Fitted For Success
Shoe hype is everywhere. Athletic magazines review the latest, high performing footwear monthly. This spring, industry watchers claimed the minimal shoe is out. Current back-to-school advertisements tout discounts and fashion over fit. If you are confused about market ads or overwhelmed by the number of brands and specialty types of shoes, read on. We have expert advice.
In this issue, 904Fitness examines key points about shoes, specifically running shoes and trail runners. We’ve asked two shoe pros in the community whether they think the right shoes make a difference, and here’s what they had to say:
Jane Alred, 1st Place Sports
Why Running Shoes Matter
The most important decision you will make after beginning a running program will be finding the proper shoe that fits your running needs. A properly fitted shoe can make running easier and protect you from many common running injuries, like shin splits, stress fractures, achilles tendinitis, and plantar fasciitis. Many cheap shoes look like running shoes, but do not offer the proper support or cushion to give you the maximum protection.
Where you run will also make a difference in the type of shoe you need. Most runners hit the pavement. When you run on the sidewalks or road you are running on the hardest surfaces that create shock. You need shoes that offer lots of cushion as well as support.
The type of sole on the bottom of the shoe does not matter as much and will be based on your personal preference. If you choose to run off the roads on the grass or dirt, you will need a shoe that offers good traction and is built lower to the ground. A sole with a waffle- type design is perfect for running on sandy off-road surfaces in Florida. Traditional running shoes that have thick midsoles and raise you off the ground quite a lot may not be your best choice for running on uneven ground. Using shoes with thinner midsoles will put your closer to the ground and help you avoid twisting your ankle or tripping on roots.
The price of protection and performance
Running is an inexpensive sport that only really requires a good pair of running shoes to get started. You can expect to pay slightly over $100 for a quality shoe. It is best to purchase running shoes at a specialty running store where the employees are trained to take you though a fitting process. This process will help you find the best shoe for your foot structure and running form. The choice is not as easy as just choosing a brand of shoes. All major running shoe manufacturers make shoes for different types of runners. It is important to find out if you need shoes with lots of cushion as opposed to shoes that offer more support. Choosing the wrong type of shoe could lead to a running injury. After all, injuries are a high price to pay.
Benefits of the right shoe
One of the great benefits that running shoes offer is their shock absorbing properties. It’s important to know that you land on the ground with three to four times the force of your body weight when running. That’s a tremendous amount of shock that has to be absorbed during the course of a run. The body has to use energy to absorb shock, so if the shoe can absorb some of the shock then you have more energy to run.
Running shoes make perfect walking shoes. The great benefit of choosing a running shoe when you start a walking program is that running shoes have everything you need to walk. If you decide to run in the future, you’ll have the best of both worlds with one pair of shoes. However, don’t use running shoes for sports that require quick lateral movements like basketball and tennis. Running shoes are structured for straight ahead movement and offer zero support for side-to-side movements.
What to do with new shoes?
When you purchase new shoes, you should break them in slowly. Run about half your normal distance the first time out. It is also good to wear new shoes around for a day as a casual shoe to help get your foot accustomed to the fit and feel.
Shin splits are probably the most common injury that new runners experience. This is usually a nagging pain on the front of your lower leg. Having good cushion in your running shoes will help avoid this type of injury, but sometimes you will still get this pain if you try to increase you mileage too quickly.
Don’t make the mistake to presume that you do not need a good running shoe since you are only going to do a small amount of running. You still need the protection, and you never know, once you get started running you may get hooked and decide to participate in the Gate River Run next March!
Chris McCaffrey, The Jacksonville Running Company
Why the right shoe is important
The idea behind having the right shoe can be summed up with a baseball analogy. Could a baseball player hit a homerun with a stick? The answer is both yes and no. Yes, he could likely hit the ball. However, he has a better chance of hitting a home run with a proper bat. While someone could run in any shoe, the right running shoe will have the technology to ideally support a runner in his element. Importantly, an ill-fitting / improper shoe could cause a misstep, resulting in injury.
What is shoe “technology”?
In the case of trail running, the trail shoe has the technology to support an off-road runner. Where a typical running shoe is built to withstand up to 4 times your body weight in impact, a trail running shoe provides the shock absorption and has an added outsole or upper support to help protect from thick brush and rocks. This is key if you live in a more mountainous region as opposed to flat Florida. Florida trails are usually flat, sandy, and/or muddy. In fact, most running shoes do just fine getting a little dirty. If you are looking for moisture deterrence, Gore-Tex is a material used to help protect the body from water. Basically the material is made to allow for airflow but prevent water molecules from penetrating.
Are there better brands?
Brands are as diverse as the individuals who wear them. One brand may have a slightly different shoe model then another brand. Certain brands target their shoes to a specific running demographic. In my opinion, Asics fits more form fitting around the arch. Brooks’ shoes fit more open through the arch. Mizuno fits snug from heal to arch and is open in the toe box. For some of these reasons some people classify themselves as an Asics girl or a Brooks guy or Mizuno man.
You know you have the right shoe, when you aren’t thinking about your shoes.
There’s a freedom in finding the right shoe for you. When you have no thought about the shoe/foot connection to the ground, you’ve probably found the best shoe. While muscle soreness is to be expected, you shouldn’t experience sudden foot, knee or lower back pain without incident.
I always love to explain the mechanics of injuries with real world examples. For instance, if you are wearing your shoes too small it is very similar to having your hand in a jar or cup. When you attempt to move your fingers it’s very restrictive and after a few minutes your forearm will begin hurting. If you don’t believe me, try it. Shoes that are too snug restrict proper foot movement and often result in “shin splints”, an all too familiar injury of the shin bone. Another big issue we find is a lot of people wanting to go “minimal”. The scenario, you are standing at the top of a flight of stairs, ( the stairs representing the heal of your shoe) and you jump down to the bottom (bottom ground representing a zero drop shoe). Some land just fine and can walk away with no injuries. Most of us, however, will not be able to walk away. Therefore, we should take a few steps down the stairs before attempting the jump to ground zero. We have plenty of other options for those who are looking for a minimal shoe but not yet ready to make the jump to bare support.
Why is an expert fitting important?
For me, an expert fitting is about the process – asking the right questions to know your foot and the trails you are going to be running on, locally or globally. My first step is putting you on a foot pressure scanner. This tells me where you are putting pressure in a standing position. This is a good point to address any muscle discrepancies or imbalances. If you have tighter calves or glutes, I’d address this with advice on how to release tight muscles, allowing them to work efficiently and effectively when trail running. After the scan I get a foot size. Most people then find out they are wearing too small of a running shoe. This causes more issues in the foot and lower leg and is one of the easiest things to change. As a general rule, go a half or full size up for relief. Next with a neutral test shoe I have you walk, jog, or run on the treadmill. A video recording your gait helps to identify any rolling in, called over pronation, or rolling out, called under pronation. After diagnosing either a neutral gait or over/under pronation, I then follow up with questions regarding terrain, distance, and goals to narrow down my search and fine tune the shoe right for you.