Friday, June 25, 2010

Shoes = Very Important

When asked about what he learned from his marathon debut in 2002, Olympic Marathon silver medalist and 2009 winner of the New York City Marathon, Meb Keflezighi, responded: “I learned three things: be patient, keep your beanie as it was 38-degrees on that day and I got cold, and shoes – I wore a pair that was for 5k or 10k racing. Even my dad noticed they were the wrong shoes. So coming onto 1st Ave. I was feeling the road.”

One of the most essential ingredients to training injury-free is outfitting yourself with the proper footwear. Every running shoe is designed with a specific type of runner in mind. The best way to discover what shoe best fits your running needs is to understand who you are as a runner—your gender, the surface you run on, your stride, biomechanics, foot shape, body type and your injury history all factor into determining which shoe is best for you. A helpful tool to find your perfect shoe is the Brooks Shoe Advisor, which in six steps will help you discover the Brooks running shoe that fits your specific needs.

Running specialty stores have trained staff that will monitor your foot type and stride to help find the proper shoes, and allow you to try on multiple styles to determine the best feel and fit.

This week we’ll focus on choosing the appropriate footwear for your biomechanical needs. One way to figure out whether you are a neutral runner, an overpronator or an underpronator (supinator), is to take a look at your foot shape.

The Normal Foot: If you were to get your foot wet and plant it on the sidewalk, a normal foot would have a normal-sized arch that shows the forefoot and heel connected by a broad band. Biomechanically, a normal foot lands on the outside of the heel and slightly rolls inwards to absorb shock. Runners with normal feet tend to have neutral strides or they tend to mildly overpronate. Neutral runners with normal feet benefit from a cushioned shoe that absorbs shock and offers mild support. Overpronators with normal feet will benefit from a shoe that offers stability to reduce the rate of pronation (inward rolling) and cushioning to absorb shock. About 55% of runners fall into the category of the neutral or normal foot.

The Flat Foot: The flat foot has a low arch and, when wet, the entire sole of the foot appears. A flat foot tends to strike on the outside of the heel and rolls inward or overpronates excessively. Over time, this can cause several different kinds of overuse injuries if not addressed with proper footwear. Runners with flat feet who overpronate benefit from shoes with firm (generally wider) midsoles and control features that reduce the rate of pronation. Runners with low arches and flat feet should avoid highly cushioned, curved shoes that lack stability and motion control features. About 40% of runners fall into the category of the overpronated, flat foot.

High Arched Foot: The high-arched foot, when wet, shows a very narrow band connecting the forefoot and heel or no band at all. This foot has a significant curve to it compared to the flat foot, and it is generally rigid and “supinated” or underpronated. Instead of rolling inward when the foot strikes the ground, the high arched foot continues to roll on the outside of the foot, thereby absorbing little shock. Runners with this foot type benefit from a highly cushioned, flexible shoe; hence, they should avoid motion control and stability shoes that reduce foot mobility. Fewer than 5% of runners fall into the category of the supinated, high arched foot.

Local specialty running stores are equipped to fit shoes based on foot structure. This includes support of the arch, cushioning, and weight. Just remember that each person’s foot is unique and that finding the shoe that best fits your unique foot structure is very important to give you the best chance of reducing aches and pains.

Running shoes should be replaced every 300 miles or every three to four months, whichever comes first. Log mileage in a journal and mark the date you purchased your shoes on the side of the shoe. Do not replace your shoes any sooner than one month prior to the marathon, as you want to have the shoes broken in before the event. You may want to rotate different shoes so that you do not become dependent on one particular shoe, as many running shoes change in the course of a year as new models are released and older models discontinued.

If you run into a shoe snafu, seek a sports medicine specific podiatrist to evaluate your foot type and shoe choice before injuries compound themselves.

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