If the Shoe Fits. Running Shoes 101
Veterinary warriors know, better than most, the importance of good footwear.
The long hours standing, crouching, bending, and literally balancing the weight of the world – and sometimes our patients – on our backs, is the perfect recipe for sore feet and an aching body. The same holds true for our running gear. From minimalist to high cushion, and trail runners to racers, you practically need a degree to understand how to choose the right shoe.
Have no fear, for as you prepare for the Relief Rover Clinic to 5K virtual run, consider this your running gear CE – minus the endless free pens – to start you off on the right foot.
First, some terminology. In order to understand the science of running shoes, it’s important to learn the terms and factors that are involved in creating the perfect product for optimal performance, and more importantly, comfort. Extensive running lingo is a language of its own and will be covered in another article.
Before embarking on your shoe search, here is your study guide of common terms:
- Pronation – The act of your foot arch collapsing to absorb the shock of impact when your foot hits the ground. All runners pronate to some degree.
- Overpronation – This occurs when the foot rolls excessively down and inward (or medial) in order to absorb the shock of impact. This is typical of people with low arches or flat feet.
- Underpronation (supination) –The heel and ankle will roll outward (or lateral), placing more weight and impact on the outer edge of the foot. This typically occurs with high-arched individuals and those with an instep that has little flexibility.
- Neutral runners – Those runners who place equal weight on their feet during impact and do not pronate. According to runningwharehouse.com, 80% of running shoes can accommodate neutral runners.
- Stack height – The amount of material on a shoe between your foot and the ground. This can range from practically barefoot to walking on cushioned stilts.
- Heel-toe drop – This refers to the material below the heel and the forefoot. For most runners, your heel is the first part of the foot to strike the ground and bears the majority of the impact. The shoe material under the heel absorbs the majority of the impact to decrease the chances of injury and pain. Shoes with a lower heel to toe drop have a more uniform thickness under the entire foot, and this teaches your foot to strike in the midfoot, as opposed to the heel.
Now that you are armed with the language of shoes, the next step is choosing a pair that will support you in your self-care, running, or walking journey.
If the idea of shoes makes you giddy with glee as you call out “hello lover!” a la Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, then choosing a running shoe may be a little more tricky.
Against all your shoe dreams, the cardinal rule of running shoes is NOT to choose based solely on color or style. Your running shoe is the most important, and arguably, the only item of importance when starting a running program (yes naked runs are a thing for some, but not advised).
Follow these steps when searching for the perfect running shoe:
#1: Try on shoes at the end of the day.
Your feet will swell as the day goes on, and this will help mimic their size during exercise. Most people wear at least ½ size larger in running shoes compared to regular street shoes.
#2: Get a gait analysis.
Like our canine and equine patients, a close analysis of gait is key to choosing the right shoe –– that is, if pets wore shoes. Most specialty running stores have inhouse treadmills and staff that are experts on running gait. Determining the type of runner (or power walker) you are, and the degree of pronation, is critical to ensuring you select a shoe that will support your body and minimize impact. Short on time? Look for a store or service that will analyze your gait by video. In the world of zoom, most running stores or coaches are now offering this service.
#3: Check the return policy before purchasing.
Running retailers get it, and contrary to every shopping rule, running and returning is often encouraged! So, pop those tags, and run without worry. Many shoe brands and stores offer a 30-day return policy, or longer, where you can actually run in the shoe to see if it works and return or exchange if it doesn’t work for you or your feet. Happy Feet = Happy Customers.
#4: Set your budget expectations.
Running shoes are an investment, and like a car, the more money, the more bells, whistles, and technology. Although you don’t need the top-of-the-line shoe to have a smooth ride, you can’t put a price on the perfect fit. Most running shoes range from $100-$250. It can be tempting to purchase a less expensive sneaker but be prepared for injuries and a sore back if it’s not designed for the impact your body is experiencing when running.
#5: Replace your shoes every 300-500 miles.
You may be thinking, I will never run 300 miles unless I am being chased. But, in reality, 300 miles is less than one mile per day in a year, and it is guaranteed that you cover more miles than that running around the clinic at work. Miles add up, and the wear and tear on your shoes is much like the tires on your car. Once your shoes reach their limit, your body is at risk for injury because of decreased support and shock absorption.
Pro tip: Once you find the perfect shoe, consider stocking up on a few pairs that you can rotate throughout the year to decrease wear.
Show us your new kicks, and don’t forget to tag @reliefrover and @itsdrjuli with #runvetrun on your Relief Rover running journey. Have a running, or shoe-related question? email [email protected] and we may answer your questions in an upcoming article or post.
If you haven’t signed up for the virtual Relief Rover Clinic to 5K then CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.