Choosing the Appropriate Running Shoe
By Dr. Neal Zomback
1. Foot Type
One of the questions that I am always asked by my patients is "How do I know what running shoe is best for me?" The best way to determine what running shoe is best for you is to look at an imprint of your foot. What I always recommend to patients is to wet your foot and then step onto a dry surface like a towel or anything that will show your imprint. There are three types of footprints: there is a footprint where you see the whole foot, a footprint where you see just the ball of the foot, the side of the foot and the heel, and there is another print that shows just the heel and the ball of the foot. Typically, the first type of footprint indicates a flat type of foot, the second type is a normal arch foot, and the third is a high arch foot. What one sees when they are off their feet can be different from what they see when they are on their feet.
2. Shoe Shape
Once you know what foot type you have, then you want to look for the appropriate last. The last is defined as the degree of curvature of the bottom of the shoe. It also can be defined as the internal construction of the shoe. The external last is determined by taking a bisection or a line through the back of the heel straight up to the front of the shoe. If you draw an imaginary line and it divides the shoe into two equal parts that are mere images, this is a straight lasted shoe and is ideally for people with flat feet. If that line is not exactly a mirror image and there is a slight difference between the sides, that would mean it is a semi-curve last and that is good for a normal foot type. If you notice that the line shows that there is a large degree of the shoe to one side, usually the side toward the big toe, that would be a curve-lasted shoe, which is ideal for high arch feet. Once you know this , then there are certain things to look for in choosing a good shoe. One of the things you can do is to look at your old running shoes. Everyone has heard the term if they are pronator or supinator. If you break down the shoe and the shoe is broken down to the inside, typically you are pronator. If you have a flat foot, you are often a pronator. Therefore, you would want to look for a shoe that has appropriate support on the inside to control excessive breakdown. Likewise, if your shoe breaks down on the outside, you want to look for a shoe that has added support tot the outside of the shoe to slow down the progression of breakdown on the outside.
Everybody, when they run, is stressing their body six to eight times their body weight. It is important to have a mid sole with good cushion properties. The better mid soles are composed of compression molded EVA, a polyurethane, or a combination of the two. It is important to note that a person with a high arch foot tends to do better with more shock absorption, especially in the forefoot.
4. Removable Insole
It is also important to get removable insoles because sometimes the insole breaks down sooner than the shoe halfway through the life of the shoes and replacing that gives a new life to the shoe. It is general rule of thumb that the insole should be removed about halfway through the life of the shoe, which is about a 200 to 250 mile mark. They say running shoes last about 500 miles or you should get a pair every six months, whichever comes first.
5. External Features
As far as looking for appropriate external features in a shoe, you want to look for firm resistant heel counter that will minimize rear-foot motion so that when you squeeze the back of the shoe from side to side, it does not move much. You want to look for a heel stabilizer, which is a U-shaped plastic piece that stabilized the upper on the mid-sole or sometimes the shoes will actually have the mid-sole extending upward onto the upper of the shoe to give it more stability.
6. Shoe Fit
When you run, your feet elongate and spread on impact. Long runs in warmer weather can even make your feet expand up to a half of a size. The point is, dont buy shoes that are too tight in the store. As a general rule, for the length there should be a space the width of your thumb between the end of the toe box and the tip of your longest toe on your longer foot. Your longest toe should be your big toe or it could be your second toe. Make sure you can freely wiggle your toes. The heel should be snug but comfortable. For the width, if you take your fingers and pinch on the widest part of your foot, that being the inside of the big toes joint and the outside of your little toe joint, if you pinch across the top of the shoes, you should be able to pinch about a 1/4 inch of material so that you know that the width is also appropriate. Of course, this is done while you are standing. It is also a good idea that every time you get shoes, you get your foot measured each time in that aging and injuries can change your size. Also, every shoe company, even though their sizes are to the English standard, can vary. In one shoe brand you may be an 8, another you may be an 8 1/2. Always try on your shoes!
Editors note: Neal Zomback, D.P.M., practices podiatric medicine at 60 Temple St., New Haven, CT, (203) 562-7688. This information is meant to provide general advice only and is not a substitute for a personal examination by a qualified podiatrist. If you are experiencing discomfort, you should not continue to wear a particular pair of running shoes or you should discontinue running and consult a physician. The specific information in this column may not be appropriate for every runner. Foot biomechanics and footwear is different from one runner to the next, based on everything from weight to running posture, etc.