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Caring for Your Feet

Enhance Performance, Reduce Injury with Properly Fitting Running Shoes

In Time for Marathon Season, Leading Podiatrist Offers Tips for Buying the Perfect Pair

As outdoor running and marathon season gets into high gear, many runners are now looking to purchase the perfect pair of athletic shoes to carry them through training and across the finish line. However, with all the brands, high-tech features and fits on the market, how can runners be sure they're choosing the shoes that will give them optimal performance?

"Runners should look at the shoe-buying process in stages to ensure a proper fit," says Dr. Paul Kasdan, a leading podiatrist and founder of OurHealthNetwork.com. "Advertising, famous spokespeople and flashiness aside, there are a few fundamental things to consider before purchasing the shoes that will be used during a marathon or other long-distance run. The shoes a runner selects can make or break their race, so it's important to do homework before making a purchase."

OurHealthNetwork.com deals with many questions and concerns from athletes, especially runners, about foot pain associated with their activity. Running can place significant stress on the lower extremities, which is amplified during long-distance runs. The American Podiatric Medical Association reports that during a 10-mile run, the feet make 15,000 strikes, at a force of three to four times the body's weight. To help lessen this impact, Dr. Kasdan offers the following advice for purchasing a quality pair of running shoes:

Arch and Foot Shape
The first step in the shoe-buying process is to determine which of the three arch types a runner's foot falls under. "I've found that the degree of comfort one has with a running shoe is directly related to the height of their arch and whether or not the shoe supports and accommodates that arch type," adds Dr. Kasdan. He recommends that runners work with a sales person at the shoe store to determine their arch type. 

  • Flat feet, or those with low arches. Flat feet can often be associated with pronation, a turning-out of the foot, so that excessive weight is applied to the inner border of the foot when walking or running. This type of foot requires an athletic shoe that provides maximum motion control. It is important for runners with low arches to select shoes with a well padded arch and a medial post, which provides rear foot stability by allowing the outer sole of the heel to flare out and be wider on the bottom then it is at the top.
  • High arches. Usually rigid, high arches can be associated with supination, a turning in of the foot, so that excessive weight is applied to the outer border of the foot when walking or running. High arched feet require athletic shoes that will offer the following: rear foot stability with a lateral post to reduce supination; extra padding for the forefoot (both the inner and outer soles should provide maximum shock absorption); and a well- padded arch that is high enough to give the arch some support.
  • Normal arches. This type of foot requires athletic shoes that provide lightweight cushioning, good arch support and stability for the entire foot.

Fit of Shoe
Once the arch type has been determined, runners should next analyze the fit of the shoe. "Analyzing the fit is perhaps the most critical step in the shoe buying process," suggests Dr. Kasdan. "I recommend visiting a specialty or sporting goods store where customers will find experts who are often runners themselves." 

  • If deciding between two sizes, always choose the larger size. Running with a slightly larger shoe is better than selecting one that is too small. Runners can always wear a thicker sock to fill extra space in the shoe while preventing blisters.
  • Shop in the afternoon. Feet swell as the day progresses, so it is important to try on new shoes later in the day as opposed to early.
  • If the shoe fits, wear it. The heel should fit snugly in the shoe and not slip.
  • Allow toes room to breathe. Toes should fit in the toe box of the shoe, with plenty of "wiggle room." The toe box should be wide and deep, so there is no pressure on the toes.
  • Size matters. Feet should be immediately comfortable in the shoe. There is no such thing as "breaking in" the shoe. If it isn't comfortable from the beginning, it never will be.
  • For added comfort, consider purchasing a sport orthotic. Due to the fast gait pattern, running applies intense and repetitive stress to the heels as weight is shifted through the gait cycle to the balls of the foot and toes. Orthotics help to protect and stabilize the heels, arches and balls of the feet. They can also provide shock absorbency to the feet, ankles, knees, hips and lower back, relieving pain in these areas. Orthotics have also been proven to eliminate shin splits and reduce the risk of stress fractures.

Final Tips
To keep feet healthy and ward off injury, runners should mind these do's and don't of running shoes: 

  • Don't select a new pair of shoes to wear for the first time on the day of the race. Dr. Kasdan recommends training in a pair of new shoes for at least a month before race day.
  • Do replace your shoes after extensive use. Just like cars and tires, shoes have a mileage limit. Dr. Kasdan suggests replacing shoes every 500 miles.
  • Don't settle for less than the best. Trust your judgment. Only the wearer can know how feet feel in a pair of shoes, not the employee trying to make the sale. If feet don't feel their best in a certain pair, keep shopping.

About OurHealthNetwork.com
Founded by Dr. Paul Kasdan in 1999, OurHealthNetwork.com provides a reliable source of information relative to foot ailments and other medical problems, and is a convenient option for affordable high quality healthcare products, most notably custom-made orthotics. OurHealthNetwork.com has reached out to more than 40 million Americans who suffer from foot ailments. For more information visit OurHealthNetwork.com.

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