Picking The Right Pair of Shoes

It seems fairly simple, go to the store, pick out a cool pair of shoes and hit the road.  Unless you are a neutral runner, nothing could be further from the truth.  The right pair of shoes makes all the difference in the world.

Lets start by explaining the difference between the three main types of foot bio mechanics.

1) Under Pronation or Supination.  This condition is characterized by the ankles rolling towards the lateral side (away from the center line of the body) of the foot.

2) Neutral.  This condition is when the foot, the ankle and the leg line up perpendicular to the ground.

3) Over Pronation.  This condition is characterized by the ankles rolling inward towards the medial side (towards the center line of the body) of the foot.

Pronation

Remember, these are the basic conditions and there are more and less severe variations of over and under pronation further defined by other factors such as arch height and the direction that your feet point at rest.

All running shoe manufacturers offer shoes for each foot characteristic.  For over pronation, you would need a stability shoe characterized by a different material on the medial side of the shoes.  See the example below.

Stability_Shoe

The material is usually a harder rubber than the rest of the outsole and that helps to keep the ankle from rolling inward.  Wearing a shoe that does not offer the proper support can cause pain in the feet as well as pain on the inside of the knee joint due to grinding because the leg bones are out of alignment.  Left untreated, this condition can manifest itself as pain further up the body i.e. the hips, the back and the shoulders.

Alignment

Other types of alignment problems can be corrected with shoes that offer motion control and guidance.  If you are not sure, visit your local running store and they will have the tools to help you diagnose your condition and help you select the proper shoe.

Neutral shoes offer no additional support to help your feet roll to the medial or lateral side.  Most lightweight shoes are made for neutral runners but there are brands such as Brooks and Altra that offer lightweight shoes that also have built in stability components.

For under pronation, you want a shoe that offers more cushioning.  No manufacturer makes a shoe that has a support feature that would intentionally roll your foot to the medial side and you don’t want to put anything under your arch that would force your foot to roll further to the lateral side.

Purchasing shoes that are less expensive generally have less cushioning than their more expensive counterparts and if you are planning on working up to long distances greater than 5 or 6 miles, that extra cushioning comes in handy.  A more expensive shoe also has a more durable outsole that will help you get more mileage out of a shoe.  Typically, a less expensive shoe will start to lose its ability to support and cushion your feet at about 250 miles whereas a shoe with a more durable outsole can last you closer to 500 miles.  I know this for a fact as my current shoes are nearing the 450 mile mark and they still feel comfortable at the end of a long run.

When you go to buy your new running shoes, be sure to try on as many different brands as you can.  You will know when you have the right shoe because it will feel like it is a part of your foot.  Each manufacturer uses what is called a last which is the form used to determine the shape of the inside of the shoe.  Each manufacturer constructs their last based on their research and what they are trying to bring to the market.  That is the main reason you need to try on as many different brands as possible.

Buying a shoe just because you like the way it looks or because it matches your eyes or outfit or not picking the proper shoe because you don’t like the color is a recipe for disaster.  Once you start to experience pain, it makes it that much harder to keep going.  Also, finding a comfortable shoe will make running more enjoyable and help to keep you interested in getting out there more often.

How I Became A Runner

The day I decided to run was also the day I decided not to buy any more pants with a stretchy waistband in them.  Like most of us, I was getting larger by the day and I realized that without a serious exercise regimen I was doomed to a life of unbridled expansion.  I was at the point where I would get winded walking up a flight of stairs so knew the time had come.

Luckily for me this was about the same time that my part time job promoted me to the position of running specialist.  This entailed learning all about a sport I had never been interested in and learning all about the technology behind the primary piece of equipment, the shoes.  I was very interested in learning about technology, even if it had to do with shoes.  As it turned out, this was a major turning point in my life.

I had never understood why people would subject their bodies to such torture in order to start at one place, run for a distance and return to that place.  It always seemed like a silly thing to do but after the last year I now understand what all the fuss is about.

It all started with a pair of shoes.  I had never taken much interest in what shoes can do for you other than how they looked.  I was always a Nike fan and I bought them at local department stores so there was never really much to choose from.  Consequently, I used to always end up with a cheap pair of shoes.  I was at work and it was a slow night so I tried on every pair of shoes that we had in inventory.

It was then I came across a pair of Brooks Ghost 4’s on the clearance rack.  I had never spent more than $40 on a pair of “gym” shoes and here was a pair of $99 shoes that felt like they were made for my feet.  Luckily I got the company discount so I didn’t pay $99 but if I knew then what I know now, I would not have hesitated.

My Actual First Pair of Brooks!

I started out in mid December by running laps at the local health club.  The track is 11-1/2 laps per mile and for the first couple of weeks I was having a hard time running more than three laps without feeling like my lungs were going to explode.  I would walk for a lap or two until my breathing slowed down and then I would run again.  For the first two months my goal was to be able to run a mile without stopping.  I finally achieved that goal after about two months (it was the holidays and I was having a hard time running more than three days a week) and shortly after that because of boredom, I began to supplement my workouts with long stationary bike rides to help with my endurance.

I kept up with this regimen until the weather broke in March.  I began to run a two mile course outdoors and immediately noticed the difference of how my body reacted to a more interesting visual stimuli.  I was still alternating running with walking but the running distances were increasing and my exhaustion level was decreasing.  Within a week or two I was running the two miles without stopping.

The other benefit of all of this running was that I was losing a lot of weight.  Within six months I had managed to lose 1/4 of my body weight.  I went form a very plump 240 to a very healthy 180.  I also noticed my blood pressure returning to a normal level and I wasn’t no longer sweating from just standing still.  If that is not enough to keep a person motivated, I don’t know what is.

In the days to come I will talk about running in races and overcoming injuries and the various aches and pains I experienced in my journey, some of the equipment that I use and some of the tricks I have learned along the way.  Hopefully I will motive all of you to take a journey of your own or take your passion to the next level.