How to match your foot type to the best running shoe

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18 Apr

How to match your foot type to the best running shoe

MATCH YOUR FOOT TYPE WITH THE SHOE

In the running injury clinic, we see many different types of runners with a variety of injuries.  Our mission is to correctly diagnose those injuries but even more importantly identify their causes.  If you know what injury you are dealing with then you can implement the best treatment protocols to get them back running ASAP.

Much more difficult and more critical is to identify the factors that led to the injury in the first place.  Most injuries have more than one cause.  Perhaps poor biomechanics combined with worn-out shoes lowered the threshold of safe running mileage leading to an overuse injury.  If you want to prevent recurrence of an injury then you need to address all of the contributing factors.

Your running shoes can be a direct or contributing factor to your injury risk profile.  Here are some steps you can take to reduce the risk that your running shoes might lead to an injury

Step 1 – ANALYSE YOUR FOOT
Take off your shoes and socks and have a good look at your feet.  Do you have thickened skin in a particular spot?  Perhaps that is caused by a bony bump on your foot like a bunion.  Are you prone to blisters?  The location can tell you if it is from pressure or friction from shearing.  Do you have long toes or short toes?  Is your big toe longest or is your second toe longer?  Do you have a wide foot?  Is it wide just at the forefoot or is it wide at the midfoot and heel?  How deep is your foot or toes? 
 
Do you have a high arch?  Does your arch flatten when you stand?  It is important to know where your foot lives on the flexible vs rigid spectrum.  What happens to your feet when you walk and run barefoot.  You can get someone to use your phone to video you in slow motion walking and running without any external support.
 
The way your foot functions is much more significant than the static findings of the range of motion of your joints.  The answers to these questions give you a baseline understanding of what type of features in a shoe is “theoretically” going to suit you the best.
 
Step 2 – LOOK AT YOUR OLD SHOES
The way your running shoes wears tells an indepth story of the forces that have been exerted.  They also can give you a good idea if that shoe matches your individual biomechanics.  Another way of saying that is: does the structure and design of your running shoes complement or oppose your foot structure and the way you run.  The current evidence in running footwear research indicates that a shoe will work best if it enhances your foot function rather than resisting its action.  The old idea of blocking pronation to reduce injury risk has been debunked. 
 
UPPERS:
Look at the uppers of your shoe and see if they have been deformed because they have not matched your foot shape.  Wearing through the upper can be an indication of poor fit because it is too small or too big.  That will cause pressure where you burst out of the shoe or shearing where your foot is moving inside the shoe.  Scuff marks on the collar may be the result of one foot clipping the other when it is swinging through. 
 
INSOLE:
The insole shows you the history of the pressure patterns under your foot.  Take it out and see if you have rolled over one of the edges.  You can see if the shoe was too small by looking at where the end of your toes are in comparison to the front edge.  There may be some excess compression of the insole at the ball of your foot or under the big toe.  This is a sign of a possible dysfunction in your foot movement.
 

MIDSOLE:

“the dead shoe test”

Push on the midsole and see what the resistance to compression is in different spots.  This is the most important part of the shoe to check to see if the shoe is too worn to continue using safely.  Check the midsole at the rear foot on the inside and outside of the heel.  If it is easier to compress on one side than the other than that may be the way it was designed.  However, if it is too much then it can cause you to run on a big wedge.  Do the dead shoe test by flexing the forefoot the opposite way it normally bends. If it is easy to do then there is likely to be no more cushioning where you need it the most.  Even shoes that look OK otherwise may have a destroyed midsole.
 
OUTSOLE:
Finally, look at the Outsole wear.  This only occurs when you are moving against the ground.  That will happen at foot strike, in propulsion or in case of a compensatory gait pattern.  Outsole wear is not necessarily where the most force and impact is occurring.  Lighter contact may cause more friction against the ground leading to quicker outsole wear.  The location of wear around the outside heel and forefoot can tell you if you are a forefoot striker, midfoot striker or heel striker.  A circular worn pattern at the central forefoot is usually caused by a twisting and pivoting action during propulsion and may indicate a problem with your foot structure.
Step 3 – KNOW WHAT YOU NEED
There is no one best shoe or Brand.  There are many different Brands and each brand has many different shoes designed for different feet and different purposes.  What is important is matching a shoe to its purpose.  The more you run the more it may be best to have multiple shoes to fit each different type of run.  Will your shoe be just for running training or do you want a shoe to wear doing other activities?
 
SPEED:
How fast do you run? Do you need a shoe for long runs,recovery runs, speedwork or racing? If you want a racing shoe is it for 5km races or the marathon?  As your speed changes your running style should change too.  To run faster you will be increasing either your stride length or your cadence or both.  A shoe that is too light and flimsy may be inadequate for long slow running while a bulky soft supportive shoe may decrease your efficiency at faster speeds.
 
TERRAIN:
Most running shoes are designed for foot paths and roads.  The outsole on these shoes will be smooth to get the best traction on a smooth surface.  But if you run off road on a rough dirt trail then your traction will be poor.  Specific trail shoes have rougher outsoles for better traction on soft surfaces.  Wearing them own the road will wear the outsole quicker.  Trail shoes tend to have less cushion than road shoes while the stack height in a road shoe may increase the chance of spraining an ankle off road. If you are running up and down big hills then you may need a more flexible shoe at the forefoot and a more cushioned shoe in the heel.
 
  FLEXIBILITY vs RESISTANCE:Steve Manning
When you were analysingyour foot structure you should have found out where it is on the flexibility vs rigidity continuum.  When it comes to picking the best shoe you need to flip that analysis.  If you have a rigid foot then you need a flexible shoe and if you have a flexible foot then you need a more stable shoe. This is probably the most important factor in matching a shoe to your foot and finding the best shoe to suit you.  Just remember that the dynamic function of your foot is more important than the static structure
 
NEUTRAL vs ANTI-PRONATION
Most shoe companies categorise their shoes by how much pronation control they offer.  This is not the best way of comparing shoes but it is an easy to understand story.  A small amount of runners (less than 1%) have very flexible feet that pronate excessively.  Most runners can safely run in a moderate stability or neutral shoe.  Another small group of runners roll outwards and need to avoid any shoes with extra support on the inside.
 
 WEIGHT, CUSHION and DURABILITY
The lighter the shoe the less effort it is to lift and swing your leg.  That means more efficiency and faster times.  However you usually compromise both durability and cushioning in lighter shoes.  Not many people can do all their training in racing shoes.  As you tire and slow a lightweight shoe may become less efficient.  The poor cushioning will lead to compensatory gait, increased impact and more soreness. Lighter weight racing shoes last about 30 to 50% less than a traditional trainer.
 
SHAPE and FIT
Fit is a critical factor in choosing a shoe.  If it does not fit your foot then it will not work regardless of how good it theoretically should be for your foot.  Length width and depth are all equally important.  It is better to have a shoe that is a little too big than a shoe that is a little small.  The uppers need to accomodate for any special lumps and bumps you may have.  While shoes may mould around your foot in time it is better to start out with the best shape possible.  Sometimes you need to compromise especially when you have one foot slightly different than the other.  In some situations your brand new shoes may need to be modified to suit your special circumstances.
 
Step 4 – TRY ON SOME SHOES
Once you have checked out your feet and old shoes and considered what type of shoe you need you can then go and try on some shoes.  The experts at the Intraining Running Centre can help direct you towards the models that match your criteria.  The next critical step is to have a run in the shoes and see how they feel.  We have a 25M long runway in the shop for you to see if they work while running.  Try to ignore how they feel when walking as it can be totally different to what you experience running.
 
They should feel evenly supported on both sides of the feet and feel like the transition from heel strike to forefoot loading and propulsion is smooth and effort free.  You should let your foot choose the best shoe.  Ignore marketing gimmicks, recommendations from friends and cosmetics.  Research has shown that if you choose your shoe on comfort alone it can reduce the risk of injury.
 
Step 5 – EVALUATE SUCCESS. – 
The final step is to track how your new shoes are holding up.  You can write the date of purchase under your insole or keep track of your shoe mileage on Strava.   Keep checking your shoe regularly for excessive or unusual wear.  This will help you make an even better choice the next time you buy a new pair of running shoes.
 
Sometimes a shoe is not enough.  In the case of injury that may be caused by your running shoes you should see our Podiatrists at the intraining Running Injury Clinic.  We are experienced runners ourselves who can evaluate the contribution of your shoes to your injury.  Our Podiatrists also do special Footwear appointments where we examine all the factors mentioned above if you think that it is too difficult to do it yourself.  At intraining we keep you running.
 
Runtalk #19 – Hear more from Steve ‘the footman’… Click HERE!

 

Call us at 07 3367 3088 or Book an appointment to one of our Podiatrist at intraining Running Injury Clinic.

 

By Steve Manning – intraining Coaching Director, Podiatrist, Coach and Runner

Steve began intraining Running Centre out of a passion to help runners love their running.  He has always had a special interest in the biomechanics of running shoes and how to match shoes to your individual running styles.  He enjoys the process in also customising the shoes for feet that find they can’t quite find that perfect fit. 

“It’s combining the cues while watching a person’s running gait with their anatomical structure, movement patterns and injury history that makes working with runners and footwear so interesting.”  Steve Manning, podiatrist, footwear specialist, coach Level4, founder intraining Running Centre and the intraining Running & Triathlon Club, president Sports Medicine Australia (Qld branch), QUT podiatry lecturer.

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