In Our Shoes.

About 2 weeks ago, a sharp snap of pain during a longer run put a halt to my steadily increasing tracking record, 949 miles of running in the past 5 months. Our feet take quite a beating on our run. Each foot hits the ground some 800 times per mile. Structural flaws in our feet or slight imbalances in our stride can eventually grow to an injury. The key is knowing when to retire our trusty shoes before we injure ourselves. Depending on the shoe, the surface on which we run, running shoes last anywhere between 300 to 500 miles before they lose spring in their step. For runners logging 25 miles per week, this means looking into replacing shoes every 3 to 4 months.

Buying shoes that fit - both in size and structure - is crucial. While this does not mean we need to spend 325 dollars on running shoes, we should not purchase bottom line either. How we pronate, what surfaces we run, how many miles we log are important factors when considering a running shoe.
Underpronation, neutral gait and overpronation
Local running stores are staffed with experienced runners, who can inspect our current running shoes and evaluate our movement on a treadmill to assess what type of shoe and possible insert they recommend. Typically, the heel strikes the ground first and rolls inward onto the front of the foot at a 15% angle. Under pronating or supination is when the foot rolls in at less than 15% leaving most of the stress on the outside of the foot. Over-pronation is when the foot rolls in at more than 15% causing the big toe to do most of the push off. Are we overpronaters or supinaters? One way to know is to check the soles of an old pair of running shoes and look for the most wear. If it is on the outside of our shoe, we most likely are underpronating, and if it is on the inside we probably are overpronating. 

When testing new shoes, we should wear socks we typically run in. The new shoes should be tried on both feet for two reasons: First, one foot tends to be slightly larger than the other, and secondly, the shoes may be in slightly different sizes. Our feet swell during the day (and especially during a run), if we can we should try on a new pair later in the day. About a snug thumb’s width should be between our longest toe (not necessarily our big toe) and the end of the shoe. Our foot should not bulge over the midsole nor should we be sliding. When in doubt on shoe sizes, err on the large side. Most running stores allow shoes to be taken on one or two training runs, and if they do not fit, we may be able to return them. 

Our feet come in all shapes and sizes. With all the shoes that are on the market, it can be a truly baffling experience trying to find that elusive perfect pair. Some runners may declare absolute loyalty to one particular brand, but it does mean they work for us. Asking questions about how specific models are constructed and taking our time to find the match that adjust to our particular foot type and strike can prevent some running injuries.