Would you consider running a race or marathon in a pair of someone else’s shoes? If you answered, “No,” good answer. But don’t pat yourself on the back just yet. Maybe the shoes you are running in now belong on someone else’s feet and not your own. The purpose of a running shoe is to, “protect the foot from the stresses of running, while permitting the athlete to achieve maximum potential,” as stated by Dr. Stephen Pribut. But not every running shoe can protect every foot the same way. Sport shoes that are not appropriate for the individual needs of a runner may force the lower extremities into movement patterns that overload specific structures, resulting in chronic pain and/or injuries (Nigg). Feet require a specific shoe type for running, and you should pay attention to this detail when shopping for a new pair.
Between 27 and 70% of runners or joggers are injured in a period of one year (Nigg). High impact forces and/or impact loading have been speculated or have been shown to be related to cartilage degeneration (Radin), fatigue fractures and shin splints (Andreasson), achilles tendonitis, plantar fascitis (Paulseth), and the list goes on and on. Shoes that do not help decrease the impact forces of running and do not properly support your feet may lead to some type of foot or lower leg dysfunction. For example, shoes that have inflexible soles cause the calf muscles to work harder and can contribute to the development of Achilles tendonitis. The shoe should flex at the point of where the toes join the foot (MTP joint). Rigidity at that point makes the calf pull the foot up at the tip of the shoe and not at the MTP joint making the calf work over a greater distance (Pribut). Shoes that are too flexible in the midsole or that flex before the MTP joint area result in forces that can both directly cause stress to the plantar fascia and contribute to excessive pronation in the foot (Pribut). This can be one of the likely causes of plantar fascitis in addition to muscle weakness and tightness in the lower limb.
Let’s take a look at two different types of feet and the type of shoe that would be a good fit accordingly. According to Stephen Paulseth, people with high arches tend to have rigid feet and are most likely supinators. A runner who fits this description would want to buy a shoe that is a good shock absorber, has a good heel counter, good forefoot to hind foot mobility, a somewhat flexible forefoot, and that is made of dual density, accommodative, cushy material. Runners who have low arches tend to be pronators. This would call for a shoe that is a motion control shoe, with a stiffer forefoot and a good heel counter. For all cases, the shoe or last should fit the foot shape. Some runners may also need orthotics to help correct any biomechanical dysfunction especially excessive pronation.
One should always go to a specialty running shoe store to buy a pair of shoes. The people that work there should be able to help you find the right fit. A few guidelines that person must remember are a shoe’s midsole only lasts anywhere from 350 to 550 miles. Shoes must be replaced after this. Shoes that are made of polyurethane can last up to 800 miles, but only Nike uses this material. Wear the same socks that you plan on running in when trying on new shoes. Ask to be able to run in the shoes while at the store that is how you will really know if the shoe is comfortable. Try to avoid shoes that are loaded with gel or air in the heel. With the production of heat from running, the air or gel expands, and it takes approximately 24 hours to recompress back to its original state.
A visit with your physical therapist will definitely make things much less complicated. You can go in and get a foot evaluation by an expert who can point out all the things that you need to do to make sure that you can maintain running as a hobby. Your therapist can also give you some tips on the type of shoe that you need. In the end it’s ultimately up to the way your feet feel in the shoe. Bottom line, your foot should always feel comfortable in the shoe; if it doesn’t at first, it probably never will. Good luck.