Open your mobile app store and you’ll find dozens of “couch to 5k” apps for new runners. The start of the New Year is a time that many of us set goals to be healthier and fitter by starting a running routine.
Nearly 70 percent of runners will experience injury from running, according to the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. One preventive measure is to use an appropriate shoe, but if you’ve ever looked at a wall of shoes in a running store, you know that deciding on a pair isn’t easy. Special features — such as impact absorption and pronation control, and the benefits of flexibility versus stability — are only some of decisions to make.
“Most running injuries are repetitive stress injuries of tendons, ligaments and bones, which could be lessened by the shoes an individual wears not only when running but throughout the rest of the day — even at home,” says Dr. Daniel Wendt, a podiatrist with Sharp-Rees Stealy. “Choosing the appropriate running shoe is dependent upon not only the patient's foot structure as determined by foot examination, but as well should correlate to the type of training they are doing.”
- Visit a store that specializes in running shoes. General shoe stores may be focused more on style than function.
- Don't buy old or used shoes. The soles of running shoes have a half-life of about one year. The supportive material will naturally degrade over time and provide less support and cushion.
- Purchase shoes that match your running style (forefoot vs. rear foot) and terrain (road versus trails).
- Check the store return policy. New shoes might feel good when you initially wear them but the true test is how they feel after a proper run. Find out if you can return a shoe that doesn't feel good during a normal run.
- If you want or need a custom orthotic, make sure to have an evaluation done by a medical professional who has proficient knowledge in functional anatomy and biomechanics (a physical therapist, podiatrist, athletic trainer or chiropractor).
In the end, most runners know when they have found the right running shoe by paying attention to their bodies, says Sanders. “People can usually tell fairly quickly which shoes feel the most comfortable. Taking a quick jog in them for a minute or two will help narrow down your decision.”
So when should you replace your old running shoes? Most runners replace their shoes later than they should. Running shoes typically last between 300 and 500 miles. If you are able to twist your shoe (lengthwise) or compress the shoe and it bends in the arch and not just the forefoot, then it has lost its stability and needs to be replaced. Running in old shoes could result in injuries such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis or stress fractures.