Running shoe shopping is great fun, but picking the right one has to go much further than how good it looks. These are the crucial areas to watch out for.
Go for a firm heel counter (the part of the shoe just above the cushy heel base) because it’s crucial in maintaining the foot’s position in the shoe, advises Dexter Tai, a sports marketing executive with Adidas. This is especially advantageous If you experience foot, ankle or knee problems. Avoid shoes that sportt a soft heel counter, says Tai. Heel counters supports and dissipate impact when your foot strikes the ground, and if its too soft, it can overstretch your calf muscles and strain your Achilles tendon. Tai also recommends undoing your laces before slipping your foot in to preserve the life of your heel counter.
Different running shoes offer different cushioning densities, says Tai. Cushion shoes designed for under-pronators to neutral-arched runners typically exhibit a uniform midsole-cushioning density, while motion control shoes meant for over-pronators (flat-footed people) usually have two midsole density combinations for added support. He offers a tip to see if your footwear measures up: Hold the shoe lengthwise, with your left palm on the toe box and your right palm on the heel. Squeeze your hands together and observe where the shoe bends. “Shoes that bend at the arch will not be able to keep your foot stable and might stress your planter fascia,” says Tai.
If you’re a hardcore athlete who won’t skip a run even if it rains, a pair of shoes with waterproof quarter panels can help keep your pads dry. However, Tai recommends getting shoes that offer drainage as well because most of the water usually enters your shoe through the rim (the part where you slip your foot in).
Again, Tai stresses that a good pair of running shoes will bend where the ball of your foot sits. If the ball of your foot rests behind this point, your arch will bend instead, and that can cause unnecessary strain, though the only reason the ball of your foot will not be aligned with the flex point is because you’ve got the wrong shoe size. However, most good running shoes these days come with multiple flex points in the forefoot that provide a greater range of motion and comfort.
Our feet can expand up to half a size when we run because our soles tend to be the ‘hottest’ part of our body during such movement, says Tai. Allow for up to 1cm of space from the tip of the longest toe to the tip of the shoe when selecting your size, and do this measurement standing up because your feet are at their full length when they bear the weight of the entire body. Get a toe box that fits right: Too wide a fit can cause excessive foot movement that can lead to blisters, and too narrow a fit can restrict blood flow.
There are many insole varieties and brands on the market, even though it’s actually the midsole of the shoe that performs all the cushioning or motion-control functions, says Tai. If you’re neutral-arched, insoles act as an additional comfort item. If you need custom-made orthotics, remember to remove the provided insoles before you insert your own.