Menu

1300 bodywise (263 994)

How to choose the correct running shoe

core
By Michael Hall,

Looking to buy your next pair of walking or running shoes? Where do you start? The plethora of shoes available can only compare to the number of mobile phone plans that are on the market. It is a confusing array of shapes, colours, materials and densities, all designed to address a particular want, need and function. But how do you decide which shoe is going to work best for you, giving you the style, performance and protection that you desire? This article goes in search of those answers, so that you can make better informed choices as to what footwear is appropriate for you, rather than having to rely on some marketing gimmick or the advice of a fresh faced just out of school sales assistant.

The barefoot running phenomenon

What is not often appreciated is that walking and running are whole body activities, involving a complex symphony of muscles, joints and body parts all working in synergy to propel you forward in the most efficient, effective manner possible. If you walk or run too bent forward or too far back or have poor muscle strength and control (especially your glutes, quadriceps, calf and or foot muscles) or have inadequate joint mobility (especially backwards bending of the hips and ankles), you will be predisposed to injury no matter what shoe, orthotic or even surgery you have.

Even reducing your arm swing will change the efficiency and effectiveness of your motion and have biomechanical implications throughout the rest of your body. Any deficiency or motion lost in one direction will be regained as excessive motion in the least desirable direction, in the least desirable body part. And because walking and running are repetitive, cyclical activities, any problem not addressed will only get worse.

Structural interventions such as shoes, orthotics and surgery may be part of your solution, but to completely resolve associated back, hip, knee, ankle and foot injuries, you must have an assessment and get your faulty movement pattern corrected, otherwise your injuries will just return.

For a foot assessment and a walking evaluation, please call Bodywise Health on 1 300 263 994 (BODYWISE).

Back to basics

Walking and running both involve an incredibly complex interaction of muscles, joints, limbs and motions, all performed under the subconscious control of the brain. To coin a phrase, “You just do it”, but that doesn’t mean that you “do it” correctly!

Pronation is not a dirty word

Walking and most often running, involves a heel – toe pattern. Generally, the outside of the heel should hit the ground first (50’s supination).3 The centre of gravity of your body (gaitline) should move from the outside to the inside of the heel and then curving forward starting towards the 4th toe, to the 3rd toe before trailing off between the 1st and 2nd toe as you push off. The slight inward flattening the inside of the foot (pronation) is important, because as the inside of the foot flattens (pronates), the forefoot is unlocked so that it can accommodate to the ground, thereby improving your foot’s surface contact and giving you better grip, balance and agility. It also enables the impact shock to be better absorbed and dissipated throughout the joints and muscles of your foot, ankle, knee, hip and pelvis thereby helping to prevent stress fractures (e.g. March fractures), jarring injuries (e.g. fat pad inflammation) and ankle sprains. The downside of excessive pronation is not only an increased risk of injury, but that it is less energy efficient (i.e. more tiring), as the elastic recoil of the foot joints and muscles are reduced.

fig1

Figure 1.  Left image Normal-Note gaitline moves towards the 3rd toe before trailing off between the 1st and 2nd toes. Middle Image - Pronated (flat) foot. Right Image - Supinated (high arched foot)

For a foot assessment and a walking evaluation, please call Bodywise Health on 1 300 263 994 (BODYWISE).

What type of feet do you have?

There are five main foot types: Which one do you have?

fig2

Is GaitScan the best assessment tool for feet during walking / running?

Here at Bodywise Health, along with other tests, we use GaitScan to evaluate the functioning of feet during the walking / running cycle. GaitScan is a computerised assessment tool that not only illustrates the GaitLine but also indicates the specific amount of pressure and the timing of pressure of each part of your foot at 300 times per second as your body passes over your foot during walking.

The beauty of GaitScan is that it gives objective data of your foot mechanics as you walk. This data is then directly able to determine what foot type you have. To identify which shoe will best suit you is then a simple task of matching your data with the corresponding shoe.

For a foot assessment and a walking evaluation, please call Bodywise Health on 1 300 263 994 (BODYWISE).

fig3 fig4 fig5

Which shoes for which feet?Runners who have pronated feet need a dual density midsole that is harder on the inside than the outside to prevent excessive flattening motion (pronation).If you are a wholefoot pronator, the increased density midsole should extend from the inside back of the sole of the shoe to just before the ball of the foot.
If you are a forefoot pronator, the increased density midsole should be slightly further forward extending from the inside of the front of the heel to just before the ball of the foot.If you have a supinated foot, you need extra shock absorption with a shoe with a soft midsole that still provides outer stability.
The table below summarises the recommended running shoe features for each foot type.

fig7

Fig 3.  Heel counter, the back of the shoe above the sole

fig9

Figure 5. Note Shoe on the left has a straight Last whereas as the shoe on the right is curved.

  

Running Shoes

The best running shoe for you should match your foot type, as well as your individual wants and needs.  Running shoes should not attempt to change your foot shape, but rather work with your foot, running style and purpose to prevent injury and give you the best possible performance. There are several features of shoes which are important for correct foot function.   These include:

1.The front of the shoe should be flexible and bend easily along the curve of where your toes meet your foot (metatarsal phalangeal joints).

2. The heel counter, the upper rear part of the shoe should be made of rigid, firm plastic to assist in rear foot stability.

3. The midsole is probably the most important feature of a running shoe as it attempts to balance the competing demands of shock absorption with motion control. If the midsole is too soft, it may be great for absorbing shock but lack the stability to prevent overstretching of the foot and ankle structures. If the midsole is too hard, it may provide good motion control but provide insufficient shock absorption to prevent stress fractures and jarring injuries. Some shoes have a flared midsole in an attempt to reduce impact forces. However, these shoes also promote rapid and excessive foot pronation and should be avoided.

4. The last or mould construction of the shoe may be straight, semi-curved or curved and should be matched to the individual shape of your foot. 2 There is no evidence however, to support the commonly held view that the shape of the shoe influences foot function.

  

fig6Figure 2 Figure 2 A. Incorrect. The outside of the shoe where the toes bend is more distal than the inside; B Correct. Where the shoe bends matches where the toes bend.

fig8

Figure 4 Note the heel is higher than the forefoot to compensate for limited ankle backwards movement.

   

The 3 Point Testing System


The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine uses a basic 3 - point testing methodology developed by Mark Reeves, DPM, of Seattle for evaluating athletic shoes.
The focus of the testing is primarily on whether the shoe has a firm heel counter, whether the shoe has a firm resistance to torque when the heel and toe are twisted in opposite directions, and whether the most distal third of the shoe flexes easily while the middle third resists flexion. These techniques are all performed manually and can be done easily in shoe stores or in the office. The three-part test is quick and easy and provides objective metrics because it is repeatable and results can be compared from shoe to shoe.

 

Forefoot Shoe Break “Flexion” Test



The most important factor in evaluating any type of athletic shoe is the ease of bending of the most distal third of the shoe and the stiffness of the middle third of the shoe. 6

The optimal amount of bending, compression and stiffness depends on your foot type. Shoes with a rigid sole, may cause excessive stress to the calf muscles as well as lead to early heel lift and knee bending at push off.5 On the other hand, very compliant or cushioned shoes may possibly increase the risk of injury by allowing excessive sub-talar joint mobility (i.e. in and outward movement of the ankle joint).7,8 However, for people who have high arches (i.e. supinated feet), the increased shock absorption offered by highly cushioned shoes may help to protect from bone injuries often suffered by this patient population.9

Heel Counter – The Thumb Test

fig11

Figure 7.  Running show should have a firm heel counter.

The Thumb Test is used to ensure that the heel counter is rigid enough to control the rear foot.  It involves squeezing the heel counter with your thumb and index finger.  If the heel counter compresses, it is too soft and floppy.

 

Torsional Stability Test

fig12

 

Figure 8  The shoe should control the twisting of the foot in response to the environment and performance requirements.

 

 fig10

Figure 6 The most distal third of the shoe should flex easily while the middle third resists flexion.

Torsion (twisting) control in a shoe may play a more important role in sports in which sideways movement is of primary importance. In court shoes and trail running shoes, for example, the foot is placed in very different positions due to varying terrain or sideways movements while running, jumping, and landing. The shoe should be able to allow the foot to twist inward and outward as needed in response to these positioning stresses. In running shoes, an increase in motion-controlling properties built into a shoe often leads to a shoe that will be more resistant to twisting torque forces. This may be acceptable for most road-running on flat surfaces, but it won’t work in general for off-road running or other lateral cutting sports.

   

Which shoes for which feet?

Runners who have pronated feet need a dual density midsole that is harder on the inside than the outside to prevent excessive flattening motion (pronation).

If you are a wholefoot pronator, the increased density midsole should extend from the inside back of the sole of the shoe to just before the ball of the foot.


If you are a forefoot pronator, the increased density midsole should be slightly further forward extending from the inside of the front of the heel to just before the ball of the foot.

If you have a supinated foot, you need extra shock absorption with a shoe with a soft midsole that still provides outer stability.


The table below summarises the recommended running shoe features for each foot type.

 

 

 

 fig13

Figure 9. Note the firm material on the inside of the heel extends to the back of the shoe.

fig14

Figure 10.  Note the firm material on the inside of the shoe stops short of the back of the shoe.

fig15

Figure 11.  This shoe has extra cushioning and gel to absorb shock.

 fig16

Although the number and types of running shoes on the market are many and varied, there are just a couple of things that you need to keep in mind to determine what is going to work best for you. These include your individual physical characteristics, your running style and the intended purpose of the shoe.

You first need to understand that no shoe is going to compensate completely for faulty walking/running patterns or incorrect biomechanics. And yet, in light of this, it is difficult to quantify objectively your movement patterns and biomechanics.

Plaster casting of your feet in sitting or standing is not accurate because it does not directly relate to walking / running. To get an accurate indication of foot and overall body function for walking / running, you feet must be tested in the walking and running motion.

Videotaping also is not accurate as it involves the eye balling and then guesstimating the joint angles and muscle activations at particular points of the walking / running cycle.

If you are looking for exact measures of your walking and running mechanics, then perhaps the best test is the GaitScan assessment as it gives you the exact pressures and the timing of these pressures of each part of your foot during walking / running cycle.

For a foot assessment and a walking evaluation, please call Bodywise Health on 1 300 263 994 (BODYWISE).

Once you know how your foot functions during walking or running, it then becomes a matter of matching it to the correct shoe based upon objective validated tests rather than the shoe tests touted by many running magazines which are not backed up by the research.

The American Academy of Podiatric Medicine recommends using an evidenced based 3 point assessment protocol to evaluate shoes. Of paramount importance for pronated (flat) feet is the shoe’s distal flexibility as well as the mid-foot twisting control and heel counter rigidity. For high arched feet, cushioning and shock absorption are especially significant. Shoes that generally meet these criteria will, in general, provide you with better protection against injury as well as superior performance.

If you would like to know your foot type and what shoe will work best for you, we invite you to call us here at Bodywise Health for a foot and walking / running evaluation. This evaluation will include a report that you can give to a shoe retailing indicating what foot type you have so that they can better match the correct shoe for you.

For a foot assessment and a walking evaluation, please call Bodywise Health on 1 300 263 994 (BODYWISE).

For more information on how Bodywise Health can help you to recover from or prevent running injuries, please call Bodywise Health on 1 300 BODYWISE (263 994).

Please note:

• Rebates are available through your private insurance extras cover;

• For complex or chronic conditions, you may qualify for the EPC (Enhanced Primary Care Program) allowing you to receive 5 allied health services each calendar year with a referral from your GP. For more information, please call Bodywise Health now on 1 300 263 994.

References

1. Gallant JL & Pierrynowski MR. A theoretcical Perspective on Running. Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association 2014; 104(2): 211-220.

2. Sahrmann SA and Associates. Movement System Impairment Syndromes of the Extremities, Cervical and Thoracic Spines. Elsevier Mosby 2011.

3. Norkin C and Levangie P. Joint Structure and Function. A Comprehensive Analysis. 3rd Edition. 2001.

4. Australian Orthotic Group. 2011 Australian Orthotic Group Seminar. Gait Analysis & Custom Orthotic Therapy.

5. Brukner P, Khan K and Collegues. Clinical Sports Medicine. McCraw Medical. 4th Edition, 2012.

6. Williams B. A three point approach to testing running shoes. Journal of Foot and Ankle Research. 2010.

7. Shorten MR. The myth of running shoe cushioning. Presented at IV International Conferenceon the Engineering of Sport, Kyoto, Japan, Sept. 2002.

8. Heidenfelder J, Sterzing T, Milani TL. Biomechanical wear testing of running shoes. Footwear Science 2009; 1 (S1): 16-17.

9. Butler RJ, Hamill J, Davids I. Effect of footwear on high and low arched runners’ mechanics during a plolonged run. Gait & Posture 2007;26:219-225

10. Stacoff A, Steger J, Stüssi E, Reinschmidt C. Lateral stability in sideward cutting movements. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1996;28(3):350-358./p>

11. Stacoff A, Kalin X, Stüssi E. The effects of shoes on the torsion and rearfoot motion in running. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1991;23(4):482-490.

Bodywise Health

364 Hampton St,

Hampton

Victoria. Australia 3188

03 9533 4257

Log In or Register

fb iconLog in with Facebook