If The Shoe Fits

Thursday, March 30, 2006

It just may improve your running program.

Your workout buddy may feel like she's jogging on clouds in her new Nike Shox, but what's good for her feet isn't necessarily good for your feet.

For many runners, the difference between happy feet and sore tootsies is all in the type of running shoes they choose. Feet come in all shapes and sizes, and though there are running shoes that cater to each type of foot, many of us just don't know how to find the right ones, instead relying on word-of-mouth, price or glossy magazine ads to make shoe choices.

When shopping for running shoes, it's always a good bet to visit a store at which you can try on lots of different types of shoes, said Lori Dreiling, owner of Fleet Feet Sports, 6022 S. Yale Ave. Buying shoes online or straight off the shelf means you run the risk of getting a pair that's all wrong for your feet, increasing your risk for injuries, not to mention making running uncomfortable.

"Until you get your feet in a pair of shoes, you're not going to know how they fit," Dreiling said, adding that runners are more likely to find sales associates trained in proper fitting methods in locally owned running shops than in larger chain stores.

At Fleet Feet, shoe-seekers are sized up in several ways, such as having both of their feet measured a person's feet often are two different sizes and by walking or running on a treadmill while being videotaped. These tests help identify several variables that determine what size and type of shoe best suits the individual.

Factors that may influence the type of shoes runners wear include whether their feet are high volume or low-volume (how bulky the feet are), height, weight, arch height, and whether they overpronate or underpronate while running, Dreiling said.

Overpronation means a runner's foot and ankle have a tendency to roll inward as the foot strikes the ground, putting stress on the inner part of the leg, according to Rocky Mountain Runner, an online resource for novice and professional runners. Runners who overpronate tend to have lower arches or flat feet, thus creating the need for sturdier shoes that offer more stability to correct the inward movement. If overpronators do not have shoes that provide adequate stability, they can develop painful conditions such as shin splints.

Underpronation means the ankle and foot don't roll inward enough when the foot hits the ground, a condition that also puts stress on the legs and knees. Runners with this condition often have higher arches and also are at risk for injury if they do not have properly fitting shoes.

A common mistake made by many novice runners is choosing shoes that are the same size as their regular street shoes, Dreiling said. Running shoes are sized differently than street shoes, and typically require increasing by a half size or, in many cases, a whole size in order to provide a comfortable fit.

"Black toenails are a big indicator that your shoes are too small," Dreiling said, adding that blisters and calluses also are more likely to occur if you are wearing improperly fitted shoes. Runners also should look for shoes that have adequate width and enough room in the toe boxes, so that feet are not crowded.

"As you run, your feet are pushed forward," Dreiling said, citing the need for a more spacious toe box.

Shoes also should be roomy enough that they do not exacerbate existing foot problems, such as bunions (swollen, enlarged joints at the base of the big toe that can be caused by tight-fitting shoes or high heels), or hammertoes (toes that are permanently bent due to shortened ligaments and tendons that sometimes result from cramming feet into ill-fitting shoes).

"We see these problems all the time," Dreiling said. "Wearing the wrong shoes can aggravate them and make running very painful." Wearing quality socks also is key in keeping your feet healthy while you run. Socks that wick moisture from your feet are essential for preventing chafing and blistering.

Another important factor to consider when shopping for running shoes is how much wear and tear they'll receive. Most shoe manufacturers recommend tossing running shoes after about 500 miles of road work or about six to eight months, but that figure varies according to a runner's size and the frequency and intensity of workouts, Dreiling said, noting that some marathon runners will go through shoes every 300 to 400 miles or about every three months.

Shoes that have incurred a lot of mileage will lose their cushioning and stability, making runners more prone to injury if they continue wearing them during workouts.

"Your shoes are old if your shins, knees and back are hurting," Dreiling said. "You don't want to start running in old shoes." Picking the perfect running shoe 1. Shop in the later part of the afternoon feet get bigger during the day and they will get bigger when running.

2. Wear the socks that you would normally wear during running.

3. A number of other factors should be taken into account when deciding which shoe is best for you, such as how much you run, how heavy you are, and presence of any specific foot problems.

4. It often can help to bring an old pair of shoes with you, so the salesperson can see where your shoes tend to wear the most.

5. Check for adequate length by determining if there is a full thumb-width between the end of the longest toe and the end of the shoe. The toe box should allow the toes to move around.

6. The shoe should have adequate length at the widest part of the foot it should not be too tight, but the foot should not slide around either. If in doubt, err on the larger size.

7. The heel counter should fit snugly the heel should not slip and rub.

8. How do they feel? Try several brands and models in the type of running shoe that you need they will all have different fit and comfort characteristics.

9. Get both feet measured (most people have one foot that is bigger than the other this may or may not be a significant amount) the running shoes should be fitted to the larger foot.

10. Make sure the running shoe sole flexes easily where the foot flexes. If you have orthotics, fit the shoes with them in. Also, buy shoes with insoles that can be removed so you can modify or replace them with orthotics.

11. Do not rely on a break-in period running shoes should feel good the day you buy them.

For more tips on keeping feet healthy, visit www.epodiatry.com.

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