You need to have optimal training advice and equipment to ensure success in fitness for this new year. One of the most underreported information for the athlete is how to choose running and athletic shoes. Not choosing the right shoes can be detrimental to your performance and even cause injury. So, we have provided you with invaluable information to make that right decision when purchasing athletic and running shoes. This is what we found.
Road Runners or Trail Runners?Road running shoes are designed for pavement and occasional forays onto packed surfaces with slight irregularities (fire roads, nature trails, wood-chip paths). Light and flexible, they're made to cushion or stabilize feet during repetitive strides on hard, even surfaces.
Trail running shoes are essentially beefed-up running shoes designed for off-road routes. They are enhanced with aggressive outsoles for solid traction and fortified to offer stability, support and underfoot protection. If you routinely encounter roots, rocks, mud, critter holes or other obstacles during runs, choose trail runners.
Tip: If you can't find a trail shoe with the right fit for your running mechanics, it's better to go with a road-running shoe.
Know Your Feet
Foot size: You probably know your shoe size already. But if you're unsure or if one foot is larger than the other, it's best to have your feet measured at REI or other shoe retailer with a Brannock device. (That's the flat metal tool with sliders that measure the length, width and the toe-to-ball length of the foot.).Whenever possible, try the shoe on to see if it fits. Shoe lasts (which determines shoe sizes, described below) vary by manufacturer and even from one shoe model to another. You may need a half-size or even a full size smaller or larger than you think.
Most men wear a D-width shoe while most women wear a B-width. You don't have to wear a gender-specific shoe—the lasts are basically the same. Men: Try a women's shoe if you have a narrow foot. Women: Try a men's shoe if you have a larger or wider foot. If the shoe fits, wear it!
Arch shape: Here's a simple way to find yours. As you get out of the tub, shower or pool, take a look at the footprint you leave on the bathmat or cement. The shape of your footprint will indicate the type of arch you have. Your arch shape affects the way your foot moves as you run.
Biomechanics of RunningYour foot shape is closely related to its movement as you walk or run. The typical scenario: With every stride, your heel strikes the ground first. It rolls slightly inward and the arch flattens to cushion the impact. Your foot then rolls slightly to the outside and stiffens to create a springboard to propel your next step.
As runners, however, we each experience different levels of these sideways motions as we stride. The key characteristics:
Pronation is the foot's natural inward roll following a heel strike. Basic (neutral) pronation helps absorb impact, relieving pressure on knees and joints. It is a normal trait of neutral, biomechanically efficient runners.
Overpronation is an exaggerated form of the foot's natural inward roll. It is a common trait that affects the majority of runners, leaving them at risk of knee pain and injury. Overpronators need stability or motion control shoes.
Supination (also called under-pronation) is an outward rolling of the foot resulting in insufficient impact reduction at landing. Relatively few runners supinate, but those who do need shoes with plenty of cushioning and flexibility.
The illustration below shows these mechanics on a runner's right leg:
How can you be sure which running style is yours? A podiatrist or physical therapist could undoubtedly tell you, but a simpler answer is probably in your closet. If you own a well-used pair of running shoes, check the wear pattern on the soles.
Types of Running ShoesCushioning shoes provide elevated shock absorption and minimal medial (arch side) support. They're best for runners who are mild pronators or supinators. Cushioning shoes are also good for neutral runners during off-pavement runs. Reason: Minor irregularities in surfaces such as dirt roads give feet a little variety from the repetitive, same-spot strikes they typically experience on hard surfaces.
Stability shoes help decelerate basic pronation. They're good for neutral runners or those who exhibit mild to moderate overpronation. They often include a "post" (see Shoe Construction 101, below) in the midsole. Due to their extra support features, virtually all trail-running shoes fall in the stability category.
Motion control shoes offer features such as stiffer heels or a design built on straighter lasts to counter overpronation. They're best for runners who exhibit moderate to severe overpronation.
Here are some general guidelines:
|Foot mechanics||Normal inward roll||Excessive inward roll||Excessive outward roll|
|Foot shape||Low arch||Flat foot to low arch||Medium to high arch|
|Shock absorption in stride||Good||Good||Poor|
|Recommended shoe last||Semi-curved||Straight||Curved|
|Recommended type of shoe||Stability||Motion Control||Cushioning|
Shoe Construction 101
UppersThis refers to the upper part of the shoe above the sole.
The midsole is the cushioning and stability layer between the upper and the outsole.
Shoe LastsThe "last" refers both to the shape of a shoe and also the form, or mold, around which a shoe is constructed.
When referring to the shape of a shoe:
When referring to the shape of a shoe:
Other Shoe Components
Fit and Lacing TipsWhen trying shoes on:
Lacing techniques for various foot types:
What About Barefoot Running?While wearing shoes seems entirely logical and comfortable, a January 2010 study published in the Nature International Weekly Journal of Science argues that running barefoot may actually reduce injuries. This makes some sense when you consider that for most of human history, runners ran barefoot.
The Nature article notes that when wearing running shoes, one tends to hit the ground heel first. This is because a shoe heel has an elevated cushion. However, with barefoot runners, it is the mid-foot or forefoot that strikes the ground first. This more-natural foot strike is believed to cause less impact and thus fewer impact-related running injuries.
A Solution: Minimalist ShoesOf course, running barefoot is hard on tender feet, especially when on rough surfaces. If you're interested in trying barefoot running, first consider minimalist shoes such as Vibram FiveFingers. They are made of a thin, abrasion-resistant polyamide stretch fabric with individual toe slots that look like your foot. They are designed to fit the contour and shape of your foot and let it move naturally. They are worn directly against the sole of the foot. Customer reviews on REI.com have been overwhelmingly positive.
Also minimalist but with a more substantial platform is the Vibram Bikila. It offers traction for a variety of surfaces, an EVA arch that follows the contour of the foot and a polyurethane footbed for reducing packing over time.
New to barefoot running or minimalist shoes? Our advice is to start out slowly, then gradually increase your time and distance so your feet get used to using different muscles.
Now, you will be able to know what to look for when purchasing athletic shoes for your fitness routines. Thanks to rei.com with that in depth information for us to use.