Medical group advises on shoe selection

  • Published
  • By 23rd Medical Group
  • 23rd Wing
As military members, running is a fact of life. In the clinic, we commonly see running injuries. With proper sock and running shoe selection, many of these injuries are preventable.

To best select a running shoe, you should start by determining if you have a neutral, high, or low arch. Your arch acts as a shock absorber. If you have a flat or a high arch, you may be more prone to some common running injuries.

The shape of your arch also influences your choice of running shoes. As a general rule, a neutral arch will require a neutral running shoe, a high arch a cushioned running shoe and a flat arch a motion control running shoe.

You should have a basic understanding of the gait cycle, or the motion of your foot with each stride. The outer portion of your heel strikes the ground first. Your foot then rolls slightly to the inside with the arch absorbing shock. Finally, you toe-off to propel yourself forward.

If you have a normal stride, you should see the most wear at the back outer portion, ball and front inner portion of your running shoes. If you have a high or flat arch, your wear pattern is typically different. Finally, you should be familiar with the basic "parts" of a running shoe. Running shoes are designed to provide support and cushioning during each stride.

The basic parts of a running shoe are the upper, the last, the midsole and the outersole. The upper is the part of the shoe that encompasses your foot. The last is the part of the shoe under the removable sock liner that determines shoe flexibility and shape. The midsole is the key part of the shoe that provides shock absorption and determines the life of the shoe. Finally, the outersole is the treaded part of the shoe that strikes the ground to provide traction with each stride.

When purchasing running shoes, Airmen should keep the following tips in mind:
- Always try to buy running shoes from a specialty running shoe store.
- Try to wear your current pair of running shoes to the store for the clerk to inspect.
- Wear the socks you plan to run in each time you try on running shoes. If you have orthotics, wear them as well. The best running socks are crew socks made of synthetic material like CoolMax or a similar fiber. These socks wick moisture away from your foot and hold their shape well. Cotton socks tend to compress easily, lose shape, retain considerable moisture and wrinkle which increases the chance of developing a friction blister.
- Try on running shoes in the evening. Make sure both feet are measured each time you try on running shoes. One foot is often slightly larger and you should fit your running shoe to the larger foot. Remember, the measurement is only a general guide. Select your shoes by fit and not by size, as shoe size varies by company and model.
- Determine proper fit while standing. You should have about 3/8 to 1/2 inch between your longest toe and the end of the running shoe. Your heel should fit comfortably in the running shoe with minimum slippage. The ball of your foot should also fit comfortably in the widest part of the shoe. The shoe should also bend under the ball of your foot.
- Try to run in your shoe at the store to ensure it is comfortable and fits well while running. Try on several pairs and compare.
- As a general rule, replace your shoes every 350-550 miles or approximately every 6 months as the shoes lose shock absorption and stability with time. You should also inspect your shoes regularly as excessive wear indicates a need to replace them sooner. Many running injuries result from failing to replace your shoes when needed.
- Try not to run in wet shoes as this decreases the life of the running shoe.
- Also, always untie your shoes when taking them off. Do not step on the heel and pull your foot out as this may damage the heel counter.