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What Kind of Running Shoes Should I Wear?

Posted by Filed Under: Shoes

puma running shoes

by guest author Zoë Nance, Tri-Athlete and Endurance Coach, Zoë Fitness

It seems like there are so many options and theories out there, how do you make sense of any it?!
There are a few things that I always recommend.

Replace your shoes every 6 months

This next area is where the debate comes in.  When we go to a running store a sales person will generally try to sell you a shoe that is ‘specific’ to the way that you walk, whether you are a pronator or a supinator.  We naturally do these things as we run/walk/or hike and I feel if we get a shoe for  ‘overpronation’ then our foot is then crammed and frozen into an inadequate, biomechanically inefficient state .  I would recommend getting fitted for your shoe, more by the size of your toe box versus the length of your foot.  If your toes do not have enough room to spread out then you will inadequately use the muscles of your lower leg.  You will not be able to stabilize your body weight the way that we were designed to do it.  The best thing to do is to buy a neutral shoe with no unnecessary support.  This allows your foot to begin to work the way it is supposed to work.

Here is where I really cause the debate.

We should, in most cases, not wear insoles.  I know, they were probably prescribed by a MD or a DC.  Somebody who noticed you had a limb length discrepancy, or someone you went to because you were having pain.  In my opinion, this is even worse than wearing a shoe that forces you into pronation or supination.  Yes, this may have relieved your symptoms but it fails to address the root problem, which in most cases is a muscular imbalance of the lower leg, but may even stem from somewhere as high up on the chain as your cervical spine.zoe-dirty-tri-2006-division

So how do you overcome the need for insoles?  Now granted, there will be some cases where a shoe insert is the best thing for you.  However, here are some simple things you can do. Begin to go without shoes.  Slowly begin to train your foot to be open and neutral while you’re in your home.  Gradually increase the duration and frequency that you are walking barefoot in your house.  Like any new workout program you may develop some sore muscles because of it.  Make sure your shoes are fitted properly in the toe box.

If you’re a runner begin to gradually increase the duration and frequency that you are running in a neutral shoe.  Begin running very small distances barefoot.  Make sure when you are running barefoot you are on a safe surface like a grassy field, soft track or personal treadmill.  Do not do too much too soon when beginning these techniques as they will not be safe for you, this is something that needs to be worked into gradually to avoid injury, as with all exercise programs.   You will begin to notice that when running barefoot, it hurts when you don’t land correctly and your body will begin to correct itself to a form that is more natural.  Our bodies were not originally made to run with shoes on, for thousands of years we were running barefoot.

It is important to begin running biomechanically efficient, by decreasing your stride length and increasing your foot strikes to about 180 per minute.  There is some variance on foot strikes per minute based on the size of your shoe.  By improving these two techniques you will automatically begin to use your body in a more natural way.   Shortening your stride will not only allow your body to land mid foot but it will allow your hips to stay in a more neutral position.  In my opinion, our bodies were meant to land mid-foot, that is why we have extra padding on our heels and forefoot, and then meant to push off our toe box forward to more easily help us move through space, also engaging the power muscles of our lower leg.

How do I get to the root of the problem of my foot pain, knee pain, hip pain, etc?  You find a professional who can do an assessment for you.  I recommend Muscle Activation. Muscle Activation is a company of specialists and jump start professionals who are qualified to provide a systematic approach to checks and balances to assess.



20 Comments
  1. Jon (was) in Michigan on May 19th at 10:08 am

    Is that the Puma H-Street?

    That’s an interesting comment about the fitting the shoe to the toe box, and especially about your body accommodating squooshed toes.

    There was a blog (somewhere!) that was talking about the vibram 5-fingers and he had pictures of feet that had been mostly barefoot their whole life, and feet of people who wore shoes (I think dress shoes). It was remarkable to see how the toes on the shod person were all squooshed so they were pointed (like the shoes!). You comment about the toe box in the shoes really has me thinking of how even running in flats (like I do) needs to consider the toe box.

    Nice post!

    Jon (was) in Michigans last blog post..Testing, testing, Earth to Major Tom

  2. Mark Iocchelli on May 19th at 12:20 pm

    Jon, you know I couldn’t resist adding an H-Street into Zoe’s post. :)

    I agree (via 1st hand experience) with much of this article – including the information about the toe box. I remember that article about the vibrams. I may have posted it on my own blog. Not sure. :)

  3. InjunJoe on June 15th at 5:17 pm

    I heard about barefoot running a few months back (Spring 2009) and bought a pair of aqua socks – see link to site. Anyway, I started running a few miles a week in them and found that I was more aware of my running form. At the time I was using arch supports, since I have integrated the aqua socks in to my weekly running schedule I have removed the arch supports from my shoes and I also noticed that I not run quieter as well. In short, I notice my feet now and how they behave while I am running. No more ‘cruel shoes’.

    Tip: I would not go totally barefoot running until one is mindful of their feet, just saying.

  4. Samantha on July 12th at 5:13 pm

    I’ve tried searching for the Puma H-Street trainers but have not been able to find them. Does Puma not produce these anymore?

    Thanks! :)

    Sam~

  5. Jon (was) in Michigan on July 13th at 7:50 am

    Samantha,

    I never could find a pair of Puma H-Streets, but I did find Mizuno Wave Universe 2′s, which are extremely flat and are also on the POSE running list of preferred shoes. You might try on a pair of those and see how you like them.

    Lately, I’ve been running in Vibram Five Fingers. Whole different animal. :)
    .-= Jon (was) in Michigan´s last blog ..11 miles =-.

  6. Samantha on July 14th at 2:55 pm

    Hi Jon!

    I actually lucked out and found some H-Streets on Ebay! :) Now when you refer to the Vibram Five Fingers as “whole different animal” – is that a good thing or a bad thing? Haha! Let me know as you can never have too many good pairs of running shoes!

    Sam~

  7. Zog on July 23rd at 8:41 pm

    I’ve been running in Vibrams as well. I think what the previous poster was referring to is that they really are like being barefoot. Everything you said about running barefoot applies to them. The bonuses over being barefoot are traction, a layer of rubber between the soles of your feet and stuff that tears them up, and the ability to go in stores without getting booted. I’ve got my FiveFingers review up here. If you like running barefoot, you should try on a pair some time.
    .-= Zog´s last blog ..Biomutualisms =-.

  8. Clynton on August 16th at 6:29 pm

    I agree, putting insoles in your shoe is going the wrong direction (like adding a second set of training wheels to help my daughter learn how to ride a bike). Before I learned how the foot muscles need to be used so they don’t atrophy, I was sold a pair of SuperFeet insoles to go in my super expensive Asics Kayanos. What a waste of money that was! I am now slowly strengthening my feet by wearing my VFF KSOs a few hours a day. I can already feel muscles being worked that haven’t been probably since I was an infant! It’s rejuvenating and encouraging. Thanks for the post, Clynton
    .-= Clynton´s last blog ..Back to the Cutting Board =-.

  9. dusted on October 8th at 10:57 am

    I have very flat feet, so should I still learn to run without my custom made arch supports?

  10. Olivier on March 2nd at 12:42 am

    If you walk around with no shoes on- isn’t that gonna make
    room for calluses?

    People here mention vibrams? How are they?
    Do they really feel like naked feet? I’m anxious to know-

    I heard about them from a friend who planned on running
    a marathon- Immediately I thought the idea of them were
    crazy…

    Until I looked online… Let me know what you all think…
    Are they comfortable?
    .-= Olivier´s last blog ..Tripod for TC243 =-.

  11. Aaron Bates on March 23rd at 8:39 pm

    I’m a huge fan of any equipment that helps you to run a proper stride. The traditional modern shoe encourages weak feet and a heel to toe strike which is really tough on your spine, hip and knees.

    Most people with flat feet are usually a product of week foot musculature. Like Zoe said, your feet are designed to pronote during planting but supinated during propulsion. But I wouldn’t go running for 5 fingered shoes right away. Jumping into those after wearing Nike’s your whole life would be like telling your grandma with osteoporosis to squat 300 lbs.

  12. guy on August 5th at 7:29 pm

    i have a pair of Ecco RXP 6000s and i’m wondering if they’re gonna be good enough for me to run avidly almost everyday

  13. guy on August 6th at 10:29 am

    i’m also wondering if my leg muscles are hurting because i just started running?

  14. Runners Passion on October 7th at 12:58 pm

    Interesting article. This is something that I am recently interested in experimenting with and has become very popular throughout the running community lately. I personally have just ordered a pair of Saucony Kinvara’s which as explained to me is sort of an entry level minimalist shoe. I plan on wearing the Kinvara’s for faster running and races and rotating those with my Brooks Adrenalines for recovery runs and possibly long runs. I’m interested to see if it makes any difference in my running overall.
    .-= Runners Passion´s last blog ..Runner Update- My 5k Training Plan =-.

  15. Computer tips blog on November 6th at 6:24 pm

    Nice tips for the running shoes Thanks

  16. Crawl Space Insulation on November 6th at 6:25 pm

    I only wear Nike, good tips

  17. Doughboy pools on November 6th at 6:27 pm

    I have knee paint when running, what is the best shoes for it?

  18. dogminder65 on November 13th at 2:04 am

    the shoe in the upper snap is great ya i want a same and i think you should use it otherwise choice is yours.

  19. Sand Sock Girl on November 21st at 4:37 am

    Good thing I came across your blog. I was planning to buy new running shoes for next week’s marathon race! Your tips and thoughts are much appreciated!

  20. Joan on November 29th at 2:54 pm

    I use to run years ago and I miss it so much . I am over weight now and want to get started again. My feet hurt all the time . no matter what I wear . i guess there just n54 year old feet. but a doctor said she couldn’t tell me what was wrong. and said i was in good enough shape to run. gradually that is. My question is do feet always feel pins and needles and sometimes feel hot because of my age. and is there a special way a women thats 54 years old should start running , anxious to get started.

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