Appropriate footwear is extremely important for a runner. Running is a process that involves the entire body: it starts from the ground up. Finding the shoe which best compliments you, will help correct running mechanics as well as prevent injuries. So how do you choose the right shoes? With so many different options on the market we first need to evaluate your feet.
Pronation is a position of the ankle and foot during foot-strike in running and walking. Everyone pronates, but some individuals pronate more or less than others. There are three common categories of pronation: neutral pronation, over-pronation, and under-pronation (or “supination”).
Neutral Pronation begins when the outside of the heel (calcaneus) strikes the ground and weight shifts forward to the metatarsals (bones between the ankle and toes) in the forefoot during the push off phase. The ankle will remain stable; it does not roll in or out. You will find your weight shifts smoothly along the second toe as you push off.
Overpronation describes when the outside of the heel strikes the ground and weight shifts forward toward the big toe (hallux). The arch of the foot will appear to “drop,” and the ankle will tend to shift inward. This usually causes the shin bone or tibia to shift inward as well. This can result in knee pain and other problems such as plantar-fasciitis, shin splints, or lower back pain.
Underpronation (also called supination) begins when the lateral side of the heel strikes the ground and weight shifts forward to the metatarsals, but the foot does not return to the neutral position. Instead, the weight remains on the outside of the foot. In many cases, this can cause the knee to track to the outside, creating the potential for knee pain.
You can get a good idea of what category of pronation you fall into by looking at the bottom of your running shoes. If the heel of the shoe is more worn down than other areas, or the outer edge of the shoe shows wear, that individual is most likely an under-pronator or supinator. If the shoe is smooth or worn down near the big toe or middle/inside, the individual is most likely an over-pronator or a neutral pronator. However be careful, the “shoe wear” test is only a guideline. For the best evaluation, and to find the best shoes for you, visit your closest specialty running shop and ask them for an evaluation.
There is no more important piece of equipment for a runner than finding the correct shoe. This will make you more efficient in your training, help prevent injuries, and greatly improve your overall enjoyment in training!