Purchasing a new pair of running shoes can be a daunting task, especially when faced with today’s ominous array of styles, colours, and brands. Is there really a difference between them? Does it really matter which pair I choose?
Yes! Your feet are as unique as a fingerprint and your sports shoes should be chosen based upon the structure of your particular foot and the sporting activity you participate in. In the absence of an expert shoe recommendation, runners may unwittingly contribute to their own injuries by purchasing shoes that are not suited to their particular foot type.
Selecting the shoe that best suits your foot can help to prevent injuries, enhance performance and help the foot function efficiently.
There are a wide variety of running shoes available for the athlete. Running shoes can be divided into four main types:
- Motion control shoes: are made to control over-pronation (rolling in of your feet). Many of these shoes have rigid devices made out of plastic or fibreglass in the midsole. They are often built on a straight last. Straight lasts, with more support beneath the arch and a wider base in the heel, significantly reduce maximum pronation. Flat-footed, as well as heavy runners, do well in these shoes.
- Stability shoes: aid with mild pronation. They provide stability with extra support beneath the arch. They are usually built on a semi-curved combination last, providing stability at the heel and forefoot flexibility. These shoes are good for runners with normal arches and only mild motion control problems.
- Cushioned shoes: have little, if any, motion control properties. They are the softest of all the running shoes. They are built on a curved or semi-curved last and provide excellent shock absorption. This construct provides minimal rigidity with optimal cushioning. Runners with high arches and rigid feet do well in these shoes.
- Lightweight racing shoes: are designed for speed. These are constructed for basic cushioning and support and are used for fast-paced racing. Many athletes will use a more supportive shoe for training and a lightweight racing shoe for competition.
Each of these categories incorporates design features to complement different foot types. A person with low arches and flat, flexible feet will have very different footwear needs to a person who has high arches and stiff feet.
The weight of running shoes may also be a concern to competitive runners. It has been shown carrying 100 grams of excess weight on each foot while running can increase energy expenditure by one per cent. This may seem insignificant, but it can add one to two minutes to the time required to run a competitive marathon or triathlon.
How Orthotics Can Help
Orthotics are custom made foot supports for your shoes, designed to control and/or alter the way your foot functions. Orthotics come in many different designs, and a thorough understanding of foot biomechanics and running gait is imperative to prescribing the correct device. Podiatrists are health professionals trained to assess the alignment of your legs and feet, and your walking and running gait, before prescribing custom made orthotic shoe inserts. Orthotics, in conjunction with an exercise program and footwear changes, often prove to be a very successful form of treatment, allowing the athlete a quick return to sporting activities.
How Your Podiatrist Can Help
Having a basic understanding of what to look for in running shoes and how to obtain a proper fit will help you sort through the numerous options available. Finding the right shoe for you will aid in your performance, as well as help prevent injury. Look beyond the neon colouring to find a shoe that will help you compete at your highest level.
Podiatrists are trained to assess your existing sports shoes and to recommend the best footwear for your foot type. Talk to our experienced podiatrists for professional running shoe assessment and advice.