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The A to Z on Running Shoes

The A to Z on Running Shoes

Running Shoes

The great thing about running is that the only piece of equipment you really need is a pair of shoes. But how do you choose the right ones?

1. Determine your pronation

Pronation is how your foot rolls from heel to toe as it hits the ground. With neutral pronation, your foot evenly rolls straight and evenly from the outside of the heel through to the toe. With underpronation, your foot rolls from the inside to the outside of your foot. With overpronation, your foot rolls from the outside to the inside of your foot.

Look at a pair of your regular street shoes to determine your level of pronation. If the soles show more wear on the inside of the shoe, then you overpronate. If the soles show more wear on the outside of the shoe, then you underpronate. If the wear appears even, then you have a neutral stride.

2. Determine your arch height

Your arch height can be an important factor in choosing running shoes. If you don't already know your arch height, it's easy to learn. Wet the bottom of each foot and stand on a brown paper bag or a patch of dry concrete. Wait a minute, and then step aside.

Look at the outline of your footprint. You have a high arch if there is a very sharp curve along the inside of your foot and a very thin area from heel to toe. You have a low arch if there is little to no curve along the inside of your foot, and your footprint looks like a whole foot. You have a normal arch if there is a distinct curve along the inside of your foot and the area from heel to toe is a little less than half the width of your foot.

3. Understand the connection between arch height and pronation.

There is usually a distinct connection between arch height and pronation. Although this will vary by individual, the following are generally true:

  • Flat arches usually produce overpronation.
  • High arches usually produce underpronation.
  • Normal arches usually produce a neutral stride.

4. Understand the types and shapes of running shoes

Running shoes come in three types and three shapes. Each provides specific benefits for runners with different strides.

Shoe Types

running shoes
  • Stability Shoes - Stability shoes provide cushioning support via a firm midsole that helps stabilize the foot in its stride.
  • Motion Control Shoes - Motion control shoes are rigid and provide stability via a stiffer heel.
  • Cushioned Shoes - Cushioned shoes provide good, overall shock absorption.

Shoe Shapes

  • Straight - Straight shoes provide more arch support and are generally a heavier shoe.
  • Curved - Curved shoes are a bit lighter and provide less support.
  • Semi-Curved - A combination of the straight and curved shoe shape; provides moderate arch support.

5. Trail or pavement?

A final element to consider in choosing running shoes is where you plan to run.

Road running shoes are made for pavement or other hard surfaces. They are lighter, more flexible, and are designed to cushion your feet during repeated strikes on hard surfaces.

Trail runners are meant for off-road use. They feature more rugged soles for good traction, and enhancements like extra stability and underfoot protection.

6. Getting the proper fit

Now that you've found the perfect running shoe, you need to find one that fits properly. Here's how the proper fit should feel:

  • Shoes should feel light, flexible and supportive to your foot.
  • Your shoe should not be too tight, but not so loose that your foot can slide or slip easily; in particular, your heel should not slip when you walk or run.
  • Your toes should have sufficient wiggle room when your shoes are tied.
  • The upper should not be too tight, but feel secure.

A few more tips on getting a good fit.

  • If you can, plan your visit to the store towards the end of the day, when your feet are slightly expanded; your feet will swell as you run.
  • If you have any question about your foot size, have your feet measured. Be sure both feet are measured, as most people have one foot slightly larger than the other.
  • Bring a pair of shoes you currently wear with you. Looking at the wear on the soles will help the salesperson determine the right shoe for you.
  • If you wear orthotics, bring them with you to try on running shoes.

7. Some final thoughts

How often should you replace your shoes? Average runners should replace their shoes after about 250-500 miles. (It's not a bad idea to track the mileage on your shoes as you go.)

Do you need two pairs of running shoes? If you run five days a week or more, you might want to get a second pair of shoes. At that rate of use, your shoes will break down faster, reducing their lifespan.

How do you clean running shoes? Depending on how dirty or muddy your shoes are, start with a good spray with a garden hose. Then, unlace them completely and use a soft brush and a mild detergent to clean. If they're still dirty, remove the insoles and put them in the washing machine on the gentle cycle, using that same mild detergent. Let your shoes air dry; the heat from a dryer will break down the adhesives that hold your shoes together. Some runners swear that stuffing their shoes with newspaper helps speed the drying process.

Now that you've picked your perfect running shoes, show them off! Post a pic on of your new running shoes and your pronation, arch height, shoe shape and type. Like our page for valuable discounts on your next in-store purchase.

Source: San Francisco Gate, a Hearst Publication