04 May 2005

Selecting running shoes

Her are some useful pointers on how to select the running shoes best for you. You'll also find explanations of some important running terminology.

The right choice of running shoe can make the difference between having an enjoyable or uncomfortable running experience. In order to make an educated choice, one first needs to be familiar with two important terms relating to the movement of foot during the running stride: pronation and supination.

Pronation is the natural inward roll of the foot. Excessive pronation occurs when the foot continues to roll in past the point where it should stop. This can result in shin pain, knee pain and low back pain.

Supination is the natural outward roll of the foot. Excessive supination can result in injuries caused by jarring forces (like stress fractures).

A runner with a foot that follows the natural gait cycle, with no excessive inward or outward rolling, is termed biomechanically efficient.

Determine your foot type
Once you've determined your foot type, you will be able to select the shoe that best suits your feet and your biomechanical requirements. Figure out your foot type by using the "Wet Test". Wet the bottom of each foot and stand normally on any surface that will leave an imprint of your foot. After a few seconds, step off and observe the imprint left by your wet foot.

You have a normal arch (neutral pronation) if there's a distinct curve along the inside of your foot with a band a little less than half the width of your foot connecting the heel and toe.

The shoe for you:
If you have normal arches and pronate normally, look for a stability shoe. Stability shoes offer a good blend of cushioning, support and durability.

You have a low arch (flat feet/overpronator) if there's hardly any curve along the inside of your foot and your imprint shows almost the entire foot. People with low arches are likely to pronate excessively.

The shoe for you
Look for a motion-control shoe. Motion control shoes prevent your foot from rolling in too far, give maximum support to your foot and are the most rigid, control-oriented running shoes.

You have a high arch (supinate / underpronator) if your foot leaves an imprint showing a very narrow band connecting the forefoot and heel. People with high arches typically don't pronate enough.

The shoe for you
If you have high-arched feet and underpronate, look for a neutral shoe. Neutral shoes allow your feet to roll inward (absorbing shock), and have the softest midsole with the least medial support.

Learn the lingo: Running terms demystified

Blown rubber: The lightest, most cushioned and least durable form of rubber used on a shoe's outsole. It is made by injecting air into the rubber compound.

Biomorphic fit: By introducing radical new flex points over the areas of highest buckling, BIOMORPHIC FIT(tm) allows a much improved fit and dramatically reduces loading, especially over bony prominences.

Cushioning: The ability of a shoe to absorb the extreme forces of footstrike. Softness varies between shoes. Except at the extremes, there's no right or wrong, though heavier runners tend to do best with firmer shoes.

DuoTruss: Reduces weight by sculpting the midsole without affecting the structural integrity of the shoe.

DuoSole: An outsole construction developed by Asics to provide weight reduction, flexibility, traction and durability.

DuraSponge: A new blown rubber compound for enhanced durability and cushioning in the forefoot.

Flex grooves: Indentations moulded into the midsole and outsole to make a shoe more flexible, usually under the ball of the foot.

Flexibility: The ability of a shoe's forefoot to bend under the ball of the foot. If the shoe does not flex easily under your weight, your foot and leg muscles have to work harder, which saps energy and can cause injuries such as shin splints.

Forefoot: The broad, front section of the shoe or foot. This is the point from which you propel yourself forward, so the shoe should be protective yet responsive. Some runners land on the fronts of their feet, and need maximum cushioning in the forefoot of their shoes. They're called, appropriately, forefoot strikers.

Forefoot gel: Revolutionary cushioning system - provides maximum forefoot shock absorption and comfort.

Insole: The foot-shaped insert, usually removable, which sits between your foot and the shoe. Now sometimes called a sockliner.

Midfoot: The section of the shoe around the arch. Plastic shanks are often built into the midfoot of the shoe under the foot to provide added stability.

Midsole: The foam cushioning layer of the shoe between the upper and the outsole. It's the technical heart of the shoe and contains its primary cushioning and stability features.

Motion control shoe: A term for a shoe with added heavy-duty stability features, for big runners or runners with severe stability problems.

Performance trainer: A term for a light shoe with enough cushioning and stability for some everyday training.

Pronation: The inward rolling of the foot which is a natural part of the gait cycle.

Rearfoot: The back section of the foot immediately behind the arch, which takes the primary force of footstrike.

Rearfoot gel: Asics revolutionary cushioning system - provides maximum rearfoot shock absorption and comfort.

Responsiveness: The ability of your forefoot to feel the ground as you push away from it.

Ride: The overall feel of the shoe through the complete gait cycle. In a smooth-riding shoe, the gait feels like one continuous movement rather than impact, then forward rolling, then push-off.

Stability shoe: The term for a shoe specifically designed to help runners with an unstable gait. Not as extreme as a motion-control shoe, though.

SpEVA are new generation of midsole materials. Unique "balloon-like" polymers that provide special "bounce back" properties allowing the SpEVA to recover its shape between strides

Supination: A natural outward rolling of the foot, which is a small part of the gait cycle just before the foot starts to leave the ground.

Upper: The fabric section of the shoe that surrounds the top of the foot and holds the laces.




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