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October 5, 2014

Choosing the proper running shoe is vital

Talking with runners after a race, a person gets the feeling that runners have a very positive outlook on things. They may have had some negative thoughts during the race, when they were breathing hard and leg muscles were tired and sore; but after the race, all of that is forgotten.

The fact that these runners took on a challenge, and succeeded in meeting that challenge head-on and finishing the distance of the race makes everything better again. It really doesn’t matter if the race was a 5K or a marathon; the point is that they had a good run, and now they have the chance to visit and talk with other runners they have met at other races, or friends from here in San Marcos.

The after-race feeling is why runners will train and enter races over and over again. For some runners, the feeling they get while running during the race is a sensation that non-runners will never get the chance to experience.

When a person decides to try the sport of running, and to have a chance to feel good about the effort, there is one problem that seems to occur that prevents them from experiencing this good feeling. It seems that the idea is that any shoe will be okay to wear to give this running a try.

Runners know that one of the most important items in the sport is having the right shoe for them. If you buy the wrong shoe - and it is usually an inexpensive model to see if you will like to run - it is almost a guarantee that you will not like running.

What non-runners have yet to understand is that each runner has a unique running form that fits their style; and if they wear the wrong shoe, it throws their form off, and it becomes uncomfortable, or an injury occurs. The runner has to learn what shoe suits their running form and foot plant to make running fun and comfortable.

Determining which of these various running styles you have includes learning whether you are a pronator, a supinator, a heel striker, a forefoot striker, a heavy-footed or a light-footed striker, or even a toe runner. Most people are pronators, where they land on the outside edge of the foot; and as they push off, the foot rolls toward the inside of the foot at the ball of the foot. If they buy a shoe that encourages pronation, the result is knee pain.

A running friend of mine thought he was a supinator, and he bought a pair of anti-supinator shoes that let him pronate. It turns out he was a pronator. At the end of a long run trying them out, his knees were so sore from over-pronating that he was not able to run for over a month while waiting for his knees to recover.

A runner who is a heel striker likes to have extra cushion in the heel to absorb the shock when they run. A person who runs “heavy” likes to have cushion through the whole range of movement when the foot is on the ground. A light-footed runner - usually one of those fast runners you see finishing near the front of the pack - may not need the extra cushion and can buy a lighter weight shoe to help them run faster.

As a non-runner will soon find out, buying the correct shoe is very important to their enjoyment of running. Good running shoes will cost a little more than an economy model. Prices will vary from around $90 to $120, depending on the model and brand.

One other point is that every person will have to find the shoe that is best for them and that suits their running style and foot strike. Don’t buy a shoe because of the name brand, or because that is what your friend wears.

How does a person go about finding out which shoe is best for them? The easiest way is to buy the shoe from a knowledgeable shoe salesperson who will watch you run and inspect your shoes to see the wear on the sole to see the type of foot strike you have. They can then bring out several models that fit your running foot strike for you to try out.

From there, you just have to see which of the shoes feels the best and is the most comfortable. In buying shoes to see if you like running, let an experienced person help you make the right choice. In San Marcos, most runners head to Core Running Company on the square for that help.

Moe Johnson
Dr. Maurice Johnson - better known around San Marcos as “Moe” - is a professor in the Department of Health, P.E., Recreation and Dance at Texas State University - San Marcos. Moe has been a fixture in the San Marcos running community - both as a runner and race organizer - since way back when Moby Dick was a minnow. His column on running and fitness appears each Sunday in the Sports section of the San Marcos Daily Record.

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