By: LIERIN EHMKE
Edited By: ARYA ROERIG
Like anything in life, a solid running lifestyle starts from the ground up. Literally, your shoes play a bigger role than many people would think. And not all shoes are created equal. Few people realize the true importance of a functional shoe fit for their foot type and workout. And it’s understandable—we’re in an era where we’re constantly exposed to dozens of types of shoes with shock absorbers, bright colors, five-toes and squiggly soles. But just because a shoe looks fashionable and is endorsed by an Olympian doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for your lifestyle.
Shoes help to lessen the impact of your feet hitting the ground as well as ease all kinds of shearing and twisting that may also occur. Not wearing the proper footwear can lead to shin splints, tendonitis, arch pain, stress fractures, ankle sprains and toenail injuries. According to eHow.com, at least 25% of runners must stop or modify their running program due to an injury. These injuries are often easy to avoid if you understand the science behind the different structures of a running shoe.
The basis of any shoe’s purpose is inspired by the pronation level of the wearer. According to runaddict.net, pronation is “the rolling motion that absorbs the effect of landing on the outside of your heel as your feet hit the ground.” It is your foot’s attempt to reduce the stress of impact.
Neutral pronation is when the hitting of the outside of your foot up to the ball of your foot is a straight, even motion. Therunningadvisor.com says that under-pronation is when the outside of the foot takes in most of the shock of impact, and over-pronation is “too much roll across from the outside to the inside of your foot,” or your foot strikes inward on shock of impact. Neutral, over and under pronation are categorized by foot type or arch height. The easiest way to determine arch height is by a “wet test.” Wet the bottom of each of your feet and step on a paper bag. If there is a distinct curve with a “band” that is a little less than half of your foot, you have a normal arch. If there’s not much curve, you have a low arch. If there is a very sharp curve and a very thin band, you have a high arch. Once you know your arch, everything else falls into place.
Normal arch or neutral pronation: Look for a shoe that continues to give your foot the stability it needs. A stability running shoe with a semi-curved shape to go along your balanced arch is the best way to go. Some examples include Asics GEL-Kayano 18, Nike Zoom Structure+ 15 and the Brooks Adrenaline series.
Low arch or flat feet/over-pronation: Choose a shoe that keeps the inward rolling motion in check. A motion-controlled shoe with a straight shape to support the lack of an arch works best. Adidas Supernova Sequence 5 W, Brooks Ariel and Mizuno Wave Alchemy 12 are some of the best shoes out there for low arches.
High arch or under-pronation: Look for shoes that give your hard-working, high-stress feet a break. A cushioned running shoe compensates the lack of stability on the underside of your foot. An obviously curved shape of a shoe best fits your very curved foot. Brooks Ghost 5, Asics GEL-Nimbus 14 and Nike Flex 2012 Run are your best fitting options.
The last thing to consider when picking a running shoe is the size. Always buy a size larger than what you normally are. Throughout the day, your foot swells due to blood rushing downward. This is emphasized when running. By buying a shoe that’s a size larger, you prevent blisters and stress on toenails.
Running is not the only sport that requires a specific shoe. Every sport comes with a different movement, terrain and flexibility. Your shoes are supposed to support your lifestyle and literally keep your feet in line. For example, basketball shoes are designed with a thick sole and a high-top in order to prevent sprains when landing from jumps. According to aofas.org, aerobic shoes are lightweight with extra shock absorption in the sole to prevent foot fatigue during conditioning workouts. Walking shoes have extra shock absorption in the heel, and tennis shoes have more flexibility in the sole but give the ankle the support it needs. Cross-trainers, which aims to serve the athlete that constantly has a wide-array of physical activity, generally has a little bit of ever shoe feature so you can play in every sport.
You don’t necessarily need a different shoe for every sport you play. But if you commit to a certain lifestyle, a shoe that correlates and supports that choice can help prevent possible injury and prolong whatever activity you and your feet choose.