Choosing the Right Running Shoes


JP-Stowe.jpgHealthy Living - April 19, 2016
JP Stowe, ATC
Have you ever spent $100 on a new pair of running shoes only to find that they caused foot, shin, or knee pain? Do you have flat feet and not know what type of shoe you should be running in? Many runner’s from all experience levels have had these issues. Believe it or not, a little bit of insight can go a long way when picking out running shoes whether you’re a beginner or an expert.
First, before picking out running shoes you have to know your foot type. You could spend $200 on a nice pair, but if it doesn’t match your foot type it doesn’t matter how much you spend on them. There are three types of feet; neutral, over pronation, and supination. Pronation is the natural inward rotation of one’s foot. A little bit of pronation is good because it’s one of your body’s methods of absorbing shock. This is considered neutral.
Pronating too much, or over pronation, can be problematic. It throws off the alignment of your muscles, tendons and ligaments causing inefficiencies and unnecessary stress, often leading to injuries. Pronating too little, or over supination (high arches), is also not desirable because a rigid, non-flexible foot doesn’t absorb enough shock which can lead to injuries as well. The goal is to have your foot in the neutral position with just slight pronation throughout the entire gait cycle when running.
There are 3 main categories of shoes and several other small categories, depending on the shoe store you visit. There are a few shoe stores in the Bangor and Portland area that will actually do a gait analysis to find the best shoe for your feet.
For our purpose we will define the 3 main categories as:
 - Neutral
- Support
- Control
And the smaller categories as:
- Natural
- Speed
- Trail
If your gait has been analyzed as either neutral or supinating, you will want a neutral shoe. (Only about 5% of the population are true supinators. If you are a true supinator you will want a highly cushioned neutral shoe to help absorb shock from your high rigid arch.)
If your gait has been analyzed as over pronating, you will want a support shoe. Support shoes have denser foam under the medial heel and arch to prevent the arch from collapsing and over pronating during the gait cycle.
If your gait has been analyzed as over pronating to an extreme degree, you will want a control shoe. Control shoes have even more dense foam under the medial side of the shoe to provide ultra-support during the gait cycle.
The three smaller categories are as follows. Natural shoes are typically defined as flexible, low to the ground and having a low drop (drop= difference in cushioning height between the heel to forefoot). These should be used by only the most advanced runners who want a totally different running experience. They are not recommended for beginners.
Speed shoes are typically lightweight with firm cushioning for a more responsive ride providing a higher energy return. Trail shoes typically have a softer, stickier rubber on the outsole with deeper lugs for better traction. Some have rock plates and more durable upper materials for protection.
As far as brands are concerned, stick with Asics, Brooks, Mizuno, Saucony, New Balance, and Hoka. They have the best research and materials for long lasting shoes that work. Remember, running shoes only have about 300-500 miles of use. Change them before they wear down too much.
Now that you have great base knowledge of different running footwear, make the trek to your nearest specialty shoe store. Still confused? Get a gait analysis at the shoe store or by a certified athletic trainer so you know exactly what you need.