Sports: Choosing The Best Running Shoe

Tips on choosing the best running shoe for you. Learn what to do before, during, and after shopping for running shoes.

The best running shoe is the one that provides you as a runner the optimum in comfort, protection against injury, and performance.Choosing the best running shoe is not about finding the shoe that uses the latest technology or the most expensive shoe.It's about selecting the best shoe for you.

Every human foot is different.In fact, your own two feet may be different in length or width or arch type. Every person's biomechanics, the movements their body makes and the way their body distributes force, are different.Every person's running goals and mileage are different.Shoes are mass produced.So how do you select the best shoe to suit your individual running style and goals?

Here are a few tips to guide you to your best shoe.

Tips for Before You Shop

Before you hit the stores, hit the road.If you're an experienced runner, you probably already know how you land on your feet and how you push off with each stride.If you're a new runner, you need to figure this out the best you can.Pay attention to your feet while running.Do you land on your heels, on the middle of your feet, or on the front of your feet? As you push off do you feel the most pressure on the inside of your foot or the outside of your foot?

Not sure?Ask a fellow runner to watch you run and tell you what he or she sees in your foot motion.Or better yet, have someone videotape your feet as you run on a treadmill and watch the tape.

Plan ahead if you're shopping in a store.Bring along the socks you plan to wear with your new shoes.If you have a current pair of running shoes, bring them in, too.A knowledgeable clerk can use their wear pattern and your feedback about those shoes to help you choose your new shoes.Bring your orthotics if you use them.Wear clothes you can run in, at least for a short distance.Go later in the day when your feet are at their maximum size.

Tips for Shopping

Have both feet measured for size and then select shoes to fit the larger foot.You'll need running shoes a half to a whole size larger than the size of your regular shoes.

Select a shoe based on your type of foot motion and your foot structure. If you overpronate (use the inside of your foot heavily) or have flat feet, try on motion control shoes.If you underpronate (use the outside of your foot heavily) or have high arches, go for the cushioned shoes.If you're somewhere in the middle, try stability shoes.

Select shoes that have plenty of support where your foot strikes the running surface, whether that's your heel or midfoot or forefoot.Keep in mind that your two feet may pronate differently and that overpronation or underpronation can range from mild to severe.Shoe designs fall throughout the pronation range as well.For example, motion control shoes of different designs may control foot motion a lot or just a little bit.

First be sure the shoes fit your feet well when seated and standing up.They should be immediately comfortable and not feel like they need breaking in. Shoes that are too short lead to sore feet and black, or even lost, toenails.Be sure you have a thumb's width of room in your shoe when you press the top of it above your big toe.

Shoes that are either too tight or too loose can give you blisters.The heel should feel snug without being tight.You should not be able to lift your heel out of the shoe or be able to stick your thumb between your heel and the back of the shoe.The toebox should be wide enough to allow your forefoot its full spread without any feeling of tightness.However, you don't want so much room up there.Wiggle room, yes, but your foot should not be able to slide from side to side.

Your ankle should fit in the opening without rubbing on the side notches for your ankle bones.Flex your foot and be sure the rear notch is located in a spot that's comfortable for your Achilles tendon.

If the inside of the shoe has a built up area in the mid-section to support the arch, make sure its location matches the location of the arch of your foot.Likewise, a shoe's flex point in the forefoot (where the shoe's natural bend is) should align with the point where your foot bends when you lift your heel.

You should be able to lace the shoes in such a way that you have a full range of motion for your feet while not feeling like you're going to come out of your shoes.Also pay attention to seams.An inner seam that consistently rubs your foot can cause painful blisters.

Try shoes made by different companies.Since different manufacturers use different lasts (the form used to shape a shoe), you may find that your foot shape matches well with one or two brands and not so well with others.

Once you've found shoes that feel good while standing in them, it's time to run.Some running stores have treadmills.Some allow you to run on a sidewalk.Some have aisles where you can take a few strides.Forget about how you look.It's far more important to know how the shoes feel when you're running in them.

While you run, you want to feel that you're running naturally.Your feet shouldn't slip around inside the shoes, nor should they feel constricted.Only you can decide how much flexibility you want for your heel-to-toe motion.Only you know how much stiffness and cushioning you want, and where you want it, to absorb the impact.

Shoes affect your complete body alignment, not just your feet.So besides paying attention to your feet in your test run, be aware of your knees, hip joints, and lower back since they absorb part of the force of impact when you run.If any of these parts of your body feel awkward when you run, the new shoes may be throwing your posture off kilter.

Salespeople and product descriptions can tell you which shoes might be best for you.Trust your body to tell you which shoes are indeed the best choice.

Tips for After You Buy

Even the best shoes wear out after 500-600 miles or so and you'll need to buy another pair.Your experience with whatever shoes you choose will make you a savvier shopper the next time, so keep track of it.If you keep a mileage log, a good idea for every runner, add some notes about the shoes.Record when you started running with them so you'll have a guesstimate on how many miles they've traveled on your feet.

Listen to your body while you're running with your new shoes.How's the ride?Any aches or pains that only showed up after running in the new shoes?Any that went away?Are the shoes great for short runs but not quite cushy enough when you get past five miles?Do they seem fine on the treadmill but not sturdy enough for the road?Note these things in your log and you'll better prepared the next time you need new running shoes to know what "best" means for your body and your choice of running activities.

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