If you’re thinking of taking up running, heck if you’re thinking of taking up walking, you should pay attention to this week’s blog. What I’m about to tell you is VERY important. I’m about to discuss probably the most important piece of equipment you’ll have in your fitness cache.
Your running shoes.
Let me tell you a quick story. Back in 2003, I managed to change my diet and lost a good amount of weight. I knew that I needed to start exercising to complete the picture. I started out slowly (we talked about it before, remember?) and eventually was running a couple of times a week. I thought I was all sorted out. Then out on a hike one day with R, I stepped over a ditch. Nothing out of the ordinary when all of a sudden something in my right leg went POP! The pain was almost indescribable. It was searing, gasp-inducing, crippling pain. I hobbled back to the boat whimpering with each step. Now, being a foolish girl, I didn’t head to the doctor to have my leg checked out. I thought that with a little rest I’d be fine. After a couple of weeks, I was. My leg was still tender, but I thought I needed to start running again. Self-healed, I laced up my shoes and off I went. Less than 10 minutes into the run the “pop” came back. I was back to square one. Sadly I continued this cycle for a while before I finally realized my resting plan wasn’t working. I headed to the doctor to check me out. I had injured the connection between my Achilles tendon and the calf muscle. Physical therapy was prescribed and the real, doctor-approved healing finally began.
As part of the physical therapy, my therapist asked to see my running shoes. What I learned that day would change my shoe purchasing forever. I was wearing EXACTLY the worst type of shoe for my foot type. My increased walking and running had slowly damaged the connection in my leg until it finally snapped like a rubber band.
What did I learn? I learned about “pronation” and “shoe stability.” You see, I have very flat feet. With my dreadful lack of arches my feet “over-pronate” or roll inwards when I walk. To counterbalance my rolling foot, I wear stability shoes. (Sound very sexy, don’t they!) By stopping my foot from rolling inwards, my shoe also aligns my leg and hips above them. Magic!
You can get an idea of if you’re an under-pronator (high arches), neutral, or over-pronator in a simple test. Just get a newspaper and a pan of water. Dip the sole of your foot in the water and step firmly on the newspaper. Your foot should leave an image similar to one of the three below.
No Arch High Arch Normal
With this information you can use a number of the online tools to help choose the right shoes for you. I also HIGHLY recommend going to a local running store and get a proper fitting from a trained professional. She can watch you walk and evaluate your foot movement. She should also give you guidance on fit both in the toe box and length. It’s a process I went through after my injury. Ever since then I have been buying the same Asics shoes. I replace them fairly regularly (every 300-400 miles) to avoid overuse injuries. So far – touch wood – my legs have stayed strong.
One last thing to note: Every so often I wonder if I should try a different brand or style of stability shoes. I pull one of the other brands or styles off the shelf just to try them on. I always find myself back in the same shoes, every time. My point? The right shoes for you will fit; you’ll feel it as you walk around the store. Get a professional fitting but trust your feet. They’ll thank you for it.
Next on Inch by Inch….Meet Emily, pedaling her way from the back of the pack.
PS. If I met you and took your photo at the Danskin Triathlon 2009 please email me. I thought I had your number and have some questions. You can find my contact information on the About Me page.