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Choosing the Correct Running Shoes – A New Thought

Updated on March 20, 2013
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Typically when you go to a running store, an associate will examine the way you walk, run, or stand and what occurs at your foot and ankle during each activity. If you get a knowledgeable employee, they may examine foot shape, callus formation, and shoe wear pattern. However, the two most commonly evaluated things are your arch and how much pronation you do or do not have.

Pronation

Pronation is a combination of movements in three planes. Basically, it is the inward rotation of the foot and ankle as you transfer weight to that limb. The term ‘pronation’ is tossed around a lot when the foot and ankle are involved. Don’t let the term scare you. Pronation is completely normal and actually a good thing. It occurs in order to absorb some of the impact from landing on that limb. Overpronation can occur and this can lead to injury. Common practice states that if you overpronate you must wear a motion control shoe. This is where the controversy lies. Overpronation is not the whole picture. Overpronators can perform well in a neutral shoe, but more on that later. One must also take into account arch, knee mechanics, and strength to name a few.

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Arch

It is also valuable to look at the arch along the inside of the foot from toes to heel. The arch plays a major role in what happens to the foot during weight bearing activities. It too acts as a shock absorber. A high and/or stiff arch will often not allow a person to adequately pronate. While a flat foot may result from a poor arch and overpronation, a collapsed arch may also occur with only minimal weight bearing and may be independent of pronation.

Types of Running Shoes

In simple terms there are three types of running shoes: neutral, stability, and motion control. There are variations including racing flats, trail running shoes, and the trendy barefoot running shoes, but for the purpose of this article we will discuss the primary three.

Neutral

A neutral running shoe has cushioning material of equal densities along the inside and outside of the shoe. Typically, the bottom of the shoe has some sort of cutout along the middle of the shoe running in to out with the contact points being the broad surface at the ball of the foot and the heel. There is no additional material added to provide additional support or stabilization

Stability

A stability shoe does what the name implies. The inside of the shoe along the arch often contains a more dense material, obvious by the different color of cushioning material. The inside material is more dense and is meant to control for overpronation. The bottom of the shoe may also have a harder plastic at the center of the shoe providing torsional rigidity and further support at the arch.

Motion Control

Motion control shoes are the most supportive. They have a very dense material along the inside arch and the bottom of the shoe is often flat in order to maximize stability. These are recommended for those who severely overpronate and have flat feet.

What type of running shoe do you wear?

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Arch vs. Pronation

Runners and even healthcare professionals often view a collapsed arch and overpronation as one in the same. Often, they are independent of one another. This may affect what type of shoe may be the best fit for you. A person who is bow legged (medically referred to as having knee varus) will likely land on the outer part of their foot more than someone with straight knees. When they pronate to a neutral position, their relative amount of pronation is high, but their foot is still in a neutral position. These people are often put in a stability shoe when a neutral shoe may be more appropriate. People can also have collapsed arches but their ankle remains relatively neutral. These people are also often given a stability shoe when a neutral shoe with an arch support may be more appropriate.

In severe cases a motion control shoe is appropriate. These are normally the people with severe overpronation and also a collapsed arch. Even with a motion control shoe a custom made foot orthotic may be indicated.

A good rule of thumb is to provide the least amount of stability necessary. The best advice is to strengthen your foot and ankle regularly, especially for those people running longer distances or increased mileage. Have your foot and ankle evaluated by a professional, such as PT or podiatrist prior to purchasing shoes to help you determine the best shoe for you. Remember to update your shoes every 6 months or 500 miles. Also, if regularly running back to back days you may need to have 2 pairs of shoes in order to maintain the shoe integrity as shoes need up to 24 hours to restore optimal performance.

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    • jamesdurk94 profile image

      James Durkin 

      5 years ago from Halifax, UK

      great hub very informative, i will take the information and use it for myself while playing any sport.

    • FSlovenec profile image

      Frank Slovenec 

      6 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Great article I am moving from stability to the new Balance Minimus shoe..I am experiencing the big difference and enjoying, what I feel is a smoother more graceful run. Thanks for the Hub.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      Very interesting and useful hub. I had no idea there was so much to choosing a good running shoe, but discovered that recently because I ran my first 5K in September. (wrote a hub about it as well).

      I grabbed the best fit off of the shelf at Shoe Show so, obviously I didn't do my homework. Hope to visit a real running store soon.

      Great hub.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      6 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Great hub. Very useful. Congrats on your nomination!

    • epatera profile image

      epatera 

      6 years ago from Nebraska

      Great article. Have you read "Born to Run" by Christopher Mcdougall? Great book with some interesting insights on shoe technology. Plus a great story about ultramarathoning.

    • profile image

      Emily Wang 

      6 years ago

      hey matt! long time no see! :) good article on pronation and shoes. I've personally had a looonnnggg journey with running and choosing the right shoes. Long story short, I now wear neutral lightweight shoes + personal orthotics for a semi-low arch. Finally running knee-pain free since UCD days and training for my first half-ironman! Looking forward to reading more insight on orthopedics from ya. Take care!

    • A Hightower profile image

      Alexis in Brooklyn 

      6 years ago from New York, NY

      Very good information in this Hub. Thank you!!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Now this I need to learn! Thanks for putting this hub together.

      Congrats on your Hubnuggets nomination! Let's run to this exciting adventure with the Hubnuggets team. Be sure to read and vote, this way http://redelf.hubpages.com/hubnuggets6/hub/Bermuda...

    • Matt Stark profile imageAUTHOR

      Matt Stark 

      6 years ago from Albany, CA

      Thanks Simone! Hope the new shoes workout. Contact me if you have any other questions.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      I just bought a new pair of running shoes and thought of all these details as I chose the pair that was best for me. What a well put together Hub! I'm glad you wrote it!

    • profile image

      Rossco 

      7 years ago

      Starky! I've been running a lot lately and my right heel hurts. Are my shoes crap or is it me? Should I look for a particular shoe or rest more in between? I'm only running around 1.5 to 3 miles each time out about 4 times a week.

    • Matt Stark profile imageAUTHOR

      Matt Stark 

      7 years ago from Albany, CA

      Thanks Judi. Running shoes can make quite a difference, but also continue stretching and strengthening. If pain continues, ask your physio if some manual therapy might help you along. Good luck!

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judi Brown 

      7 years ago from UK

      Useful and timely hub for me - considering new running shoes and thinking about what I need to help my dodgy Achilles tendon (I am already doing plenty of strengthening exercises). Good idea to ask the physio about it - will do.

    • Matt Stark profile imageAUTHOR

      Matt Stark 

      7 years ago from Albany, CA

      Thanks Phil! Yes, shoes need a rest too. The material compresses and to get optimal performance from your running shoe, it needs time to rebound to its original state.

    • Phil Plasma profile image

      Phil Plasma 

      7 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Shoes need up to 24 hours to restore optimal performance? Now there's something I've never heard before.

      Thanks for sharing, fortunately I have so far required any special shoes as my feet are mostly normal in the respects you discuss in this hub.

      Welcome to hubpages!

    • Matt Stark profile imageAUTHOR

      Matt Stark 

      7 years ago from Albany, CA

      Thanks SpiffyD! Education about footwear is very important.

    • SpiffyD profile image

      SpiffyD 

      7 years ago from The Caribbean

      This is a very useful hub. I read about the effect of pronation some weeks ago, and this was a good reminder to pay attention to your feet when shopping for footwear. How it looks and feels is not enough. Voted up, useful and interesting.

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