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Why You Should Choose Your Running Shoe Based on Your Foot Type and Gait

Posted by mike in Blog 4 Comments

Photo by jacsonquerubin

I’m a runner, and have always enjoyed it as an activity that I can do anywhere. Whether it’s along the Hudson river in New Jersey with the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop, the obstacle course of the Sicily’s city streets, or running barefoot along the coastline of an exotic Thai island, it’s an sport that I will always take with me, regardless of where life takes me.

Regardless of the geography, one thing never seems to change for me… the pain. Sometimes it would be in the calves, in the form of shin splints or knee pain. The other week, my local running specialty shop, Runways of Parnell St in Dublin, invited me and the local running group for an informative session on how to choose the right running shoe. Their employee, Ash was nice enough to explain to us the differences between the shoes, and how to choose the correct shoe for yourself. A special thanks to Ash for all the information that is provided in this blog post.

The following information cannot be replaced as advice from a good podiatrist. There are many other factors about running, such as style, stride, muscles, joints, age, weight, and other factors that can only be diagnosed by a good doctor. My intent is only to inform you about how different foot types require different kinds of shoe support. I’m hoping that it will also assist you in understanding what is behind a running shoe that is designed for your foot.

Three things to know:(as presented by Ash)
1. Know your foot structure
2. Check your gait
3. Understand your environment


1. Foot Structure

There are three basic types of foot structures that depend on the height of your arch. There are flat-footed, medium arches and high arches. Your foot type can be easily discovered in-store, or you can use the very simple wet foot on a paper-bag technique in the video below. I discovered that I was flat-footed.

About the size. I would typically buy a shoe that fit my foot perfectly, and then tie the laces tight. This would commonly lead to cramps(possibly due to lack of blood flow) and pain in my big toe, as the shoes would repeatedly push against it as I ran. Ash recommends to tie shoes more loosely, and to allow for a gap(about a thumb’s worth) between the big toe and the front of the shoe. Because of this, instead of a size 42 that I usually buy, he recommended a size 45, and a less tightly tied shoe. A hint, getting a shoe with a little more space also prevents toenails from breaking and falling off during long runs.


 2. Check your Gait

Ash set me up on a treadmill and had me run barefoot(not realistic as I never run like this, except in the sand) to show me what my underlying motion(gait) was.

Run Test 1 – Barefoot

In the above video you can see that my ankles are nearly touching the ground, something that can be corrected with the right kind of shoe.

Run Test 2 – With running shoes

He then set me up with a pair of runners to compensate for my gait. You can see an improvement, although there is still a noticeable bend in the ankle.

Run Test 3 – With Brooks Ravenna

With the Brooks Ravenna shoe, I was able to see a much greater improvement in my gait. Although it is not 100% corrected, you can see the difference between where I started and where I am with this shoe.


3. Environment

Finally, it is important to consider what kind of environment you are running in. The kind of ground, the ambient temperature, and your weight have a lot to do with the kind of shoe that you should use. The rain in Dublin means that there is quite a moist environment, with plenty of drizzle and puddles to step in. For this kind of environment, you’d want a shoe that would allow moisture to easily pass through the shoe, as to allow your feet to breath.


A Note About Brands

Some people believe that a certain brand is better than another… this is simply not true. All of the high-level brands(Ex. Nike, Reebok, Adidas, Asics) use a similar type of construction that is built to last for between 300 to 500 miles. After you get to know some brands you realize that they are built similarly, so you might just be used to the way a certain brand fits. There are some brand aficionados out there, if you are one of them I’d recommend getting to know the whole range of your favorite brand so that you can find the right shoe for you.

A quick investigation into the four major brands and their respective online resources for runners. Nike, Reebok, and Adidas do not provide any information whatsoever about pronation, foot width or foot structure of their respective shoes. The only brand that attempts to highlight the difference in pronations between shoes is Asics, although they only allow you to search by very specific pronation characteristics, and they don’t provide much information on how a certain shoe could enhance your run.

It just seems ironic to me, that the top three brands will spend so much money on advertising and product design, and then don’t go the extra step(no pun intended) to pass along this kind of information to the consumer. I don’t know how any of the major brands can really consider themselves running-footwear specialists without addressing these basic runner-specific requirements. This is possibly a story for another post.


And Finally

In all, it was a very educational experience at the Dublin Runways shop. I learned a lot from it, and should be back in the shop in the near future to find a pair of running shoes that fit me perfectly. After that, I’ll update you with a blog post about the running experience with my new shoes. Comments or questions? Just use the comments section below. I look forward to hearing about your experience!

Tags: adidas, asics, gait, nike, reebok, running, shoes

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