Going Running Shoe Shopping? Read this first!

Today, I want to tackle a popular topic among runners. Shoes.

You might be surprised at what you didn’t know.

In the past, we were taught that each runner can be put into a category based on how they stand (pronator vs high arch) and determine what type of shoe is the best fit.

Science is continuously changing and we are learning new things.

The fact is, there is a lot that goes into choosing the best shoe. Do you need to be an expert to figure it out? No. Despite what running shoe companies want to tell you, you can make a better decision on your own.

What running shoe companies DO offer you, which is valuable, is the chance to run in the shoes. It’s more about seeing how the shoes feel when you run than it is the gait analysis they offer.

We used to believe that we needed to control the amount of motion in the foot during running by using a motion control shoe. In 2009, Dicharry showed in a study there was no significant change in the amount of motion at the foot between runners and walkers. People were split into groups of hypermobile, neutral and hypomobile. So, if there’s not much notable movement of the foot itself, why would anyone need a “motion control” shoe?

While on the topic of motion control shoes…understand the amount of cushioning matters. Think back to your physics principles for a moment. Remember elastic energy and recoil? You want some absorption of force when your foot hits the ground, but having too much, kills your momentum moving forward. Your body ends up working harder rather than optimizing your efforts. It’s a happy medium though, minimalist shoes are not for everyone.

It has been shown your experience as a runner in a specific shoe or type of shoe is beneficial. If you have consistently been wearing a brand or style (neutral, motion control, stability) without injury or foot and lower leg issues, that’s likely the best fit for you. What you need is based on your unique needs. Find a shoe that fits the contour of your foot best.

If you really want an assessment, look for someone that can assess the strength of the small muscles in your feet as well as the way you move when walking or running (Dicharry, 2012).

But, does everyone need an assessment? No. In my professional opinion, unless you are running long mileage or increasing your mileage significantly (as in training for a new race distance). Finding a shoe that fits the contour of your foot and “feels right” can be just as sufficient if you are not adding new stresses to your body.

Written by:

Dr. Shari, Orthopedic Physical Therapist