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What to Look for When Buying Running Shoes

By Tony Wolff, PT


A good running shoe is an important part of an activity plan. It can help minimize your risk of injury and keep you going. An ideal shoe will complement your feet. So, finding a shoe that is right for you is essential.


Generally, feet are categorized into 3 main types, based upon the arch of the foot. This includes neutral, high, and flat. When selecting a running shoe, the goal is to find a shoe that matches your type of arch.


If you have a neutral arch that means your feet are, not too arched or too flat. This indicates your feet are pretty much biomechanically sound.


A high arch is less common. When present, it can be problematic. It usually indicates the shock absorption system of the foot does not operate optimally. This can lead to excessive strain in the foot, ankle, and leg. This issue likely necessitates a shoe with extra cushioning.


A flat arch can be a source of stress and strain up the leg. If you see excessive wear patterns along the inside edge of your shoes (big toe side) there is concern that you are over-pronating. Be sure to know that pronation is a normal foot motion. It helps to disperse foot forces during landing. When this occurs too much there is concern. Sometimes strengthening and stretching exercises can correct such an issue. If not, a shoe with motion control to counter this may be called for.


Admittedly it is difficult to assess your own feet and shoes. A podiatrist, physical therapist, or experienced staff with expertise at a good running shoe store can likely assist you in this, and make recommendations regarding shoes.


Other important things to consider when looking for running shoes includes:


1. Try on shoes late in the day, after your feet have swollen, which is normal. There should be ½ inch wiggle room between the toes and the front of the shoe. This usually means going up ½ inch in size from your street shoes.


2. Purchase shoes at a good running shoe store, where the staff can watch you run, as part of the process in helping you select the appropriate shoes.


3. A proper shoe should really feel good. Whether you are overweight or not there should be enough cushioning that the shoes are comfortable. You do not want, though, a great difference between the cushioning of the heel and the cushioning of front of the foot (not > 6mm). This allows the normal foot and ankle mechanics to occur.


4. Shoes should be replaced every 350 to 400 miles.


Take the time to find a pair of shoes that works for you. Your entire body will thank you.