Sunday, 07 May 2017 09:25

A great running shoe makes a difference

Shoes can make or break a run.

The right shoe allows us to focus on the climate, the elevation, our strategy and on the beauty of the route.

The wrong shoe can lead to a blister, a painful bout of plantar fasciitis or lost toenail that can turn any run from uncomfortable to downright unbearable.

But shoe shopping can seem nothing more than trial and error at first. We've all bought that shoe that was on sale, or looked really great -but ended up lacking the arch support or sufficient cushioning or structural integrity. It's tempting sometimes to think that any athletic shoe is fine until we pay for it with injuries.

Most runners believe that investing both the time and the money for the right shoe is not just worthwhile, it's necessary.

That includes our team of first-time marathon runners-in-training. To put in all the training miles they need to complete a 26.2-mile race in October, they absolutely must have the right shoe. It protects not only the foot - toes, heel, arches, toenails - but can also help prevent pain and injury to the knee, back and the hips.

The best first step is to head to a local running store for an evaluation.

A couple of weeks ago, marathoner-to-be Ronetta Watson brought in her old shoes and then did a simple walk for Ethan Doherty, the general manager at Fleet Feet Sports in Brookfield. It was just a walk, but it told Doherty a few key things.

"I was looking for the movement in her feet and her ankles," Doherty said. "I saw a little bit of movement in her ankles - not a lot. She definitely has lower arches, but we can help support those."

Then he took her foot measurement twice - while she was sitting and then while she was standing, for an unweighted and weighted measurement.

This was important because, in 2015, Watson lost both of her big toenails to distance running and poorly fitting shoes.

Doherty then offered a host of shoes, inserts and even socks for Watson to try.

Hoka is very popular running shoe; so are Brooks, Asics, New Balance, Adidas and Saucony. Some Nike running shoes are highly regarded as well.

Of course, if you really want to be on the cutting edge, you can get the Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite, the shoe that Nike wants someone to wear to run a marathon in under 2 hours. (The world record is 2 hours 2 minutes and 57 seconds by Dennis Kimetto.)

Watson liked the Hokas but ended up going with a pair from Saucony. She doesn't want to lose her big toenails again.

"I think my shoes were a little too small - it was hitting the top of the shoe," Watson said.

Grace Kassander, a mom and physical education teacher, has always worn Nikes. But when she recently went shoe shopping she tried something else.

 

"I needed a new pair of shoes - runners can never have too many shoes - and always thought Brooks were the best. You always hear about Brooks and how they're associated with running," Kassander said. "I was hesitant because of the price tag."

She bought the Brooks, but her feet hurt after runs.

"Then I found a super comfy pair of Under Armor running shoes at Dick's (Sporting Goods) in Grafton and opted for those. I fell in love with them. The fit, the style and the way my feet didn't hurt after a good solid run."

She thought about getting inserts for the Brooks, "but asked myself, why I'm switching things up if my Under Armor ones work great?"

Doherty, who was a standout prep in Texas and went on to run at Texas A&M and Rogue Athletic Club, has a few guidelines:

A good running shoe is going to cost $110 to $150. Of course, this may vary depending on sales or discounts.

Expect to get about 300 to 500 running miles per pair of shoes. That's the industry standard. "I may have gotten some more out of some Hokas," Doherty said.

There are telltale signs in the foam support when shoes have lost some of their structural integrity and aren't as supportive. A brand new shoe won't bend easily; a well-worn shoe will bend past 45 degrees. "What really matters is the integrity of this foam" that supports the foot in the bottom of the shoe, Doherty said. "Most people look at the bottom of the shoe - at the rubber - and it really doesn't have anything to do with that."

Alternating shoes can help fight injuries "because you throw variety at your body," he said.

There are other considerations to make besides just shoes to protect the feet. Padded socks can provide compression on the arch and a specific fit - left and right - to cup the heel deeper and better. They cut down on blisters when they wick away sweat.

Inserts are very important, said Doherty, for reducing foot and knee issues. He said that shoes don't provide as much arch support as inserts. An insert helps lift the heel.

"Which helps align the ankle, and your back, and your hips," Doherty said. "As your foot wants to collapse and elongate, it's going to catch that and keep that from happening."

Wade Snowden, a college student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, just purchased a pair of Hokas.

"I had never had a pair of Hokas before. I love a lot of support when I'm running, and those offered it," Snowden said.

He was sold on inserts as well.

"Believe it or not, this was the first time in my years of running that I purchased insoles," Snowden said. "I got a pair of currexSole inserts that, combined with the cushion in the Hokas, feel like I'm running on a cloud. It is amazing."

Chicago Tribune -- OmRiyadat English