HomeRunning Blog

horizontal rule

Running Shoes

Getting the correct type of shoes is critical to running without injury. However, unless you're a podiatrist it's hard to know what shoes to buy. Choose wisely, because wrong shoes are one of the most common causes of running injuries.


Be prepared to pay close to $100 for your shoes. You'll probably be running 400 or 500 miles per pair of shoes, and your body will take a lot of pounding. Each step subjects your body to a shock of 2-3 times your body weight. Your shoes are your main protection against that pounding. Running is a relatively low-cost sport, and your shoes are probably your biggest expense.

How to Buy Shoes

Dr. Weisenfeld in The Runners' Repair Manual (available at Amazon) has a chapter on "How to Buy Shoes" Let's take a look at what he says:

Personally, I believe you shouldn't have to have an engineering degree to buy a pair of running shoes. Beginning runners and experienced runners sometimes get very worried about whether they'll pick out the right shoes....But you can learn, in about fifteen minutes, how to buy the right shoes for you. -- The Runners' Repair Manual, copyright 1980, chapter 3, pp. 19-20

Here are a few points made by Weisenfeld. Read his chapter for more information.
bulletLook at the heels of your present shoes. If they are worn more on one side than on the other, you need shoes that will give you correction.
bulletYou want about 1/2 inch of space between the ends of your toes and the toe of your shoes (toe box).
bulletYou want the width to be snug but not tight.
bulletBuy your shoes in the afternoon or evening because your feet swell during the day.
bulletPut the shoes on a flat surface and look at the rear of them. The counters (the rear part that wraps around your heel) should sit square and straight on the shoe.
bulletGet good cushioning and flexibility at the ball of the foot and in the heel.
bulletGet good arch support in the shoes.
bulletOverweight runners, and runners with arthritis or knee damage, need extra cushioning from liners.
bulletRunners with Achilles tendonitis need extra lift in the back of the shoe.
bulletFor shin splints, be sure the shoes are flexible and have good heel lift ability.
bulletFor corns on top of your toe, or black toe nails, get more room in the toe box.

Remember that particular shoes are made for particular purposes. Go to a reputable sports store that has trained sales people who will watch your feet as you walk and run. Take your old shoes with you and show them to the sales person so she can examine the wear pattern on the heels and soles. Discuss your goals in running and problems and injuries you have had.

Three types of Shoes

Because of the ways a runner's foot moves when it hits the ground, shoe manufacturers make three types of shoes to counteract that movement. During running, most runners land on the outer side of their heel and then their body weight shifts towards the center of the shoe. Many runners have the correct amount of shifting of body weight, and those runners have a neutral gate. Some runners suffer from pronation, where the weight shifts too much and your shoes have excessive wear on the inner side of the heel/sole. Other runners suffer from supination, where the weight doesn't shift enough and you get excessive wear on the outer side of the heel/sole. In the following article, André Zapatos discusses the three types of shoes and explains the effect of pronation and supination on your body and the type of shoes you should use.


 Here are additional articles about buying shoes.

http://www.ivillage.co.uk/dietandfitness/getfit/sportsacts/articles/0,,258_171135,00.html http://www.locorunning.com/dummies.php

Your Shoes are Collapsing

As we run, our bodies are subjected to heavy shock and pounding. A number of years ago, I had surgery and couldn't run for about six weeks. I had been running an hour during my lunch period, so I used that hour to walk. After my recovery period, I resumed my running. On the first day that I ran, I had knee pains. The pains weren't serious and didn't lead to injury, but they helped me realize that running really does pound our bodies!

Running shoes are built to cushion our bodies from that shock and pounding. However, after many miles of use, shoes lose their cushioning and should be replaced. In my case, Runners typically replace their shoes after about 500 miles.

Following is a statement I gleaned from a running newsletter that gives a suggestion about reducing the collapse of the material in the soles of our shoes.

A runner who runs daily should alternate a minimum of two pairs of shoes. Why? Because each time you run, some air cells in the midsole collapse. If you look at the midsole material under a microscope, you'll see material similar to a sponge, with round air cells throughout it. As you run, some of these cells will collapse or flatten out. If you allow the material to recover, by alternating your shoes, many cells will return to a round shape filled with air. If you run daily with the same shoes, these air cells will flatten and remain flat permanently--hence, you experience midsole breakdown, especially if you are a heavier runner. -- George Lecours, Striding Along, February/March 1996, A Publication of the Gate City Striders, Nashua, NH

Shoe-collapse is probably the main reason why runners only get 400-500 miles on a pair of shoes.

Home | Running Blog

horizontal rule

Web http://runninginjuryfree.org



If you would like to receive occasional notices about changes and additions to this site, send an email to Allen Leigh at the address given below and request that you be added to the email list for the Running Injury Free site. I respect your privacy, and your address will be used only for occasional notices and will not be given to anyone. Put Running in the Subject so my spam program won't delete your email.

The information in this site and in my podcasts is for informational purposes only; it does not constitute medical or physical therapy advice. For medical advice, consult a physician. For physical therapy advice, consult a physical therapist.

© Copyright Allen W. Leigh 2003, 2007
All Rights Reserved