Putting Your Best Foot Forward

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2016 YMCA Turkey Trot

“What’s the best kind of running shoe?” “How often should I change my sneakers?”

These types of questions litter any arena were runners gather. The truth is, the BEST kind of running shoe is going to be individual to each runner.

As a rule of thumb (or is it foot?), the most important factor is choosing a pair of shoes that are COMFORTABLE. If your feet are not comfortable, you’re not wearing the right type of shoe. Finding a pair of sneakers that fit well and provide enough support for what you’re bringing to the table (your foot structure, foot strength, etc.) is important to prevent running related injuries. Choosing a new pair of sneakers can be very overwhelming. After all, there are so many different brands, styles and types of shoes to choose from. Regardless of the brand, most sneakers can be broken down into one of four general footwear types:

Stability, motion controlled, Neutral, and minimalist shoe wear

Stability shoes are commonly recommended for runners who are “flat-footed.” It’s important not fall into the trap. Without getting too technical, most of the time being flat-footed has no bearing on your ability to run (unless excessive). It is always best to purchase your sneakers from a specialty store like runner’s Roost or Fleet Feet. Their staff are experienced in helping a variety of runners find the best shoe for them.

Motion controlled used to be all the rave. These shoes are much more rigid, or stiff, than the neutral/stability type of shoe wear. Usually these shoes work well with runners who need help controlling their foot and ankle (weakness) or have high, rigid arches. Truthfully, this shoe is usually over utilized amongst novice runners. A small, select set of runners benefit from motion controlled shoes compared to their counterpart. This is another great reason to seek consult from an expert when deciding on your next pair of running shoes.

Neutral sneakers work well for runners who can control the motion at their foot and ankle. Typically, these shoes work best with runners who have a neutral or slightly lower arch. Control at the foot and ankle really translates back to strength. Runners with the appropriate foot type and foot strength are perfect for neutral shoes.

Last but not least is the minimalist type shoe. This type of shoe wear is lightweight and provides minimal cushion. Minimalist running has grown in popularity significantly over the last decade. The discussion of the minimalist shoe movement could be a blog post of its own. For brevity, it’s likely best to avoid a transition to minimalist shoes if you’re not confident they’re right for you.

“How do I know if I’m in the right style and have the right size?”

The shoes should be snug in the heel, and you should have “wiggle room” for your toes. The gist of it is that you should feel comfortable. Remember, you’re picking for comfort, not for color or how well they match your running gear! When it comes to your shoes, don’t skimp or say “good enough.” Nothing ruins a good training plan like a painful, hot foot full of blisters!

“How do I know when I need a new pair of shoes?”

Again – this question is individual for each and every runner. The arbitrary number of miles that’s often thrown around is 300. This number will vary based on your shoe durability and your running surfaces. It is important to transition into a new pair of shoes over 3-4 weeks to avoid injury.

In the grand scheme of running injury free, sneakers (or any other off the shelf product) are only used to supplement your performance. Building strength, flexibility and endurance is the key to running without injury. Keep an eye out for next week’s blog post where we will go over a few ways to implement a good warm up and cool down routine into your running to avoid injury.

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