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Choosing the righ running shoes, is it all just a con?

This is a 2 part series which looks at running bio-mechanics and shoe choice. In part 1 we discuss common foot posture.

Yes, we are a running shop and yes, we offer gait analysis. Some think this is a useful service, others less so. Surely the running shoe world is just big business and the expensive shoes are no better than the cheap ones! Do we really need shoes with support and extra cushioning or is it all just an unnecessary addition?

I do get a bit tired of trends and myths in the world of running. A few years ago, someone wrote a book about a Mexican tribe who ran barefoot and suddenly EVERYONE thought it was the way forwards. Shoe companies jumped onto the band wagon and 'minimalist' became the buzz word. With little evidence to support it, runners everywhere switched to barefoot and the injuries started to stack up.

I know what you're going to say... as children, we never wore such padded shoes and children walk naturally on their forefoot etc etc. Well, we're not children any more and we have been wearing these shoes for many years, if you think you can reverse it in the space of a week, you're sadly mistaken. I prefer to follow common sense rather than trends so let's talk through some common things we see and how running shoes can help you to stay injury free.

Do I pronate?

Yes, you probably do, you and 90% of the population. Pronation refers to landing on the outside of the heel, rolling forwards and then inwards onto the forefoot to push off with the big toe. Pronation is a natural movement and those who pronate within the normal range would be encouraged to wear a 'neutral' shoe.

Why do I pronate?

There's a really simple explanation for this, it relates to centre of gravity. Stand up with your feet hip distance apart, then try and lift your right foot, without moving your weight to the left. Unless you have magic skills, you'll find it impossible. When you stand on one leg, you have to position your foot directly underneath the centre of your body to balance yourself and that's how we run. Every time we plant our foot when running, it's directly under the centre of the body, which means that your leg will be angled in slightly from your hip to the floor. This inwards angle of the leg, means you're more likely to hit with the outside of the heel first.

Do I over-pronate?

Some people pronate excessively, outside of the normal range. They land on the outside of the heel and then immediately roll inwards onto the arch (rather than forwards) and the foot / ankle collapses. People who pronate within the normal range are classed as 'neutral' and those who pronate outside the normal range (excessively) are classed as 'over-pronators'.

Why do I over-pronate?

Generally people over pronate due to bad ankle posture. The technical term is Valgus Heel or Rear Foot Valgus. It's commonly caused by years of pressure combined with bad footwear and the ankles are simply collapsed inwards (see picture). The reality is that if you land on a heel which is already collapsed inwards, the chances of rolling forwards naturally are pretty minimal. Rear Foot Valgus is really common and most people don't even know they have it until it's pointed out. The bone on the inside of the ankle protrudes more than normal and often there's a bump on the back of the heel bone which can also stick out. It's not something you can change by doing exercises etc, once you have it, you're pretty much stuck with it and just have to manage it. You may possibly be more prone to injuries, but equally you may run for years, with no issues.

I think I roll outwards, not inwards!

There is a group of people who run on the outside of their feet. The hit with the outside of the heel and stay on the outside, pushing off their little toe! This is term 'supination' and is common with people who have 'larger thighs' such as rugby players. If the thighs are large it can push your knees apart so you run with a slight 'bow legged' style. This naturally pushes you onto the outside of your feet. This can be an issue as the outside of the foot is not designed to deal with such pressure, we can better deal with the pressure when rolling forwards and inwards onto the big toe.

Duck or pigeon?

One other thing which can influence pronation or supination is your foot position. If you naturally stand with your feet at 10 and 2 o'clock (turned out), then your natural action is to roll inwards. If your feet are 'pigeon toed' (turned inwards), you'll roll outwards onto your little toe.

Hips & knees can play a part!

Physios love technical jargon and if you've visited one recently, you may have been told that you're glutes are not engaging or 'firing' properly! In simple terms your glutes can control your hip and thigh movements. Weaker glutes are more likely to allow your hip/thigh to roll inwards (so your knee you be rolling/facing inwards). If your hip/thigh/knee roll inwards, then your feet will follow as they are the end of the chain. Sometimes if a runners feet are collapsing inwards, you need to look further up the chain as that may be the cause!

Do shoes make a difference?

Absolutely. No matter what you like to believe, 80% of people who come to us with issues such as those above, report positive benefits and far less problems when placed in the correct shoe. If a runners has an injury caused by ankle collapse, placing them in a support shoe commonly has a significant impact upon the problem.

Next week we'll discuss shoe choice further, so you can be more informed when you buy! If you'd like to visit us for a gait analysis, please call 01257 251217.

The Endurance Store

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