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

We've been blogging over the last few weeks about run training and specifically how to put your training plan together for 2018. You can join in the discussions on our Facebook run coaching group.

Do you need new running shoes, clothing or equipment? We are The Endurance Store, an independent running, swimming and triathlon store in Wigan, Lancashire. We support the local events, we support the local community. We're one of the last few little shops, trying to compete with the big boys. Please consider us for next time!

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.

There are quite a few cynical people who like to think that gait analysis and running shoe choices are a big con, but we know different. On a daily basis we see people who complain of aches, pains and injuries and when we video their running style, they have a clear ankle collapse and excessive inwards movement. We put them in a pair of supported shoes, compare videos and it all changes. What's more, they message us the following week to say their pain has gone. I don't care what the research says, or what the doubters post on social media, we experience this on a weekly basis.

There was a piece of research several years ago which concluded that 'shoes which feel the most comfy' should be your only consideration. We've see that quoted many times on social media. The truth is that many shoes with very poor cushioning and support are made to feel like slippers. By picking the shoes which feel comfortable when you put them on, you may be asking for injury issues. This is something else we see on a regular basis.

It's fair to say that there may be some very poor gait analysis in some stores, our staff are very experienced and one is a qualified podiatrist, so we like to consider ourselves to have some knowledge in this area. We live in a world where our first question is 'what does the research suggest', but unfortunately research can be misleading and misinterpreted. Sometimes it's easier to look at practical experience and what experienced people see on a daily basis.

Let's give a brief overview of what to look out for when selecting your shoes:

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?

Before we go any further, physios/podiatrists, yes, we know there's technically no such thing as over pronation, but we use that term as it's something the general running population understand. Some people collapse inwards an excessive amount and that's generally due to issues with the ankles which may well have developed over time. That excessive inwards collapse can contribute to a whole variety of issues, including plantar fascia, achilles and shin splints.

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.

Try this simple technique, stand up and then tense your butt cheeks as if you're SQUEEZING something between them. When you do that, what's happening to your knees and feet? You'll notice that your knees move outwards and your ankles will do the same, raising the arches on your feet. Relax your butt cheeks and the knees and feet will fall inwards. Are people watching you? Do it subtle...

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. It's not rocket science, it's barely even science... it's just common sense.

If you'd like to visit us for a gait analysis, please call 01257 251217.

The Endurance Store