Life is rough when your dogs are barking. In other words, when your feet suffer, you suffer.
We all know the feeling we get from lacing up a brand new pair of sneakers – pristine exterior, zero olfactory offenses rising from the inner depths, and each step taken feels even better than the last when you’re doing the new shoe strut. New athletic shoes mysteriously channel lost motivation and muster a newfound desire for training.
It’s clear, new shoes feel good. However, finding the perfect fit can pose a challenge. Choosing the right shoe goes far beyond simply coordinating the shoe color to match your kit or selecting the style your favorite professional triathlete is sporting. You have to consider what purpose your new shoes will serve and what activities will be done in them. You also need to think about your foot type. Do you have flat feet or high arches? What about your foot strike?
The foot consists of 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments; your feet make up a quarter of the total bones in the human body. With such complex tootsies, it’s no wonder why the search for the perfect fit is so important for performance and overall comfort. Consider the following things to find the perfect fit:
What is the purpose?
Are you an avid runner? Will these shoes be used for the trails or pavement? It’s best to buy particular shoes for particular activities. Cyclists have cycling shoes; triathletes have tri shoes, and so on..get it? Determine what activity you are planning to participate in and find a shoe cut out for the job. Running shoes are typically lighter than trail running shoes, while trail shoes often have more supportive soles and more aggressive tread to help with footing on rough terrain. Cross-trainers tend to be more supportive, offering greater stability for lateral movements and weight-bearing activities. Determine what your shoes will be used for and find the right shoe for the job.
What is your foot type?
When examining your foot type, there are two things to consider: arch and foot strike. You can complete a simple test to identify if you have a flat foot, normal arch, or high arch. Simply dampen the soles of your feet and step onto a paper bag or piece of paper. Remove your feet and check out your footprint. Do you have a neutral, high, or flat arch? Compare your footprint to the picture above.
The next step is to ask yourself what part of the foot you strike the ground with as you run. Is your foot strike neutral, pronated, or a supinated? An easy way to determine your foot strike is to examine the soles of your old sneakers. What part of the tread is most worn out? Focus on the ball of the foot to see where the tread is most worn out. Depending on your arch and foot strike, you may be better suited for neutral cushioning, stability, or motion control shoes.
Some people tend to have a very neutral foot strike, dispersing weight throughout the middle of the foot and equally distributing weight to all toes. Those that find their arch and foot strike neutral would be best suited for neutral cushioning shoes for stiffer feet. Look for shoes that are less supportive and have cushioning on the heel and outside of the shoe.
The majority of feet fall into the pronation category. The fact is, everyone pronates somewhat, but the trouble is when you over-pronate. Pronation is when the foot rolls inward, with more weight on the inside of the foot, collapsing the arch with each step. Over time, over-pronation can cause arch issues and knee problems. The best fit for extreme over-pronation is a motion control shoe, offering lots of stability with very little flex. For mild over-pronation a stability shoe is ideal. Insoles will help control excessive pronation as well.
The least common of all foot types is supination, when the weight of the body rolls to the outer foot. Those who are bow-legged or have high arches tend to be supinators. Supination may cause shin splints and is more prone to ankle strains. The most important shoe feature to counter supination is a cushioned shoe, reducing the impact to the legs through major shock absorption. Neutral cushioning shoes offer a flexible sole, which is best for supination.
How long do shoes typically last? Old shoes are probably doing more harm than you know. Old shoes may be the culprit to many chronic injuries you may be experiencing, as the support they once offered has deteriorated. The general rule of thumb: replace shoes every three to six months, or every 350 to 500 miles (560 to 800 kilometers), depending on your height, weight, and running terrain.
Your foot is just like you, unique. Identifying your foot specifics will help you to sort through the overwhelming plethora of athletic shoes available. Become your own shoe expert by following these tips and before you know it, you’ll be doing the new shoe strut.