Friday, August 5, 2016

Finding Your Perfect Running Shoe

Alright Cinderella, you've decide you've wanted to go to the ball (and by "go to the ball" of course I mean "go for a run").  One of the few things you absolutely have to have is a good pair of running shoes that fit you right.  However, with tons of brands and hundreds of models, where do you even begin?  The best place to start is a reputable running store that is going to actually analyze how you run.  Now don't freak out, I'll give you a few things to think about before you get there, but one of the limitations of running is that you can't watch yourself do it.  To really know how you run, you have to have someone watch you (or record you) and best if they know a little something about, well about running.
So many shoes ....
If a running store won't or doesn't analyze how you run (i.e. watch your form from the front, back, and sides), find a new store.  When they watch you run, they are going to be looking for a few key things.  The first is how your foot "strikes" the ground.  You are either going to be a forefoot, mid-foot, or heel striker.  Over the years, opinions have varied about what form is "better," but especially when you're starting, don't begin by trying to completely overhaul yourself.  Different shoe models are better suited for different strike forms.
Heel Strike
Mid-foot Strike
Forefoot Strike
Next, they are going to look at pronation (which means if your foot rolls in or out when you run).  If you do pronate (roll in) or supinate (roll out), you are going to want to look at a category of shoe called "stability," which will provide more support and encourage good form.  If you are a neutral runner (no rolling), you'll want to look at a category of shoe called "neutral."
Supination (roll out)
Pronation (roll in)
Then we get into personal preference (the fun stuff)!  One of the big question is do you want a more cushioned or more of a minimalist shoe?  Minimalist shoes give you more "feel" of the ground or a more "active" feeling.  More recent years have brought about the rise of the more cushioned shoe, which give you a "softer" or more "springier" feeling.  Neither is better, it's about what works for you.  For me, it's the cushier the better and I try to find the lightest shoes in the "cushioned" category that I can (the flip side of a highly cushioned shoe is that the cushion has to come from somewhere, which can make it heavier).
The more minimalist On "Cloud" (left) and more cushioned Hoka "Stinson" (right).
Once you have your shoe categories down, you're going to want to pay attention to your foot shape.  It will feel weird, but know that you're going to want to size up in running shoes.  There should be some space at the front and you'll want to make sure that the toe box (front of the shoe) has enough space (width) for your forefoot.  Shoes that are too small can result in numbness, blisters, and lost toenails among other things.  That being said, you don't want to get them SO big that you're feet are sliding around inside.  If you have high or low arches, the store may suggest shoe inserts or orthotics (but that's a subject for another blog).
Make sure you have enough room toward the front of your shoe!
Last (but certainly not least), you get to pick your color!  Most models come in multiple colors, so pick your favorite and get ready for a great run.  Most running stores have a generous return policy, so if the shoes you pick don't end up working for you, you can take them back to try something different.  You don't want to compromise on shoes - getting the wrong ones can cause real problems throughout your body.  So don't fear the running store!  Now you know what they are going to look for and ask, and can be a more informed running consumer.  So what are you waiting for?  Go out and get your "glass slippers!" Happy running!
Bonus: most local running stores also support community running events!  Support the stores that sponsor your races!

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