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Every runner needs to have the perfect running shoe that fits well and works well for them. Specific footwear characteristics should match the individual needs of a runner. Also, each training type - endurance, strength, or speed - that runners undergo have different demands on their bodies and also their running shoes. Thus, it is important to know which kind of running shoes match your specific goals and individual needs.
With the wide developments in running technology today, it can sometimes be confusing and even intimidating when choosing your new pair inside a running shoes store. How will you choose what's best for you and your training when there are different categories, shoe types and shapes within the standard Neutral, Stability, and Motion Control?
The design and technology of shoes varies depending on the brand and type. As a general guide for running shoes, here are brief definitions for the 3 major categories and some tips when buying your new pair:
The shoes under the neutral category are usually designed with a flexible forefoot and soft but firm mid-sole. These are the best types of shoes when you tend to land on the outside of your foot. You can determine where your foot lands by checking the soles of your old shoes - if the outside of the sole is worn out, then you tend to land more on the outside of your feet. This may also be the best pair for people with a high foot arc. Check if the arc of the shoes you're planning to buy has enough support or rigid especially if you have a high foot arc. These kinds of shoes support the arc of your foot more than your ankle or your knees. You can observe that this type of running footwear often has a curved sole.
Running shoes that are under the stability category are designed to control your feet from turning outwards when you run, balances your heel, and supports the arcs of your feet. These types of running footwear provide extra cushioning and excellent stability for your feet when you run. These shoes are for runners who lands on the outside of their heels and slightly turns their foot inward (pronates) when running. The arc of these shoes are not as rigid and may have varying degrees of support.
The soles of running shoes under the motion control category are usually straight or flat. Some designs have slightly curved soles but the main goal of these running footwear is to keep the heel secure and minimize the rate of pronation when you run. These shoes usually have a wider landing base for your heels, and a strong, rigid heel counter. These are good for runners who have flat feet or low arches. Runners who tend pronate their feet and have unstable knees when running can benefit more from these types of running shoes. Check the soles of your old pair - if they are worn out on the mid-sole, then this category is for you.
How to choose running shoes?
Here are some tips when buying your running shoes:
1. Walk and Run in the store. Spend time with your chosen pair before buying it. I know lots of people who buys specific kind of shoes just because they discovered that some great runner used it to finish first place in a race. You have different needs and what works for others may not work well with you. Test out the running shoes in the store. Don't be afraid to take a few steps on them and even run a couple of meters if possible. Some good running stores even have treadmills for you to run on!
2. Don't throw your old pair - yet. Bring your old pair of running shoes to the store where you're going to buy your new shoes. If the place where you are shopping for a new running shoes is specifically a running shoe store, they may have staff who knows about shoes and can analyze the wear pattern of your old shoes. Because you will want to try on walking and running on your new shoes, bring your socks with you and any orthotics if you have one. If the running store have equipment for foot analysis, do not hesitate to have your gait analyzed even if you already know your foot arc or foot type. Let the staff know your running history, goals, injuries and what type of training you usually do.
3. Know your soft spots. One of the main reasons why we need to wear shoes is comfort. Your feet should be comfortable enough while you walk or run in your new running shoes. Pressure spots or loose fitting shoes often leads to blisters.
4. Perfect Fit for your Feet. If your running shoes are too loose and your feet slides inside your shoes, you will lose energy on every push off that your feet makes when you run. It is okay to adjust and re-adjust the laces of the running shoes while inside a store. Tie your laces so that you have a feeling of security without discomfort.
5. Running shoes are special. They are designed specifically for forward motion (i.e., running forward), heel cushioning and arc support. If you have time to observe the soles of different types of shoes, you can see that they have horizontal line patterns on their sole. If you plan on using running shoes for other sports or physical activity, you will wear them out faster and you may even risk yourself injury. Cross-training shoes are designed for more lateral support (moving sideways, etc.) and toe flexibility. Buying a different pair like a cross-trainer for other activities is a good investment because your running shoes will last longer and you will reduce risk of injury.
When to buy a new pair?
You may ask yourself, "When do I need to buy a new pair?" Usually, the top part or the body of your running shoes looks like they are still in great shape but the cushioning and motion control may have already been lost.
Check the soles of your if they are worn out too much. It is helpful to mark the date that you bought your pair.
If you keep a record of your runs, compare it with the date that you bought your old ones. When you reach around 800 kilometers or 500 miles, you may need to buy a new pair.
Getting a new pair is an investment since your feet are the only parts of your body that touches another surface and absorbs all the impact when you run. Your legs and feet are your main engine for running so you need the excellent tools for support, stability, and comfort for them all the time. One of the keys to reducing risk of injury is to replace them once they break down or wear out.
Billy Goco Jr is a certified Personal Trainer and Stott Pilates instructor. He is experienced in training both athletes and non-athletes alike to get fit and improve their performance. He has been a conditioning coach for a running school with about 300 participants nationwide, and help many aspiring 5k runners and marathoners to achieve their goal.