Tuesday, March 4, 2008

running shoes 101

alright, time for some basics on running shoes. i got a great email from runner's world regarding their top picks for running shoes for 2008. i thought it would be great to get a discussion going about the types of shoes are available to runners and why it's important to get in the right shoe for you.

whenever anyone has asked me about running shoes the first thing that comes out of my mouth is that the right running shoe is cheap health insurance. while they are an investment (good running shoes will run you anywhere from $60 - $130+), running shoes will help prevent serious injury, correct running form, and provide you hours and hours of enjoyment. let me explain.

everyone's bodies are built differently, specifically the way you roll from heel to toe, called pronation. there are two problems with pronation: overpronation (rolling inward too much) and supination (also called underpronation meaning you don't roll inward enough). there's a simple test to determine which type of pronater you are. it's called the wet foot test. simply walk or stand on a colored piece of paper (each foot separately) with a wet foot.

the more foot you see on the paper, the more you roll inward and the more you overpronate. the less foot you see, the less you roll inward and the more you supinate.

what this basically equals is misalignment when running. when your foot rolls in too much or not enough, your ankle will give more than it should, consequently your knee and hips will follow suit equaling possible injury, pain and inefficient running. no need to worry though. good running shoes are made to fix your specific pronation. they come in three categories.

  • neutral: for those who fall in the "neutral" category ... only about 10% of runners fall in this category. i believe kaylynn and rebecca are in this category, true? those who supinate will generally be in this category as well.
  • stability: about 80% of runners will fall in this category. for those who mildly to moderately overpronate, this type of shoe is for you.
  • motion control: for those who need some serious support! this category of shoe is for people who need serious correction for overpronation.

then begs the question ... which brand of shoe is right for you? total preference is the answer. once you know you are in the right category of shoe, it's just a matter of trying on every shoe available to you and finding the perfect fit. for the first 2 1/2 years of running i ran in new balance 1221s, and then switched over to asics gel kayanos (featured above in the video). i love the new balance because of the way it hugs my foot, but love the cushioning of the asics. good running stores will allow you to test drive your shoes for a few runs and return them if you don't find they're a good fit for you.

hope that gives you some good information. i'd love to know what shoe you're in and what you like and don't like about them. i'm always up for a change, you know?


  1. Excellent primer on running shoes. Let me just add a little bit to the equation, if I may... you know, unsimplify things a little.

    Arch type (low, medium, or high... what the "wet foot" test will determine) does not always correspond to the amount of pronation. Sometime you'll come across a high-arched overpronator, or a low-arched neutral runner. It happens. The best way, and really the only way if you want to be sure, is to go to a running store where an expert will video tape you running on a treadmill, and will watch your degree of pronation and then recommend the right shoe for your gait. Once you've had this done a few times, you'll spend your next 5k, half marathon, or marathon watching people run and picking out their shoe style, :)

  2. great addition, zach. for those of you in the bay area, road runner sports in san carlos will do that for you on a computer. pretty cool stuff.

    i for one, have never self diagnosed my pronation ... i've always gone to a running store and had someone look at me run/walk, etc. that i should have mentioned! use the professionals!

  3. I thought you would enjoy this: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/99420.php

  4. Julia- I FINALLY went and got fitted this weekend! I got Mizuno Wave Inspire 4's. They're going to be a bday gift so I can't put them to use for another week though.

  5. You don't know me but thought I'd comment anyway....I came here via Erin...

    I am a new runner (just started about 6 weeks ago) and was having such severe calf pain weeks 1-4 that I finally went in to see if it was my shoes causing the problem. Sure enough - first, the pair I was using was too small and definitely the wrong fit for my foot. I'm one of those that Zach mentioned - a high-arched severe overpronator. They put me into the Mizuno Wave Inspire 4s (nice pick Jacey!) with some additional arch support and I feel like I've been running on air ever since. It has turned my training completely around.