RUNNING SHOES ARE IMPORTANT
When a foot hits the ground, the ground hits back. In some people, the feet and ankles move a lot, in others they move a little, and in some they don’t seem to move at all. Shoe companies make different shoes for each of those foot-actions. The right pair of running shoes are the ones that fit you and are comfortable. That said, there are some basic guidelines you should know.
Running is jumping. You take off the ground, float in the air, and land on one foot. It’s a type of alternate leg jumping that we happen to call running.
Running shoes have three parts: the upper, the midsole, and the outer sole. The upper keeps the shoe on the foot. The midsole is the most important part because it supports, cushions and secures the foot. The outer sole protects the midsole from the ground and increases friction. Running shoes are probably the most technical and heavily researched shoes type. Sometimes a shoe’s name will be followed by a number. Take the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 17, for example. The 17 stands for the number of iterations or updates—it has had 17 iterations to date. A new iteration is normally released each year. With each new iteration, the manufacturer includes what they learned from the feedback received for the previous iteration. That’s why shoes with the oldest pedigrees tend to be the most comfortable for the most people.
Shoes should fit like mittens, not gloves. Shoes that fit tight like gloves leave no room for your feet to spread and swell into. That may cause an ever-so-small change in the position of one or more bones. And that small change may redirect a force in such a way that it ever so slightly strains tissues. In the aggregate, slight strains can become big problems—a runner lands thousands of times during a run.
Running is jumping and landing is hard–three times your bodyweight. Feet need shoes that will give them protection and room. That’s why people run faster with shoes than without them. Without shoes, the ground impact forces and friction against the ground will be too painful. When 3x your bodyweight lands on your foot, which is a pliable object, the foot spreads. During the course of just one mile, the total weight borne by one foot can easily exceed 10 tons, which causes swelling. That spreading and swelling needs room in the shoe; it needs about of ½” of room in the front of the shoe.
Running shoes are about one size bigger than your casual shoe size. Running shoes that equal the size of casual shoes tend to be too small because they don’t provide a ½” of room in the front of the shoe. Instead, the longest toe tends to be pressed right against the front of the shoe. Your feet should be measured every time you buy shoes. The most reliable device for measuring feet is called a Brannock device. Brannock made a special device for the measurement of athletic shoes. But they no longer make the device because they think that shoe manufacturers have standardized shoe sizes and hence your casual and athletic shoe sizes are the same. Perhaps, but I we think they’re wrong, and we continue to use the Brannock device that is calibrated for athletic footwear. Regardless, few people have their feet measured past childhood. So folks are guessing the wrong size for their shoes; almost always guessing too small.
Real running shoes are technical: they are the products of hard science and they have many parts. Expect to spend more than $100 on up-to-date running shoes. Current models start at $100 and range up to $200; the most frequently occurring price is $120. All stores charge the same price for up-to-date shoes. That’s because manufacturers want their current models sold at the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). They can’t make retailers sell at that price but they can exert a strong influence on retail prices. They know that retailers aim for a certain markup over cost, and they determine the cost. Furthermore, if a retailer sells at a price they don’t like, they can refuse to sell the retailer shoes in the future.
Shoes wear out, or “die” after 6 months of wearing. The midsole of the shoe compresses when you land. Then it rebounds back to its original height. With continued wearing, the midsole rebounds to a progressively lower height. Eventually, it doesn’t rebound. That’s called “compression-set.” The shoe is dead. Compression-set happens in as little as a few weeks, and definitely within 6 months of regular wearing. It doesn’t matter how many miles you do or don’t run in the shoes, compression-set happens even if you stand all day.
Buy shoes twice a year, but three times a year if you’re injured and four times a year if you wear them at work. New shoes can help you exercise while injured. Replacing them every 4 months will minimize compression-set, so the shoes will retain their ability to soften the blow of landing. People who wear their shoes at work kill shoes the fastest. They need to replace shoes at least every 3 months, or they will be wearing dead shoes.
A short foot is usually a wide foot. The closer a man’s foot is to size 9, and the closer a woman’s foot is to size 7, the greater the chance the foot is wide. Manufacturers make wide shoes and people with wide feet should wear them. The problem is that people don’t know they have wide feet. When a wide foot goes into a medium shoe, part of the foot will hang off the midsole, leaving it to be supported by the upper. Instead of the midsole supporting the whole foot, mesh supports part of it. That situation creates dead toenails, numbness and other discomforts.
The best way to determine one’s gait is to observe the foot up-close and while running. The observer should pay the closest attention to the arch and the talus (a.k.a. ankle bone) at the moment when the entire body weight is at rest above a foot. If the talus moves medially to the tibia and calcaneous, then you have a pronating gait. If the talus stays above the calcaneus (a.k.a. heel bone), then you have a neutral gait. If the talus moves laterally, then you have a supinating gait. For pronating gaits, manufacturers make “support” or “stability” or “motion control” shoes. For neutral and supinating gaits, manufacturers make “neutral” and “cushion” shoes.
Feet that blister need synthetic socks. Blisters are caused by friction between the skin and the sock. Technical running socks are made from fibers that are like microscopic straws, drawing moisture away from the skin and channeling it to the sock’s surface. There, if the shoe’s upper is made of mesh, air passes through and evaporates the moisture. The whole system works to keep the feet dry. Up to a pint of water can collect in the shoes during a run. Moisture + cotton = blisters.
All globally recognized manufacturers use industry-leading materials and techniques, and sometimes the same factories. That’s why one brand is not definitively better than another brand. The best shoe for you is the new shoe that fits and is comfortable.
Some shoes are heavier than others but, these days, all shoes are pretty light. If you don’t want heavy and awkward shoes that make you feel clumsy, don’t worry, because running shoes aren’t made like that anymore. Some are lighter than others but they are all light.
Replacing insoles won’t bring a dead shoe back to life. They will likely reduce the shoe’s volume, at which point you’ll be wearing dead shoes that are also too small!
Don’t put shoes in any washing machine. They will lose their shape forever. Let us clean your shoes. To kill bacteria, remove dirt from the mesh, replace the footbed and cement loose parts is not simple and should be done by a professional.
Don’t give people your old and dead shoes. Dead shoes don’t help anybody. Buy them new shoes instead.
Re-lacing can make an ok-fitting shoe be a great-fitting shoe. If your heel slips, use a heel-lock lacing. If there’s uncomfortable pressure against the bridge of your foot, try straight-bar lacing. If your big toe hurts, use shoes shop lacing.
Buy different shoes each time, like a farmer rotates crops. Shoes change the way that muscles act. If you wear one style exclusively, it may be difficult to switch to a different shoe, because the muscles may reflexively act the way they did in the previous shoe. Besides, manufacturers are constantly changing and discontinuing shoe styles, no matter how much you love them. It will break your heart when you can no longer wear them or buy them. Spare yourself the emotional trauma!