Running is blissfully simple in essence so if you're serious about getting into it then the most important piece of kit you're going to need is a really good pair of running shoes. The Running Bug spoke to Jimmy Michael and Giles Gyer directors of Osteon physical therapy to find out more.
As exciting as buying your running shoes might be, choosing the best pair for you does not mean going to your nearest sports store chain and buying the most expensive pair on the shelves. It means understanding what foot type you have and buying the right kind of trainer for you.
Remember that your running shoes will not be the same as your casual trainers. The foot moves a lot when you're running so you need a shoe to accommodate this otherwise you could end up with a whole host of complaints from injuries to black toenails. Despite some seeing the latter as a badge of honour, it's not going to help you keep running in the long term.
"Some people say 'Train through the pain' but I disagree," says physical therapist Jimmy Michael. "You might manage a marathon if you run through the pain but you might never want to run one again."
The best thing you can do is go to a dedicated running shop or visit a specialist like Osteon and have your running style, known as gait, analysed. That way you'll be sure to have the right shoe. However, if you want to understand what foot type you have so you're not going in blind, here's an explanation.
Biometrically sound, the foot plants with the outside of the heel then the pressure moves forward up the outside of the foot, rolling inwards before finishing the movement, or gait, by pushing off with the big toe.Shoe type for normal feet: Stability
If you have this foot type it's just as important to get the right shoe as with any other foot type. If you get a shoe designed to adjust over or under pronation you'll end up working against your body's natural gait and cause yourself an injury. The type of shoe needed for the normal foot is commonly known as a 'stability' type. "If you walk around all day in shoes that don't correctly support your foot - the ballet slipper worn by some women being an example - then you are eventually going to find you develop pain in your feet, ankles and calves," says Jimmy.
Commonly known as 'Flat foot', this foot type usually causes over pronation where the foot rolls too far to the inside. The flat foot leaves a full imprint of the shape of the foot, without any arch, on the floor. As with the normal foot type the running form starts with the heel landing first but the foot lands more squarely and rolls inwards, which is known as 'over pronation'. This causes a lack of stability as the ankles and knees have to work to correct the problem and also means the large and second toe are being overworked.Shoe type for flat feet/over pronation: Motion Control
For this type of foot you need a shoe with an inner arch, also known as a motion control shoe, that supports the foot and spreads the pressure evenly. "By giving extra support to the inner arch your foot is supported and won't slam down, which will lead to injury," says Giles.
This type of foot looks to the naked eye like the normal foot, but the key difference is that the arch is too large. While the pronation of the foot starts at the heel in the same way as for a normal foot and progresses up the outside of the foot towards the toe, there is not the same amount of roll towards the inside of the foot so the runner pushes more from the smaller toes and is therefore less efficient.Shoe type for high arch/under pronation: Cushioned Shoe
You need a shoe that will provide support for your foot arch. The correct trainer type is commonly known as 'cushioned' and will help correct under pronation.
When buying your running shoe, there's no substitute for getting an expert's eye to analyse your gait; that way, you're sure you've got just the right shoe for you and greatly reduce the chances of getting common running injury like runners knee and problems relating to the ankles and hips.
Speak to professionals who can provide a detailed computer analysis of your gait and help with any injuries or discomfort (visit Osteon for more information) or go to a decent running shoe shop where they will do an analysis for you.
Visit the Running Bug's Running Gear Reviews section to see what shoes get the thumbs up from us. Got a question? Why not ask the Running Bug's members in our Running Forums. If you're ready to start running, then check out our Running Training Plans.