Off-the-Job Safety: Choosing the Right Running Shoes

March 23, 2012
The best way to reduce work-related stress is exercise, and with the weather warming up and marathon season upon us, millions of people are taking to the streets and sidewalks for a run. Experts warn though, that choosing the right running shoes is just as important as your training schedule.

Thousands of people will kick off Chicago’s running season on March 25 when they step out for the city’s most popular 8K race. Having the proper footwear will be important to protect their feet and prevent injuries, according to podiatrists at Loyola University Health System (LUHS).

“This is the first outdoor race of the season, so many people may attempt to run without properly preparing for it,” said Kate Schimka, DPM, AACFAS, LUHS. “Preparation includes having the right shoes for your foot type and running style."

Schimka, who will staff the medical tent at the 8K race, recommends that runners of all levels visit a running clinic before shopping for new shoes, so that a podiatrist can evaluate their gait. These clinics generally offer the runner a digital video analysis of their running style; a biomechanical assessment of their strength, flexibility and range of motion; nutritional counseling; and recommendations on the best running shoes based on foot type and stride.

“A thorough analysis will help a runner determine which shoes are appropriate for their needs,” said Schimka. “They can then take this information to a specialty running store to select a shoe."

Schimka suggests the following tips when selecting a running shoe:

  • Shop later in the day. Feet swell throughout the day, so they are larger in the evening.
  • Bring or wear your old gym shoes. The sales associate will look for excessive wear in different areas of the shoe. Wear on the inside of the shoe indicates overpronation or a flat foot. These runners benefit from motion-control shoes, which absorb the impact along the inside of the foot. Excessive wear on the outside of the shoe indicates underpronation. These runners do well with a cushion shoe. Uniform wear across the sole of the shoe reflects normal wear. These runners benefit from a neutral or stability shoe.
  • Don’t forget your inserts. If you own orthotics, bring them with you to test in the shoes.
  • Make sure both feet are measured. One foot may be larger than the other, so purchase your shoes according to the larger size.
  • Wear the socks you plan to use while running. Avoid 100 percent cotton socks. Opt for those with wicking capabilities that remove moisture from the feet.
  • Don’t get caught up in the appearance of the shoe. Avoid buying a pair solely based on the brand or style.
  • Check the fit. The most important step to finding the right shoe is to check the toe box for adequate room. Your thumbnail should fit between the end of the big toe and the tip of the shoe. The shoe also should fit snugly across the widest part of the foot, and the heel should not slide around as you walk.
  • Take a test drive. Run or jog in the shoes on a treadmill or on a running path in the store to make sure they fit comfortably.

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