It’s almost a new year, and of course, you’re busy setting new goals. Spring will be here before you know it, and you may want to start running more. You want a great pair of shoes and check to see what’s out there. Nike, ASICS, Brooks, New Balance, Mizuno – the list goes on, and it can become overwhelming, fast. Don’t let this discourage you! There are so many options because different people have different feet, strides and running types. To maximize your running comfort, you want the right shoe for you.
If you are like me, the first thing you probably look for in a shoe is, of course, how it looks. First and foremost, it’s important to have an open mind, especially when it comes to aesthetics. The right shoe is more than just its look. Nothing’s wrong with choosing a slick-looking shoe, but don’t let that be the leading factor in your decision. What is important is your gait, feet, running style and shoe fit. At a running shoe specialty store, you’ll have the help of an associate who can evaluate you and guide you through the process. But if not, here are a few tips to help you along the way.
What is your gait?
Your gait is your specific walking pattern or the way you walk, jog or run. Many factors determine one’s gait, but the two most applicable to a shoe search are foot strike and, more specifically, pronation. Pronation refers to the natural side-to-side motion of the foot as it hits the ground.
Searching for the perfect fit?
The Running and Fitness Store at Ochsner Fitness Center offers a great selection of running shoes and apparel to keep you on track. Learn more here.
How do your feet influence your running styles?
When running, the heel strikes the ground first, your weight shifts to the outside of the foot, back to the big toe, and then ideally, your foot begins to roll outward with the toe-off. This motion serves as the body’s natural shock absorbent. The arch then rises and stiffens for stability as the foot rolls outward and upward in preparation for push-off.
- The motion described above is that of a “neutral” foot, characterized by little motion in the ankle and leads to a mid or forefoot strike. A “neutral” or cushioned shoe that allows the foot to proceed through its gait naturally is best for these runners.
- However, for some people, the foot strikes the ground, the ankle rolls too far downward and inward, which is known as overpronation. This collapses the arch and is frequently seen in runners who strike the ground with the heel or midfoot. These runners want a shoe with stability and motion control, with stiff foams and midsole cushioning.
- For another group of runners, the foot strikes almost entirely on the outside of the foot, which is known as supination. Supinators often have higher arches and run on their toes, frequently without any heel-to-ground contact. Neutral shoes with high flexibility and low heel-toe drops are best for these runners.
Does size matter?
When I first started running, I naturally bought the same shoe size for my running shoes as I did for my work and casual shoes. I found myself with bruised toenails, blisters, sore feet and even sometimes holes in my shoes where my big toe made repeated contact with the shoe. I got a tip from the associate at the Ochsner Fitness Center to size up a half size or use the “rule of thumb” to eliminate these issues. For the “rule of thumb,” you make sure that there is a thumb width distance from your big toe (or your second toe if that one is longest) to the front of your shoe. This will help you avoid those bruises, lost toenails and awkward shoe holes.
Picking the right shoe
So remember, when picking the right shoe, take into consideration your gait, running style, foot pronation, and fit. If you are searching for the perfect fit and need some help, the Running and Fitness Store at Ochsner Fitness Center offers a great selection of running shoes and apparel to keep you on track. Learn more here. So, get ready for the new year with a new pair of kicks, and remember to take the time to take care of you. You deserve it.
Editor's note: This blog was originally published on Jan. 19, 2018 and has since been updated.