Some say that the quest for the best running shoes is a lot like buying a car. To me, I’d say it is more akin to dating. You are looking for a long term relationship. Outside beauty may be what initially what attracts you, but ultimately it’s what’s inside that counts. It’s about chemistry. Do you work well together? You will only know when you take her out on a running date. While training you’ll be spending many hours in your running shoes and logging a significant amount of miles on the shoedometer* so you’ll want to make sure that it’s a relationship you feel really, really good about. That chemistry will be what ultimately determines the perfect fit. They may not be the flashiest pair on the block, with all the latest gadgetry, but for you, it just works. After a few training runs, if it’s just not working out, don’t be afraid to have the hard conversation. You may have to tell a perfectly good pair of Asics, “It’s not you, it’s me.” Be strong, find the right fit and your feet will thank you in the end.
Shoe Chemistry or Shoemistry*
The only thing between your feet and the constant pounding against the pavement is your running shoe. Gotta treat em right. Before you venture out and hit up the running shoe stores, look at your feet and consider their needs. How will you know which running shoe will be best until you know what kind of feet you have? Your foot tells a story about what type of running shoes may be best suited for you.
While running, the arch of the foot collapses, or pronates, to help with shock absorption.
The flat-footed runner has a fallen arch. This means that when running, because there is little or no arch, they land flat on their foot causing the foot to roll inward. This is called overpronation, and without proper care it can lead to injury in the long term.
A high-arched foot causes underpronation or supination which leads to landing on the outside edges of the feet sending shock up the legs. Like the flat-footer, if not cared for, those high arched runners can experience pain and injury over time.
Neutral feet, or those with a normal arch, are neither high arched nor flat. They are right in the middle of the road and need less of the support and stability that flat and high arched runners need. Running shoe buying tends to be a little bit easier since they are looking more for fit and comfort.
Best Running Shoe Models
To meet the needs of the many different feet out there, shoe manufacturers have developed some of the best running shoes to accommodate the wide variety of runners. As you begin this speed dating process, a good place to start is to know your foot and then align with the proper shoe model. One of my early mistakes was that I started running in a shoe that didn’t fit my foot very well. I went to a big box sporting goods store for shoes without previous knowledge of the needs of my feet. I did, what I think most people do, picked the snazziest one’s on the shelf, tried them on and then bought them. What I found over the next few weeks was that each time I ran my pinkie toenail on my right foot was boring a hole in the wall of the shoe. The shoe was just too narrow for my w i d e feet. I had not done my homework and consequently, I did not buy the best running shoes for me.
The flat-footed runner should lean toward a more stable shoe model. This stability is intended to help counteract overpronation by giving the foot the support it needs to minimize inward roll. The best running shoes for the flat-footed runner are motion control. From my experience, they are not the sexiest shoe on display due to the fact that they are more utilitarian in nature. They tend to look a little like grandpa shoes. Try not to get distracted by all the flash and dash, you’re looking for the perfect fit for your feet. That should be your sole purpose.
Runners with high arches, aka an underpronator, or supinator, have an arch that does not collapse enough to absorb the impact of pavement pounding. This can result in additional shock traveling up your legs and spine leading to soreness and injury. The best running shoe for underpronators are neutral-cushioned shoes with a softer midsole to encourage the arch to collapse.
Normal pronators, or the neutral foot runner, can wear whatever shoe they want, but may be best suited to a stability shoe that provides some arch support.
Now that you know what type of shoe model you’re best suited for, head to your local running store. For your first shoe buying
experience these local running shops are great. They are usually staffed with experienced runners and they are happy to help you navigate through the many different shoe options. Many locations help with gait analysis where staff watch you run on a treadmill or outside to help find the right shoe. They are there to help give direction and guidance. Try on a lot of different shoes. Try different brands, different sizes, different widths, and try them with different socks. Take a jog around the block in each pair. Take as much time as you need. Spend the afternoon there and do whatever you need to do to make the best choice possible. Remember it’s a long term relationship so make sure you find the right one. When all is said and done, you will know when you’ve found the “one,” the perfect fit, the very best running shoe for you.
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