Friday, November 30, 2012

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The most important equipment for a runner is a pair of properly-fitting running shoes. Before you go the store, think about your running style and ask yourself these questions, suggests Tom Boland, a certified pedorthist (footwear specialist) in New York City:

  • Do you run on pavement or on trails where the surface is often uneven?
  • How much running do you do in the course of a week?
  • Are you a distance runner?
  • Do you run or do you jog?

Your answers will help you choose the right type of running shoe. A knowledgeable running-shoe salesperson can help direct you to the most appropriate shoes for your running routine and style.

Running Shoes: What’s Your Style?

In general you want running shoes with thick, cushioned soles and good support. And it sounds obvious, but be sure you pick a pair of shoes that are designed for running: Cross-training, aerobics, or tennis shoes may look similar, but they don’t have the right features.

There are a number of different types of running shoes, including trail shoes and racing shoes. Pick the design that matches your performance and your terrain:

  • Racing shoes are lightweight, high-performance shoes designed for speed. They’re not meant for everyone.
  • For long-distance running, be sure to find a shoe that provides cushioning as well as support.
  • For running on trails and uneven surfaces, select a shoe that provides both traction and support. Trail shoes are designed for off-road running on dirt, grass, or sand surfaces. They are often water resistant to some degree and are designed to provide good traction, stability, and support.

Running Shoes: Added Features

If you’ve just started running, there’s no need to buy high-performance shoes. Focus instead on the three basics (cushioning, shock absorption, support) as well as on the following:

  • Stress comfort, not appearance. You won’t enjoy your runs if you have foot pain, so look for shoes that feel good right out of the box and don’t rub on any part of your feet.
  • Flexibility is important, too. You should be able to bend the shoe fully at the ball of the foot as you run.
  • Some running shoes are designed to provide extra support on the side of the shoe nearest the arch for people who overpronate. We pronate (roll the foot inward, so that the sole of the foot turns outward) and supinate (roll the foot outward, so that the sole of the foot turns inward) as we walk or run on uneven surfaces, says Boland. People who overpronate habitually roll the foot inward, and tend to have flattened arches. Choose running shoes that compensate for this, if necessary.

Running Shoes: More Shopping Suggestions

You can find running shoes at a shoe store, sporting goods store, outlet store, or at a store that caters specifically to runners.

  • If you’re buying your first pair of running shoes, it’s important to choose a store with knowledgeable salespeople who will take the time to help you find shoes that fit properly and are designed for the type of running routine you have planned. You may find you do best by buying your shoes at a specialty running store.
  • Try on both shoes, lace them properly, and walk around the store. In most places, you can even take a few running strides in the store.
  • For the best fit, be sure you’re wearing the type of socks you’ll wear when running.
  • Fit varies from one brand to another, so you may need to try on several different brands of running shoes until you find one that’s comfortable. Make sure there is at least a finger’s width (about a half inch) between the end of your longest toe and the front of the shoe.

Running Shoes: Replacing Your Shoes

Running shoes don’t last forever. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, about 60 percent of a shoe’s capacity for shock absorption is lost after 250 to 500 miles of use. To avoid foot problems, keep track of how many miles you run and replace your shoes as often as necessary.

Whether you’re training for a 5K, a marathon, or just running to get or stay fit, a good running shoe is vital to the success of your exercise program.


Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH

Running Shoes: A Buyer's Guide

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