24 Oct The Right Running Shoe for YOU
How often do we see people talking about what they think is the ‘best’…in blogs, ads, magazines, Facebook Running Groups?
The truth is, there isn’t a best shoe. There aren’t even 10 of the best shoes even. Or 20.
This is because the best running shoe for you completely and 100 percent depends on the anatomy of YOUR specific foot!
Let me break this down further. There are generally speaking 3 different flavors feet come in. Yes there are many special considerations and hybrid-type feet, but to help you understand …the grand majority of us fit into one of these categories.
Shape of the arch
High: a high arch
Average: neither high nor low
Low: very little to no arch present
We assess the general arch of the foot in weight bearing only! So don’t simply sit down, cross your legs and look at your foot! This is because the foot is often dynamic and will change based on the weight bearing it receives. We run in weight bearing, not in sitting. What looks like a high arch can often collapse completely once someone is in the standing position. Personally I also like to assess the foot during a single leg squat to see the effects of single leg weight bearing.
The arch tells us how much support or cushioning will be necessary. Although it is not the full story it is the first thing we should look for because it’s impact is felt the most in the grand majority of cases. (See the first picture above!)
High-arched individuals can generally look to a neutral shoe or somewhat cushioned shoe. They need less structure because the innate structure they were born with holds up nicely. If the arch is extraordinarily high, or if there is an established pattern of lower extremity injury such as shin splints, stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, calf pulls etc, an over-the-counter arch support (or orthotic in rare cases) may be helpful to meet the arch where it is. I personally find ‘super feet’ brand does the trick. (No, I don’t receive any endorsements, I just like the way it holds up and the price point together).
Average-arched individuals generally can look for ‘neutral’ shoes. You people are my people…easy.
Low-arch individuals generally are the most problematic. Not so much because of the arch but because other aspects of the foot anatomy generally come down with the ship, so to speak. Therefore there can be several other favors effecting a good show fit in this group. Bunions, forefoot splaying, a narrow foot but wide mid foot…so many tough combos are possible here.
No matter, for all in this group, ‘Motion control’ shoes should be the order of the day, and often an orthotic or over the counter insert may also be of help. Common ailments from a low arch include anything from back pain to hip pain, knee pain, ankle pain and shin splints.
There are also 3 general widths of the foot to consider.
Narrow: womens size AA, mens B
Average : womens size B, mens CD
Wide: womens size C, mens EE
Although better assessed by a pro, a generally acceptable guideline is:
Narrow: forefoot distance less than 3.5 inches for women and men
Wide: forefoot distance of more than 3.75 inches for women and 4 inches for men
As mentioned, this is tough to self-assess as most adults do not know what is considered average to begin with. It is also, in my opinion and anecdotally in my practice, the one item most often missed…and a likely cause for many simple running injuries.
For some reason, most runners guesstimate their foot to be significantly wider than it is. A first clue that you are in a show that is not the correct size is feeling your heel slipping out, the ability for your toes to ‘splay’ or separate easily, or having to tie the laces super tight. Most runners do not know that shoes should be snug all around, including in the toe box. If you can separate your toes (think yoga toes), your shoe is too wide. Go down a width.
This is a problem. Too wide of a shoe allows the toes to splay, flattens the longitudinal arch (the second most significant arch in the foot) and causes the toes to flex or grip down, causing them to be overused. Many injury patterns, from a pulled calf, shin splints, tibial stress fractures etc, can all be caused by shoes that are too wide.
It is very infrequent that I see people in a shoe too narrow. Its the opposite. I see too many clients in a regular width shoe that should be in a narrow. Men and women. It’s is the most common error I see in fitting running shoes. Runners who don’t realize they need a size narrow. Not just a shoe that runs narrow. An actual narrow-sized shoe.
Although there are all general guidelines, it’s best to get help as it’s not really a 3-sizes-fit all sort-of-thing. In reality, there are other things I look at when I size an individual. Certain bony landmarks, heel size, injury history, presence of bunions, blisters and locations…this is why going to a professional is better than guessing for yourself.
When I prescribe running shoes I will generally choose a shoe type, choose a width, and then allow the client to try on multiple shoes that fit that category, across brands. Then the client can run in the shoes that fit the prescription to see which is the best. If I’m able, I will also conduct a biomechanical analysis of the client standing, performing some specific movements and running in the shoes they are most comfortable in. This way we can further narrow down the list.
Clients often think they know what shoe is best for them by how it ‘feels’. This is tricky. It can lead you to the wrong shoe for you. A spongy comfy shoe or a shoe with alot of spring in it may be your comfort factor, but it may not at all be the correct shoe for your anatomy. It is better to find the type that works for you, and then out of all the correct choices narrow it down to which feels best !
In sum, the incorrect running shoe can leave you injured. It’s the only product you have to buy for running. Don’t skimp on paying someone to help you. Just as a cyclist needs a good bike fit, a runner needs first and foremost the right shoe.