Chosing Shoes
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runshoes.wmf (11468 bytes) Shoe Choice Guidelines

                  --- Bill Lis

Running shoes are unique from all other types of shoes.  They are made in different shapes to accommodate different foot shapes. 

People have

  1. flat feet,
  2. "normal" arches or
  3. "high" arches

and running shoes are

  1. "straight lasted" (for flat feet),
  2. semi-curved lasted (for "normal" arches) and
  3. curve lasted (for high arches). 

Now, there is no common blueprint that the shoe manufacturers use to define straight, semi-curved and curved.  In fact, one manufacturer's straight last might look like another manufacturer's semi-curved last.  So, the point is, it is all relative within each brand.

When people run, there are three things their feet can do.  When they come off the forefoot, their feet can

  1. come off evenly or slightly toward the inside (normal or neutral)
  2. they can roll severely to the inside (overpronate) or
  3. they roll to the outside (underpronate or supinate).

Running shoes are made to accommodate each of these strides.  The shoes are typically categorized as

  1. neutral/cushion,
  2. stability and
  3. motion control.

People who are neutral/normal can wear just about anything without too much worry because they are not likely to feel comfortable in a motion control shoe (one made for severe overpronators) because it would feel too stiff and "clunky".   The other types of shoes, stability and cushion could work fine depending on the person's comfort and size (a heavier person might be better off in a stability shoe).

People who roll severely to the inside (overpronate) are better off in a motion control shoe.  This type of shoe is straight-lasted and usually has some sort of firm support on the medial (arch-side) side.  The support is either a denser mixture of the EVA (ethyl vinyl acetate) or a thermal plastic material.  Some shoes provide firmer support on both sides (medial and lateral) of the shoe.

People that underpronate/supinate need maximum cushion and flexibility. This type of shoe is typically more curved in shape.

What I find to be really interesting and challenging, is when a person does one thing with one foot and something else with the other (like overpronates with one foot and is neutral or supinates with the other).  This is not that uncommon!  We are not PERFECTLY made!  Sometimes a person has one leg longer than the other and it causes a biomechanical difference.  Also bow-leggedness is a factor.

What I also find interesting are the various "shoe reviews" one can find in numerous magazines (Runners World, Running Times, Consumer Report, Running Journal, etc.)  If you read them all you will find inconsistencies (one might categorize a shoe as "motion control" while another categorizes the same shoe as "stability") and inaccuracies (hey, mistakes and typos happen). One review might rave about a shoe while another trashes it.  So what's a person to do???

There is no one shoe or brand that is best for everyone.  We are all different and so are shoes.  What works for me might not work for you and vice versa.  So, try on and run in several so that you have a good comparison yourself.  Once you find a shoe that works, stick with it (if it ain't broke, don't fix it) until the manufacturer forces you to by changing the model.  Then start all over again (you might start by trying the closest thing to it).

Enough said...  Gotta run!

Bill Lis in VA

If you are purchasing new shoes, be sure to get a gait analysis to help you find the right shoes for your running feet.

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