What you need to know about running shoes
Choosing the correct running shoes can mean the difference between comfort and pain, and the right shoes can even help to maintain your health. While the no-name running shoes on special sale at your local discount store may look like a bargain at first, you will likely pay a much greater price for them in the long term. Opt instead for well-known brands like New Balance, Brooks or Asics running shoes, and be sure to buy shoes designed specifically for the type of exercise you'll be doing.
The Basics of Running Shoes
The way people run can vary considerably. One of the primary factors in running form is the way in which the foot rolls from heel to toe in a running stride. This action, which is called pronation, falls into three basic categories:
- Overpronation is when most of the impact is on the inside of the foot.
- Underpronation occurs when most of the impact is on the outside of the foot.
- Neutral pronation is when the impact is fairly even between the inside and the outside of the foot.
You can usually determine into which of these categories you fall by examining the wear on a pair of your broken-in gym shoes. If there is more wear on the outside of the shoe, you underpronate, whereas if there is more wear on the shoe's inside, you overpronate. If the wear is generally uniform between the inside and outside of the shoe, you have neutral pronation.
Another way to test for pronation is to examine your foot's arch, since people with a low arch tend to overpronate while a high arch causes underpronation. A simple way to examine your arch is to wet the bottom of your foot and then stand normally on an absorbent piece of paper—a standard paper grocery bag works well for this purpose.
Examine the resulting footprint. If there is little curvature from your heel to your toe along the inside edge and your footprint is fairly wide, you are most likely overpronating. On the other hand, if the area between your heel and your toe is very narrow and sharply curved, you are probably underpronating. Neutral pronators will be somewhere in between.
Once you know how your foot distributes your weight, you can look for a running shoe that offers the proper support, such as extra cushioning through a high arch, for example.
How to Buy Training Shoes
It is also important when looking for exercise shoes to be as specific as possible about the type of shoes you need. For example, running shoes are designed specifically for forward motion—walking, running or using the elliptical machine. On the other hand, tennis shoes, basketball shoes and aerobic shoes are all designed to provide support during lateral as well as forward movement. Wearing running shoes for aerobics, then, could lead to foot, ankle and even knee injuries.
If you plan to do a number of exercises and don't want to have to switch shoes between them all, a good pair of cross-trainers is probably for you. These shoes combine features of running shoes and court shoes to provide the best all-around support for various activities.