of your feet hitting the ground.
Some people have normal pronation. But other people supinate (or don’t pronate enough) or overpronate (when they’re pronating too much). This is related to the size of your foot’s arch. If you have a larger arch than normal, you’ll probably supinate, or underpronate; if you are closer to being flat-footed, you’ll likely overpronate.
If you underpronate, you’ll probably need a shoe that helps your foot turn more naturally. If you overpronate, you’ll need a shoe that better controls your motion. A shoe built for stability won’t help you in either case and may hurt your feet.
The best way to find your fit is to go to a shoe store that offers fittings.
Pick the Shoe Based on Your Running Surface
Are you a road runner, or do you spend most of your time on the track? Or do you run on dirt or other natural surfaces?
The surface you’re running on can dictate the type of shoe. Running on rough or uneven terrain, such as trail running, requires a more stable base. Running on the road requires a sole that can handle abrasive material like concrete or asphalt compared to running on a track or treadmill.
Find a shoe that fits the surface on which you’ll be running to make sure you’re getting the right type of sole and cushion combination for your environment.
Choose the Right Size
Finally, the shoe has to fit – but not be too snug.
You’ll want roughly a quarter-inch to half-inch of wiggle room in your shoe’s toebox, with socks on. Any less and your feet will be cramped and vulnerable to blisters; any more and your shoe won’t fit properly, which comes with its own issues.
For most runners, your running shoe size will be a half-size bigger than street shoes (i.e. non-athletic shoes). Take your athletic socks with you to your shoe store and try on several pairs until you get the right one.
Take Care of Your Feet While Running
There are other things you can do to take care of your feet. Use socks that wick moisture. Put moleskin on your heel and toes to protect against blisters (which can form even under the best of circumstances). Stretch your feet before going on a run, just like you would stretch the other parts of your body.
Take care of your feet, and they’ll take care of you – and it starts with the right shoes.
Foot Specialists of Birmingham
Foot Specialists of Birmingham provides podiatry services to runners and non-runners in the greater Birmingham metro. Contact us to set an appointment or get more information about how we can help you take great care of your feet.