Life isn’t as simple as just buying the best running shoes and hitting the hills. Running in ill-fitting shoes can cause significant short-term injury and harm, and you need to find a pair that adapts to your feet as well as your running style. It’s important to choose the right running shoes for you.
Unsupportive shoes can cause all sorts of problems, explains Suresh Chandrashekar, a consultant foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon at London Bridge Hospital (part of HCA UK), who is associated with the London Sports Orthopedic group.
“Issues can build up and cause stress fractures, ankle sprains and toe deformities, as well as exaggerate or worsen pre-existing deformities.” And continuing with a pair of bad shoes can also lead to gait abnormalities and knee, hip and spine problems.
Choose a well-fitting shoe
Choosing a good fitting shoe is really important. “A leisure runner comes under a lot of pressure when it comes to social and general media,” continues Chandrashekar, “but the first thing to realize is that a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work when it comes to running!”
Chandrashekar suggests you approach whether a trainer is suitable for you by looking at size, shape, sole properties, support and material. “All of these are important parts of the decision making process,” he says.
“As a recreational runner myself, when I am shopping for a running trainer, I try to look at the advice/reviews on the web regarding the general fit of a shoe. In my experience, I have found these running shoe reviews to be reliable. I tend to try like-for-like sizing or half or a full-size bigger.”
The shape of your feet affects how trainers fit
Finding out about the shape of your feet is also important. “Not many of us understand our feet, their shape, or the basic biomechanics they employ to prop our bodies when walking and sharing or distributing loads while running,” adds Chandrashekar. “But you can try examining the imprint your wet feet leave on a tiled floor, or outlining your foot shape on an A4 sheet. This shows you the natural shape of your feet.”
Once you know all this, it’s a case of finding a shoe that adapts to your arch/foot shape and for this, Chandrashekar doesn’t advocate buying online. “A lot of us buy online these days and have got out of the habit of trying shoes on. My advice would be to try out a few pairs in a shop, then order the ones you want later if you still want to buy online.”
How should trainers fit?
As a foot surgeon, Chandrashekar advises getting foot conditions checked out regularly to prevent progression of symptoms.
He suggests serious runners with footwear issues to seek advice from running specialists or podiatrist/foot and ankle specialists, who can review their gait and running pattern or carry out pressure mapping tests to custom fit shoes for specific running needs.
“Choosing a trainer that fits and adapts to you is essential,” stresses Chandrashekar. “And don’t forget to tie your shoelaces properly for a perfect fit, as this will prevent rubbing and injury and allow you to enjoy your time running.”
Common foot issues to watch out for
1. Bunion deformities and bunionettes (tailor’s bunion)
Both of these forefoot problems can hinder comfortable running if the toe box of the shoe is too narrow to accommodate the shape of the foot. Here’s everything you need to know about bunions.
2. Metatarsalgia, or pain on the ball of the foot
The causes are many and varied, including excessive loading in the front foot (front-loaded runners) leading to bursa neuroma pain between the toes.
Another cause is pre-existing arthritis in the big toe joint (hallux rigidus) which is a chief propulsion joint for running and sustains bursts while sprinting. Read more about metatarsalgia in Clinic on p16.
3. Arch abnormalities
As much as these can affect people with flat or high arches, the biggest impact is usually to do with heel alignment. Use inserts or orthotics to improve the fit of your running shoe if necessary.
4. Previous injuries and postsurgical issues
Consider calf tightness or weakness as well as Achilles’ tendon issues and remember that it’s always good practice to stretch well prior to running and afterwards.
5. Plantar fasciitis or heel pain
Those with prominent heels will need to pay attention to this area when trying to find a good fit. Any tightness in the heel area will cause pain down the line.
Firm soles can help protect a sore heel from taking further impact while running, whereas too foamy or soft-soled trainers can aggravate issues. Here’s everything you need to know about plantar fasciitis.
Many independent running shops will let you go for a very short run out of the shop to check comfort when moving around.