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As most runners know, there’s almost always an expensive, trendy running shoe getting tons of buzz as the next great thing. But athletes, trainers, and doctors agree there’s never one perfect brand. It’s all about finding the right shoe for you–your feet, body type, and running style. But there are so many choices. What’s the best way to choose a running shoe–especially if you have past injuries?
Do Shoes Really Matter or Is It All Hype?
The athletic footwear industry runs on marketing. As much as we’d love to believe it, a specific shoe isn’t likely to make us run faster. However, finding the right pair of running shoes can help with injury prevention. And higher quality shoes generally offer the features we need to run safely. Here are a few important considerations:
- Running is an impact sport, and everyone’s feet and running style are different. You need to make sure the shoes feel comfortable on your feet–and try them on in a way that really gives you a sense of how they fit. See our tips below.
- Stress reduction is critical. Different shoes provide support and cushioning for different parts of the foot. It helps to identify your needs and do some research. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons divides runners into supinators and pronators. Supinators have more “neutral” high-arched, rigid feet. These runners can benefit from a cushioned midsole to reduce stress on the ankle, heel and toes. Pronators have feet that tend to roll inward and need a stability shoe with extra arch and heel support.
- Wear is another crucial factor. Even the best running shoes can cause pain or injury if the tread is worn or the heel is breaking down. Talk with a running shoe specialist if you’re unsure how much life is left in your shoes.
- It may be best to rotate several different pairs of shoes instead of being wedded to one brand or style. According to Runner’s World magazine, studies show correlations between running in a variety of footwear and reduced injuries. Many serious runners have a “shoe rotation” using different brands with different features for various types of runs and conditions. This also helps each pair of shoes last longer.
What Are Some Factors to Consider When Choosing a Running Shoe?
- Make sure you choose a running-specific shoe, instead of a general athletic shoe. Because running is an impact sport, it’s essential to choose high-quality footwear made for runners.
- It’s often worth the price to go to a store that specializes in running. They have the knowledge and background to help you find just the right shoe for your body type and running needs. They’ll put you on the treadmill and check your gait and give you a chance to move in the shoe and see how it feels at your regular pace.
- A great fit is essential. The AAOS has helpful tips for trying on running shoes:
- Try on shoes at the end of the day to get an accurate sense of fit. Our feet tend to swell after a workout.
- Wear the same type of sock you wear when running when you try on your shoes.
- Check the heel of the shoe for a comfortable fit and adequate support.
- Make sure there’s at least ½ inch of space between your longest toe and the tip of your shoes.
- The toe box (the front of the shoe) should offer enough room for you to wiggle your toes. We want to avoid cramping at all costs.
Can My Doctor Recommend Running Shoes?
Most doctors don’t see specific shoes as “prescriptions” for problems. Each patient has unique needs where footwear is concerned. However, if you have foot or ankle pain or an injury, replacing your running shoes may be one of several factors. Your orthopaedist or physical therapist can help you understand your foot and how injuries impact activity. Then you can work with your running store to find the best fit. But remember, overall, how you train is more important than the shoe itself. Working with a trainer to get started is a great way to begin or resume running after an injury. At Countryside Orthopaedics & Countryside Physical Therapy, we love supporting runners and helping patients get back on the road. If you’re finding it hard to combat pain or injury related to running, it might be time to check with one of our providers to determine the source of the problem.