Fit and fine: These shoes are made for running!
Arun decided to take up running to improve his fitness and lose some weight. He read on the Internet that buying the right kind of running shoes was the first step in his running journey. He had bought sneakers earlier, but those were bought more for their style than functional value. He walked into the nearest big brand shoe store and asked the friendly salesman to help him out. He was informed that they would do a full assessment of his running and then recommend the right shoe. They did the wet foot test and declared he had flat, over-pronated feet. The recommendation – stability shoes which would correct the over-pronation.
The PECH shoe
The running shoe industry has made a killing selling these shoes to a gullible public where everybody has been told that they over-pronate and thus need shoes to correct the “problem”. The acronym PECH stands for Pronation control, Elevated Cushioned Heel. These over built up, overpriced shoes actually add unnecessary weight to the feet and make running harder. And no, they do not control or improve flat feet! I have seen running shoes with so much over cushioning that the feet sink in leading to increased instability.
Also, what is the point of having an elevated heel on a running shoe? Essentially, you are running with high heels. The cushioned elevated heel forces people to heel strike and over stride! Both are good ways to develop running related knee pain.
An efficient running form
Before I can talk about the characteristics of a running shoe, here’s what you call an overall efficient running form:
•Body is held straight, shoulders are low and loose. Coaches call this “running tall”.
•Arms are bent at the elbows, swing freely front and back but do not cross the centerline.
•Develop the habit of landing on the mid-foot, directly beneath the body.
•The feet should land softly i.e. you should not be “pounding the sidewalk”.
A shoe to go with the efficient running form
The shoe should be light and flexible. You do not need loads of cushioning in your running shoe. The soles of your feet have the most number of nerve endings, which convey to the brain the kind of terrain you are walking or running on. Long term usage of overly cushioned shoes leads to some of these receptors shutting down and research shows that people wearing cushioned shoes tend to land harder than if they were wearing less cushioned shoes.
To promote landing on the mid-foot while running, the difference between the heel height and the toe of the shoes should be less than 10 mm. I usually recommend not more than 4mm heel drop. But if you are used to running with regular cushioned heel shoes, then do not jump immediately to 4 mm heel drop shoes. You could easily injure your calf muscles. So shift to 10 mm for a few months, then 4 mm after that.
Also look at the shape of your foot, its wide in the fore foot, narrowing towards the heel. Then look at the shape of shoes. So find shoes which have a wider toe box. Your feet should have the space to flex and extend easily while running and that is not possible if the toe box is narrow.
Lastly, buy your shoes in the late afternoon as the feet have grown to their full size. Sometimes there can be a full size difference between the morning and late afternoon. So shoes bought earlier in the day might be actually too tight for you!
So now you know which shoes to buy. In the next column, I shall tackle flat feet, over-pronation. Stay tuned.
Kamal Singh is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who has been coaching for 15 years
Follow @KamalSinghCSCS on Twitter
From HT Brunch, July 28, 2019
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