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Running Shoes? Listen to your feet

Every set of feet is unique. When buying running shoes, jog around in them, jump a little. Standing in them does not give the accurate idea. Take time to test them before shelling out the money. Using the wrong shoes can hurt your feet and your wallet. Various factors like the foot biomechanics, your weight, the shape of your feet and the surfaces you run on contribute towards choosing the right shoes.

Know your Feet

Foot Pronation

Pronation refers to the inward lean or roll of the foot as it just touches the ground. This movement occurs at the Subtalar joint, below the Ankle joint. The basic premise is that people land on their heel and their foot turns inwards. Some rolling of the foot is normal and helps reduce the shock of impact with the ground. It also helps the foot recognize the kind of surface (soft, hard, rocky, uneven etc.) and adjusts the foot to it.

The Wet foot test

This is a simple test that will give you basic information about your feet. Walk barefoot, with wet feet over a surface that will allow you to see the footprint. From the impression of the foot, you can get the following information about your feet. Do remember that this is only a rough guideline. For an accurate testing, seek specialist opinion.

The Foot Arch

  • Normal arch – If you have a normal arch, the left footprint will look like figure 1 below.

    The forefoot and heel will be connected by a band in the middle section of the foot with a concavity from the right side of the foot. This type of foot is biomechanically the most efficient.

    Normal foot has the most efficient degree of pronation. This means that when the foot strikes the ground, the outside of the heel touches the surface first. Then, the foot rolls inwards slightly so that the forefoot and then all the toes come in contact with the ground. This process helps absorb shock.



  • Figure1: Normal arch Left foot

  • High arch – The foot print of a high arched left foot will have a very thin or no band connecting the ball of the foot with the heel. The foot has a higher curve than normal foot. This type of foot does not pronate enough and shock absorption is not efficient.



  • Figure2: High arch left foot


  • Flat foot – This type of foot has a low arch and leaves a print where you can make out the entire sole. It indicates an Over pronated foot. This means that on impact with the ground, the foot rolls inwards excessively. Over a period of time, this can lead to overuse injuries.



  • Figure3: Flat foot left foot


    Pronation of Feet

    Foot arches impact the amount of foot pronation. The following figures show the various degrees of Left foot pronation. The best advice you can get about your foot pronation is from an expert. A short description is given below to provide the basics of pronation.

  • Normal Pronation – The normal arched foot rolls in slightly so the ball of the foot (the widest part of the foot) is in contact with the ground. The entire forefoot helps push the foot off the ground for the next step. A variety of shoe options exist for people with normal pronating feet. The most comfortable shoes are those that provide support and some stability to the foot.



  • Figure4: Normal pronation of left foot

  • Under pronation – The high arched foot does not roll inwards. This means it under pronates. The foot’s push off from the ground (when the foot leaves the ground for the next step) comes from the outer edge of the foot and the smaller two toes. Thus, a lot of shock is transmitted through the leg and the efficiency of the run decreases. People with under pronated feet and high arches find comfort in cushioned shoes that have midsole padding and also provide flexibility.



  • Figure5: Under pronation of left foot

  • Over pronation – The foot moves inwards significantly more than the normal foot. The job of pushing the foot off the ground comes on the three big toes. The foot loses stability and this leads to strains and tears of soft tissues at the knee and even hip. This is common in people with flat feet. The shoe shows extra wear and tear along the inner heel and under the big toe. Many of these runners prefer using motion control or high stability shoes as these help in keeping a check on over pronation.





  • Figure6: Over pronation of the left foot

    Tips for a new pair of Shoes

    With regular use and time, shoes lose their cushioning, shock absorption and stability. They can cause a discomfort in joints and muscles. Experts say that running in old shoes leads to many injuries. Running shoes need replacement based on the wear and tear. Differing opinions abound with regard to the right time to change your shoes. But some experts recommend getting a new pair of running shoes after covering 300-400 miles in the comfortable old shoes.

    Big Toe – An important aspect to consider is the space between your big toe and the front end of the shoe. While running, the feet tend to swell and hence this requires space for them to adjust inside the shoe. It is advisable to keep a minimum gap the size of half thumb nail’s length between the big toe and the shoe. If the toes get crammed inside the shoe while walking, it can lead to numbness, pain, blisters or even black toe nails.

    Heel – Ensure that the heel is snug against the shoe and does not slip out of the shoe. Unwanted movement and friction of the shoe against the back of the foot will cause blisters.

    Minimal shoes – These are a new variety of shoes in the market. They are thinner than normal shoes and mimic barefoot running. They may be the fad today, but it is not advisable to ditch the comfortable, protective shoes. The soft tissues of the feet (muscles, ligaments, tendons) and even the bones take time to adjust to minimal shoes. The level of protection and stability to the feet gets reduced. Thus, professional coaches advise athletes not to run all races in minimal shoes.

    Your body is the best judge when it comes to shoes. If your body is giving you negative signs, it is time to look for another pair.

    An important thing to remember is that always test run in your shoes, to get a feel for them. Never wear new shoes to a race or an event.

    Images courtesy- www.runnersworld.com
    www.asics.co.uk

    -Anima Bajpai


    About the Author
    The author holds a Bachelors in Physiotherapy and an MBA in Marketing. She is currently involved in spreading wellness across TCS through TCS Fit4life.

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