All we need to run, is a good pair of shoes. There is a myriad of factors that may influence your choice of running shoes. Well-meaning friends may advise you to choose shoes based on their own personal preferences and experience, but what works for them may not apply to you. Given that everyone has a slightly different foot structure (and not to mention the exorbitant costs of shoes these days), it is key that you choose the most appropriate shoes for your feet.
Here are 4 essential factors you should consider when getting your next pair of running kicks.
1. SHOE WIDTH
Standing in a neutral position with your shoes on and your toes spread apart, your foot should fit squarely within the foot bed of the shoe. If your toes feel cramped against the sides of the shoe, the shoe fit is too tight. Some shoe brands such as New Balance and Asics manufacture shoes that are available in wider than usual sizes, known as 2E (wide) and 4E (extra wide). Shoes in these sizes will provide you with roomier insoles for extra comfort.
2. SHOE LENGTH
Your feet will normally swell up slightly after a run or at the end of the day, so it is advisable to go shoe shopping in the evening to maximise your chances of getting the correct shoe size. The general rule of the thumb (literally) is that there should also be a thumb’s width of space between your longest toe (usually the first toe, or second for some) and the tip of the shoe. When you run, sweat that is produced may cause your foot to move more than usual in your shoe. Having that little space between your toes and the tip of the shoe prevents any unnecessary abrasions to the foot.
The shoe should bend along the same line as your big toe when it bends at the ball of your foot. In other words, the bending point of the shoe should be close to the bending point of your toes. You can determine the bending point of the shoe by holding on to the heel of the shoe and press the front part of the shoe onto the ground. If the bending point of the shoe is too far forward or backward from the bending point of your toes, this may cause you pain along the arch or at the big toe.
A lack of flexibility in the shoe can also lead to increased tightness in the calf muscles when you run, as the foot is unable to move freely. Having said that, a shoe which is too flexible may also cause a strain on the muscles and ligaments in the foot due to repeated over-stretching.
Current research findings are moving towards the notion that so long as a shoe feels good when worn, it should work. For most people, this is identified as the subjective feeling of having support under the arch. Some shoes retailer allow you to test out shoes on an in-store treadmill. Test run the shoes first - if the arch of your foot starts to feel tight and sore after a short while, it probably means that the shoe is providing too much support. Instead, change to a shoe with less stability and more cushioning, and try it out again on the treadmill.
The key is to find a pair of shoes that allows your feet to feel comfortable in while running. Ultimately, the correct shoe for you should complement your natural stride, rather than change the way you run.
If you are suffering from a pre-existing injury from running, or even if you just want to improve your running efficiency, this is where physiotherapy can help you. A trained physiotherapist can assess your gait, and check for any strength imbalances which could be the root cause of your issues. With an appropriate treatment and rehabilitation programme under the guidance of a physiotherapist, you will be equipped with the skills and knowledge to choose the correct footwear and optimize your running gait.
Choosing your shoes, though, is only the prologue. Your running journey only really begins when you step your foot out of the door!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mok Ying Rong is a physiotherapist with an intense passion in the musculoskeletal field. She utilises a holistic manual approach alongside an energetic desire to get people back to a pain-free status. Ying's niche is in analysing and treating issues related to the running biomechanics.
Ying is also an avid sportswoman. She started off as a competitive swimmer before transiting towards triathlons, and finally establishing herself in the run scene. Her more memorable achievements include breaking the Singapore National Half-Marathon record in the 2016 Gyeongju Half Marathon, and representing the nation in the 2015 World Cross Country.
Ying's first hand sporting experiences allows her to relate better to people who are passionate about sports.