With holiday sales kicking into full gear, patients have started to ask what to look for when buying a new running shoe? Different functional groups of athletes need different construction features to feel comfortable in their shoe. Research has shown that a more comfortable shoes is associated with a lower movement-related injury, requires less oxygen consumption during exercise, and demands less muscle activity than a shoe that is less comfortable.
A "perfect shoe" for everyone does not exist and you should buy the one that is most comfortable while running. Here are some general guidelines to look for in a good, safe running shoe:
✔ Minimal heel-to-toe drop: Shoes with no drop or a small drop 6mm or less are the best choice for allowing the foot to normally support loading during each gait cycle .
✔ Neutral shoe: This means the shoe does not contain motion control or stability components. These extra components interfere with normal foot motion during weight bearing.
✔ Light in weight: (10 ounces or less for a men’s size 9; 8 ounces or less for women’s size 8).
✔ Be sure the shoe has a wide toe box where your forefoot and toes are. You should be able to wiggle your toes easily to permit the normal splay, or spread of the foot bones during running.
✔ When you test running in the shoe, be sure that the heel does not slip.
✔ There should be at least ½ inch of room between the toes and front of shoe, about enough space to place your thumb between your big toe and the front of the shoe.
✔ Buy a few sizes and even styles from a retailer that will allow you to return the ill fitting shoes for free.
Shoe Qualities to Avoid:
❌ Foot shape or arch height are not good indicators of what kind of running shoe to buy. Avoid buying shoes based on advice given after someone in a store has watched you walk. Your gait and foot motion are very different when you walk and run.
❌ High, thick cushioning: Soft cushioning may actually encourage runners to adopt worse biomechanics and land with greater impact than shoes with less cushioning.
❌ Shoes that have a high heel cushion and low forefoot cushion (a “high profile shoe”, or a high heel to toe drop).
❌ Extra arch support inserts or store based orthotics. These items are often not necessary. Orthotics should be considered temporary fixes (<6-8 weeks) until foot strength is increased. A therapist can help you with exercises that can strengthen the foot so that you do not need arch supports on a daily basis.
Pronation alone should not be a reason to select a running shoe. Runners may be told while shopping that because pronation is occurring, a shoe with arch support is best. In fact, the opposite may be true. Pronation should occur and is a natural shock absorber. Stopping pronation with materials in the shoes may actually cause foot or knee problems to develop. Excessive pronation can occur, but in most cases can be corrected with therapy and exercises to strengthen the foot, leg and hip rather than by a shoe.