The old adage “no two people are the same” applies perfectly to runners, so the choice of a running shoe is different for every runner. There is no best running shoe, each individual should seek out the shoe that will best suit their requirements. With so many different brands and types of shoe available, choosing your optimum shoe can be difficult.

However, there are ways to make your selection more simple. Each individual possesses a different running action along with foot type, so you have to weigh various factors before finding your correct shoe. It will come down to a balance of fit, cushioning, stability, durability and price. What you are seeking is a shoe which will remain comfortable during long and short runs and will help prevent injury.

GAIT

Gait is an individual’s running action and it dramatically affects your choice of shoe. Everybody has a unique running gait, but runners can be generally classified as those who over-pronate, under-pronate, or are neutral.You need to look for features that will help support your personal gait. There are ways to determine your personal gait. Firstly, look at your old running shoes. If the upper or sole shows excessive breakdown or wear towards the inside, then you over-pronate. For an under-pronate, the excessive wear on the upper or sole will show on the outside of the shoe. A neutral gait will exhibit even wear on both sides.

SHOE SHAPE

Over-pronaters generally require straight last, or slight-curved last shoes. Under-pronators can compensate their gait with curved or slight curved last, depending on the severity of the problem.

CUSHIONING

What aspects of the shoe affect your running action? When you run your body is subjected to a force between two and four times your body weight. The first weapon for lessening the effects of this amazing fact is the midsole of your running shoe. A midsole with good cushioning properties is crucial in lessening the potentially harmful forces your body is required to absorb with each step. Better midsoles are composed of compression moulded E.V.A., or polyurethane, or a combination of the two. Often different densities are used in the same midsoles (ie. one part softer than the other) which can be invaluable in protecting your feet from excessive actions in your gait. As under-pronaters are restricting the foot’s natural shock-absorbing mechanisms, look for a shoe that possesses extra cushioning features. Most leading shoe makers produce shoes with these extra features built in to the midsoles. Puma’s Trinomic Plus technology is an example. Remember, ask questions of your sales professional. They are versed in the features and benefits of the shoes, which will help your decision process.

STABILITY

Internal support can be found in the construction of the shoe. Contoured midsoles are used to prevent excessive movement of the foot in the shoe, particularly in the forefoot. The contours are visible externally. Look at the shoe and you will see how the midsole rises to the upper, giving the appearance of a cradle. Take the insole out of the shoe and look inside. If there is a fibre board running the length of the shoe, the shoe is said to be board-lasted. Board-lasting will provide you with exceptional stability, which is ideal for extreme pronaters. High stability can affect flexibility, so if you have a neutral gait, you would look for a shoe that has the fibre board covering the rear foot only. Such a shoe is described as combination-lasted and will provide you with a greater degree of flexibility than a shoe that is fully board-lasted.

EXTERNAL SUPPORT

A firm, resistant heel counter will help minimise rear foot motion. Controlling rear foot motion is crucial in injury prevention, especially if you under or over-pronate. Once again, a physical inspection of the shoe will reveal the quality of the heel counter. Often shoes will also feature a heel counter on the outside of the shoe, as an adjunct to the standard heel counter. Cross reference this with a footframe and board-lasting, and a shoe built for superior stability will be in our hands.

DURABILITY

Choosing a durable shoe is sometimes more difficult. It generally comes down to getting what you pay for. Most performance shoes offer hardened rubber, such as Infinity 3000, or similar outsoles. Stick closely to the branded names and you’ll find acceptable durability.

FIT

When you run, your feet elongate and spread upon impact. Long runs in warm weather can even make your feet expand up to a half size. Therefore, a shoe that is tight when trying it on in the store is going to prove unacceptable and uncomfortable when out running. Until recently, most shoe developments have dealt with minimising and dispersing the potentially harmful forces associated with foot strike and with preventing excessive foot movement; that is stability. However, as these technologies move towards optimum, shoe makers have taken up the challenge of providing a customised fit. The aim of that is to make the foot and the shoe one, rather than separate entities. Once achieved, issues such as foot action, various foot types, foot structure anomaly, and the reaction of the foot during running can be addressed correctly.

FITTING A SHOE

With the help of your check list and advice, it’s time to try on shoes. Remember, for length there should be a space the width of your thumb nail between the end of the top box and the tip of your longest toe on your longer foot. Make sure you can wiggle your toes. The heel should feel snug and comfortable. Remember to get your feet re-measured every time you buy new shoes, because aging and injuries can change your size.

BUY FROM A SERIOUS ATHLETIC SHOE STORE

Visit a serious athletic shoe store, ask questions, inspect the shoes and ask more questions of the professional staff. With all this information, you are ready to purchase your new shoes. An informed purchase makes your running safe and enjoyable. Good Running and good luck.

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