Avid runners already recognize how important it is, but if you're just hitting the pavement for the first time you must go about choosing a proper running shoe. This is essential, because improper footwear can lead to immediate injuries and, in the long run, can cause lasting damage.
The Importance of Proper Footwear
As with any sport, running requires a particular type of shoe. Of course, it's easy to grab any pair of sneakers and hope that it will do the job, but the truth is that running is quite hard on the feet - so hard, in fact, that each step run is equivalent to and impact of two-and-a-half times an individual's body weight. Proper protection is simply essential, if only to keep you in the game for a longer period of time. Beyond that, though, the right shoes serve myriad purposes:
- They absorb shock. The unnatural amount of multiplied weight forced upon the feet as you run can result in painful injuries. It's important to choose a shoe that serves this crucial purpose.
- They provide arch support. This is important for certain individuals who require control for a variety of reasons, ranging from over-pronation to excess body weight.
- They support your running style. Whether you're a beginner or a competitive racer, you'll find a shoe that best meets your needs.
Know Your Arches
Among the many factors to consider when purchasing a running shoe is the shape of your foot. In order to determine the type of arch your foot has (which will then go a long way in determining what type of shoe you should wear), conduct what is known as a "wet test." This quick method requires water, a sheet of paper and a hard surface (any suitable floor will do).
- Begin by placing a bare foot in the water. Make sure it gets completely wet.
- Place your foot on the piece of paper laying on the hard surface and step down to create an imprint of your foot.
- Use a pen to trace the outline left by your foot.
Based on this simple test, you can now determine your arch type.
- If your arch is low, then the imprint will reveal nearly your entire foot.
- If your arch is high, the imprint will display a band between the heel and toe and a curve inside the foot.
- If your arch is normal, your foot appears "complete"; the toes, sole and heel of your foot all meet without any curves or bands.
Different Types of Shoes
Choosing a proper running shoe starts with understanding the different types of shoes available on the market today. There are many brands and styles to choose from, but aesthetics take a backseat to the more important details. In this case, runners must focus on functionality and performance. A variety of shoes are designed to meet the discerning needs of runners.
- Cushioned shoes are ideal for individuals with normal arches. People will normal arches don't need select functions in their footwear, like motion control, since the foot tends to roll inward naturally to absorb shock. Cushioned shoes are flexible and offer the benefit of added shock absorption. These shoes are also great for those with high arches.
- Stability shoes are also great for people with normal and low arches. Though this extra support is not necessary for most individuals with normal arches, it can come in handy if the foot tends to roll (or pronate) in a certain direction ever so slightly. Cushioned midsoles keep stability shoes extra comfortable.
- Motion control shoes are another great choice for individuals with low arches. Offering a bit more in the stability department, these shoes are ideal for severe overpronators. They provide extra support of the arch. Motion control shoes are also great for larger runners who require excess support with their steps.
Some Helpful Tips
Choosing the right shoe is about more than just knowing what type of arch you have. Keep these helpful tips in mind to get the most out of your performance footwear:
- Rotate your shoes. If you're an avid runner in particular, this can help avoid the wear and tear that is bound to occur over time (which can lead to irritation).
- Size up. Since the foot expands when an individual runs, it's helpful to go up at least half a size so that your foot has some room for comfort.
- Choose the right socks. Believe it or not, these are important, too! Avoid cotton socks that don't breathe and that might cause blistering; stick with moisture-wicking socks designed exclusively for running.
- Quality is king. If you are serious about running, avoid the temptation to purchase a running shoe solely because of its appearance. Proven labels are almost always no-fail choices. Do your research prior to making your first big purchase.