When choosing a running shoe, especially as women we have a severe mind block when it comes to colour. Many of you will have bought your running shoes based on how pretty they look- I am also guilty of this too (see photo above)! However, I cannot stress the importance of the shoe being functionally correct for you and your gait. If the last sentence gave you a puzzled look, do not fret. Below I will try to simplify the shoe fitting process and explain why just cos it feels comfortable it doesn’t mean it’s right for you!
Firstly, the term gait analysis is thrown around by many companies. Simply, it is to analyse someone’s foot movements and correlate the right shoe to their foot type. I have experienced everything from someone just getting me to squat to see what my arches, to watching me run down the street and stating they know the exact shoe for me. But to get a definitive idea of correct footwear being video’d on a treadmill is the ideal. There is then the ability to slow the running motion down and truly analyse the gait from initial contact to pushing off the toes. Now don’t get me wrong any type of gait analysis is better than no analysis as at least you have an idea of whether you are neutral or over-pronate.
Over-Pronation, Neutral or Supination? Eh?
These words are used by all shoe companies/running shops to categorise foot movement and shoe type. Now let me clarify EVERY FOOT PRONATES. From initial contact, be it the outside of your heel or the lateral side of your toes, to get the foot to the floor it has to pronate to make contact with the ground. ONCE on the ground any continued inward/medial movement there after from the foot as you move through your stride is known as OVERPRONATION. If however the foot stays still once it has made contact with the ground and through your stride that is a NEUTRAL foot. Lastly a rare group of foot movement occurs where once the foot is on the ground, the movement that occurs is actually lateral and causes the Achilles Tendon and maybe even the knee (a bowed leg) to curve laterally too. This is known as SUPINATION.
As one can guess a shoe for someone who massively overpronates is very different from a shoe for someone who is neutral. I’m going to try and explain this simply. A shoe which is supportive will usually have two type of EVA (cushioning). One will be firmer than the other. The firmer part is in the rearfoot and/midfoot dependant on how much the foot overpronates. Shoes such as Nike Odyssey, Brooks GTS Adrenaline 16, Adidas Sequence, Asics Kayano, Saucony Guide, Mizuno Paradox and New Balance 860 are Strong support shoes.
As you can guess a neutral shoe has one type of EVA but either soft or firm therefore some super soft neutral shoes may not be enough support for some neutral feet and they may need a shoe with denser foam. For example Brooks Ghost and New Balance 1080 fresh foam are more stable neutral shoes whereas Asics Nimbus and Brooks glycerin are a lot softer and give that plusher feel.
I know I said I wanted to keep this simple but bear with me here…knee movement has a huge part to play in shoe choice. When I talk about knees moving I mean as you weight bear any lateral shifting (known as a varus) or medial movement (known as a valgus). Why you ask? Well imagine your foot is pronating a lot but you have a knee varus. Would I want to put you in a super supportive shoe? The answer is no. If I support the foot too much the extra support can make the knee have an even greater varus and cause ITB and knee pain issues! Below you can also see what happens when a neutral shoe is too soft. Below my knee kicks out even more due to the EVA being too soft.
Medial knee movement usually occurs with a pronated foot therefore a strong support shoe can also help with knee alignment!
So that’s the round up…simply get a decent comprehensive gait analysis before choosing footwear. Where I work at Profeet in Fulham, it’s our speciality. We analyse full body alignment from knees all the way to hips and back. Check out http://www.profeet.co.uk for more information!
Any questions as per drop them in the comments below as I know I gave you a lot of information! 🙂