Running and Foot Wear: What Should We Be Considering?

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Claudia Percifield, MS, ATC

As the weather warms up, athletes start to take their workouts outdoors. What should we take into consideration to prevent injury as we transition?

1. How many miles have we put on our shoes?

Many running professionals recommend replacing shoes every 300-500 miles. However, consider the shoe and the runner when deciding how soon to replace them. Lightweight running shoes with less durable construction and materials may break down faster, particularly with a heavier runner. Keep in mind the style of runner as well, as a heavier heel striker may get fewer miles out of a pair of shoes than a mid-foot or forefoot striker. Looking at the wear pattern on the shoe’s tread will be 1 visual indicator of the wear of the shoe. It will also give clues about running form.

2. Running form/muscular strength

Evaluating running form can indicate how much structural support a runner needs from shoe wear, as well as give clues about what support their musculature brings to the joints of the lower extremity. Keep in mind the source of someone’s pain may not be from the anatomical structures that they are complaining of pain in. For example, while some shin pain is directly tied to weak ankle and foot intrinsic musculature, some medial shin pain may be related to poor hip strength and mechanics with running. Considering kinetic chain, viewing mechanics at multiple joints may more appropriately address the source of injury and allow an Athletic Trainer to more properly prescribe rehabilitation exercises to treat and prevent injury.

3. Foot structure

For some, foot structure plays a minimal role in what running shoe they need to be successful in running pain free. Unfortunately, most of the running population doesn’t fit into that group, and proper shoe type to match foot structure and running mechanics goes a long way in reducing injury risk. Determining arch type is the first step in figuring out the most appropriate running shoe. The amount of the mid-foot that shows up on the ground indicates the arch type and gives an idea of how much support the physical structure the foot provides. Keep in mind that this test only indicates what the foot looks like in a static position. Running is a dynamic activity and someone who many not pronate much in standing may pronate significantly more when running, requiring more support.

Running shoes are the easiest to customize to the individual athlete. For those athletes in cleated sports or basketball shoes where there is no arch support in the shoe, options for off-the-shelf arch supports with comparable quality to custom have been growing. This is a great option to provide athletes with the same level of support and comfort that they can achieve in running shoes.

The best way to determine the right shoes for someone is to try them out. Many stores dedicated to running have treadmills and/or tracks available for customers to actually run in the shoes prior to purchase. They frequently have staff trained in biomechanics who may videotape and analyze running gait and provide suggestions regarding shoe wear based on what they are able to observe.  They will also have a plethora of arch support options for athletes to try with their own shoes. The time, effort and cost of having a trained professional evaluate running form prior to purchase can go a long way in successful, healthy running!



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