Top myths of running shoes

MYTHS about Buying Running Shoes

Buying new shoes can be a daunting task. With such a wide selection of shoes available and so many myths about buying shoes, how do you choose the shoe that best suits you?

Media covers every latest fad as if it is the new truth and everything we believed in the past was wrong. Footwear evangelists and marketing companies promote their latest invention/gimmick as being the only way to go. With so many companies more interested in your money than you, how do you ensure that the shoe you are buying is the best shoe for you?  How do you trust the advice you are given is to help you with your running and not help someone else with their cash flow?

The best thing to do is be an informed, cynical consumer.  There is nothing wrong with questioning the advice you are given.  If the answers do not make sense to you then they are probably worth researching further.  At intraining we embrace your questioning nature.  This article is our way to help you become that informed consumer by debunking the many myths of running footwear selection.

myths3

FIT MYTHS

Foot size should be measured to select the right size of shoe.

At intraining we never measure your foot size.  The reason for that is the right fit is not related to the size on the shoe.  Length, width and depth on different models, even in the same brand, can vary by up to a size.  If you have your foot measured and think that is the size you will be in all models then you are much more likely to end up with a shoe which does not fit.  Fit is also a personal preference with some people wanting more room than others.  We check every shoe on your foot and give you feedback on what the right fit should feel like.

A thumbs width at the end is what you need in a running shoemyth5

This old myth only works about 10% of the time.  It is definitely worse to have a shoe too short than too long however both can be a problem. If you are only running up to 5km having your toes close will not cause many issues however if you are doing runs beyond 1 hour you will be at increased risk of losing toenails.  Having shoes too long can affect the location of where your toes bend vs where the shoe bends in the forefoot.  If this is not in alignment then it increases the forces under the ball of your foot.  Shoes that are too large can cause you to claw with your toes to keep the shoe on your foot.

Your footprint is related to the shoe that is best for you

Footprints only tell you about the weightbearing area and not about how your foot functions.  It is possible to have a small weightbearing area but a lower arch if you have a rigid foot.  You can get a better idea about what type of shoe you need by looking at the foot when sitting and standing.  It is more important to identify if you have a rigid or flexible foot than a high or low arch.

Women with wide feet can go to a men’s shoe

While this is true to an extent, most women with wide feet will have to compromise other fit factors when going to a mans shoe.  One of the big structural differences between men’s and women’s feet is that women have narrower bones.  That means narrower heels and shallower feet even if they have a wide forefoot.  If a woman goes to a man’s shoe for width or length they will likely be moving around inside the shoe.  There are many different models available at intraining for women in wide and narrow feet and foot sizes up to 12US.

BIOMECHANICS MYTHS

Pronation is bad.

Pronation has been blamed as the main cause of injuries in runners since the 1970’s.  Research had not been conducted on pronation injury risk until the last 10 years.  While the few percent of people who have extreme pronation have an increased injury risk, for most people the research has shown that people who do not pronate get the most injuries.  Some studies have found an inverse relationship with pronation and injury where the more you pronate the less your injury risk.  The purpose of pronation is to deflect force and rigid feet that can not pronate can not dampen the forces of impact as well.

There is a best way of running/moving for everyone

myths1

Different running techniques like Pose, Chi and natural running try to put everyone in the same box.  Because we are all designed differently we can not expect to run the same.  Heel striking is commonly identified as being a problem for runners.  In fact a new study has shown that the injury risk of heel striking and midfoot/forefoot striking is the same, however each way of running has a higher risk for different types of injuries.  Other factors like forward lean, arm carriage and cadence all change depending on your structure and speed.  Many studies have found that the further away you move from your preferred running style the less efficient you become and the more energy you use.

Orthotics and Footwear

Most runners who have seen a podiatrist and been prescribed orthotics will have the orthotic made up first and then are told to find a shoe that it fits.  In some cases they are told to buy a neutral shoe because the “orthotic will give you all the control you need.”  The best way of making orthotics for runners is to find the best shoe possible first and then to make the orthotic to work with the shoe.  Shoes have much more potential to have an impact on the support for a runners foot then an orthotic because of the thickness of the sole and the variety of materials used.  Orthotics should be helping to customise the shoe to the runners foot.  Without the right type of support from a shoe an orthotic may not even be able to function the way it is designed.  Rigid three quarter orthotics are not able to have an impact in propulsion so most runners need to have full length devices to support their running biomechanics.

GIMIC MYTHS

A soft shoe is a cushioned shoe

Many people confuse softness with cushioning.  In biomechanics terms cushioning is shock attenuation.  The goal is to dampen the peak impact force in the belief that this will reduce injury risk.  The main mechanism to achieve that is the coordinated contraction of your calf and quadriceps muscles.  Soft surfaces and soft shoes have been shown to increase the peak forces that go through the knee.  This may be caused by the reduction in feedback from the ground disrupting the runners timing of the muscle contractions to dampen the force of impact.  Force equals mass times acceleration.    Your body weight and how hard you hit the ground are the factors that affect force.  Cushioning is then dependent on the firmness in the midsole rather than the special material the particular shoe company has used.  In fact firm midsoles generally have better cushioning.  As midsoles age they lose their resistance to compression and lose their ability to dampen shock.

Insoles offer extra cushion and are needed in new shoes

The purpose of an insole is to mold to the shape of the foot over time.  This increases traction inside the shoe and makes the shoe more comfortable.  It does not contribute anything to cushioning in comparison to the midsole of the shoe.  As with orthotics, the shoe is much more effective at controlling the foot than an insole.  Rather than adding an insole when you buy a new shoe it would be better to get the right shoe in the first place.  If you really need something more than a shoe offers you would be better seeing one of our intraining podiatrists to have the shoe modified or to make an orthotic.

Pressure Pads can determine the type of shoe you needmyths4

Two dimensional weight bearing forces do a poor job of predicting the forces that may lead to injury.  Running pressure pads must be able to record data at a minimum 100Hz and must be re-calibrated every 40 hours of use.  Looking at pressure pattern whilst walking does not provide an accurate representation of running form.

Walking analysis can determine what is needed in a running shoe

The most important factor when buying new shoes is to be able to run in the shoes before choosing the best one for you.  There can be subtle factors which affect the balance and function of the shoe which can only be identified when running.  Walking has about half the impact forces of running.  Running has a float phase when both feet are off the ground.  Footstrike is very different walking and many more people are mid-foot or forefoot strikers running than walking.  Shoes can feel good while walking that do not work at all when running.  Unless you run in the shoes before buying them it can be impossible to know which shoe will suit you the best.  At intraining we additionally try to have you run with a different shoe on each foot so you can do a direct comparison between them.

Article by Steve Manning (podiatrist, runner and level 4 athletics coach)