The first and most important investment for a new runner should be a pair of proper running shoes. “Proper” does not necessarily mean the latest and top of the line; on the other hand, you probably should avoid the bargain basement brands. And while there are some truly beautiful running shoes out there, neither is this a fashion statement. Choosing the right shoe is important in preventing injuries, which can include anything from blistering and cramping to sprains and shin splints.
“Almost all shoes are good for something,” says Matt Balzer, owner of Reno Running Company, “but it is impossible to say any one particular shoe is good for a (specific) group of people”, whether beginners or seasoned runners.
So how do you know which are the best shoes for you?
You can get part of the story from a test you can perform at home, called the “wet test”. You simply wet the sole of your foot, then step onto a paper shopping bag or other piece of blank, heavy paper, and stand on that leg for a few seconds. Then step back and look down. The shape of the footprint tells a bit about your foot type. If you see around half of your arch region, you have a normal or medium arch. If you see just the ball and heel of your foot, you have a high arch. And if you see almost your entire foot, you have a flat or low arch. This self-diagnostic does give you an idea of the type of shoe you need, but it’s only one clue in the quest for the running shoes meant for you.
The best thing to do is to have a gait analysis. You can can make an appointment with a physician who specializes in sports podiatry. Or, check with your local running specialty store to see if they can perform the evaluation on site. At Reno Running Company, for example, there are two treadmills with high-speed cameras aimed at the feet. The cameras are used to “analyze an individual’s foot strike pattern, along with ankle and foot mobility,” Balzer explained. “We look for the rate of pronation (the natural movement of the foot that occurs during foot landing) to help us fit each customer in the correct category of shoe for their individual needs.”
Following the gait analysis, Balzer and his associates spend time with the customer to find out what type of activity they will be using the shoes for: indoor or outdoor, trail or road, walking or running, etc. Based upon all of this information, they can help the customer choose from several options.
Most major shoe brands carry styles in three basic types:
- motion control, for runners with low arches
- stability, for those with normal or medium arched feet
- cushioned, for those with high arches
It’s a good idea when you try on the shoes to walk – better yet, run – around the store to see how they feel.
The cost of a pair of running shoes can be eye-opening. “Running shoes are an expensive investment,” says running coach and trainer Lauren Evans, “but it is well worth it.”
All of the major shoe brands have models that start around $50 and can go up to $150 or more. “The $50 shoe could meet someone’s needs just as well as a $150 shoe,”, said Balzer, but the less expensive shoes can wear out faster and you may be replacing them more often. The general consensus is that most running shoes should be replaced every 300-500 miles, so depending on how much you plan to run, that can mean at least a couple of pairs a year.
And, again, there are some beautiful running shoes out there…so even though a fashion statement isn’t the top priority, it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility!