Step into the right runners for your feet and you’ll do more than just beat your PB, you’ll help protect yourself against injury too.
Fluro kicks and neon stripes can be mighty tempting, but wearing the wrong type of footwear can not only damage your feet, it can also cause serious injury to the rest of your body. But finding the perfect pair to protect your feet and propel you forward is easier than you think.
There’s runners designed for long distance, recovery runs, wide feet, daily use and more. This is great news for our feet, but it can send the mind into a spin when trying to choose the right pair. Here’s your essential guide to getting the perfect runners that will not only protect your feet and offer the comfort and support you require, but help improve your running performance. Ready, set, go!
Get to know your feet
They may have been with you on every life adventure, but how well do you really know your feet? Are they arched or flat? Do they roll in or out when you walk and run? Do they ache after a certain timeframe pounding the pavement?
Stewart Hayes is a podiatrist and board member of the Australian Podiatry Association (NSW & ACT), with more than twenty years’ experience working in sports medicine. He says the biggest mistake people make is choosing a runner because it’s fashionable. “A lot of people are buying lighter and more flexible shoes, but the majority of the population need shoes with some structure and cushioning,” he explains. “Buying the wrong shoes can result in people injuring themselves with stress fractures, muscle and ligament injuries and strains.”
Take advantage of the latest shoe technology to find the best fit for you. New advances in fitting technology mean you can walk straight into specialist shoe stores and have your feet analysed for the best running shoes for your needs in a flash.
Get properly fitted
You wouldn’t buy a car without having a mechanic check it over first, would you? The same rule should apply to your feet. “Get fitted correctly,” advises Stewart. “Take your old shoes into the store with you so you can show the experts what your wear patterns are.”
Speak with an expert trained in shoe technology, basic biomechanics and fitting techniques and you’ll score more than just a spring in your step.
With revolutionary systems such as FITZI® that use over 4,000 sensors, video and pressure technologies it is easy to identify the perfect athletic shoe for you, whatever your exercise needs and unique biomechanical tendency.
The trained staff determine the best shape shoe for you by measuring and analysing your foot silhouette, last shape, forefoot, length, width and arch. They’ll also ask you a few questions, like your preferred running surfaces and how far and how often you run, while taking into consideration other factors which could affect the best shoe choice for you, such as arthritis or injuries, and what you like in the fit of a shoe.
Then, you just walk a few steps on the FITZI® machine while a video records your walk. This analyses your biomechanical tendencies to determine the best shoe category for you.
A fit technician also uses a 3D foot pressure scan to identify the footwear features you need. You may need mid-foot or rear-foot support, extra cushioning or other special features to protect your feet against injury, provide the right support and help you perform at your PB.
Then, voila, the overwhelming task of choosing from hundreds of shoe styles is narrowed down to a few pairs that are perfectly suited to your requirements. Too easy.
Make friends with new brands
Yes we know your favourite brand of shoes have carried you from A to B for eons, but, with over a thousand new shoes planting their heels on the market every year, each with their own upgrades, cushioning systems, new constructions and modifications on previous models, it’s important to be open to letting new friends, err, brands into your life. Also, within those brands and categories, there’s models for cases of mild, moderate and severe, as well as different running styles. All these things matter because they determine where you need the most cushioning and support. So if the shoe specialist suggests different brands, give them a try. Your feet won’t regret it.
Walk the line
Once you’ve narrowed down your runner options, it’s super important to try them on both feet – not just one foot – and walk around, as often one foot is bigger than the other. There’s also your feet width and shape to consider. Shoe shapes vary and you don’t want to end up with a square forefoot shape if what you really need is a rounded forefoot. Walk around the store and see how they feel to ensure they are supportive, cushioned in the right areas and super comfortable.
“When you are trying on shoes, test drive two different styles at once,” suggests Stewart. “Do this a few times so you can see which shoes feel better and find the best fit. If in doubt, speak to a podiatrist.”
Try shoes on with running socks too, and give those toes a wriggle to ensure they have plenty of room.
Start a shoe collection
Not that we need an excuse to add to our shoe collection, but it’s actually beneficial to have multiple pairs on rotation. In fact, wearing the same runner daily for different uses can actually be counter-productive. When you wear just the one pair, your foot gets used to being supported in a certain way, but by rotating your shoes you’re constantly modifying that support which makes you less susceptible to injury and helps strengthens the stabilising muscles. Keeping a few pairs on rotation also allows the rubber and cushioning to recover so they perform better. “You can have two pairs of the same runners, one phasing in and one phasing out, so they can recover,” says Stewart. Bonus: it can also prolong the shoe’s life.
And if you’re pounding the pavement – or off road – for more than 50km a week, your feet will benefit hugely if you use runners specifically designed for your different runs. For example, you might have a more cushioned shoe for recovery runs, a mid-cushioned shoe for regular runs and a lightweight shoe for speedwork.
“If people are doing a short run during the week and a 20km run on the weekend, they will need a different pair of runners,” advises Stewart. “For example, if you’re doing a sprint session, you need sprint shoes. Or if you’re doing a distance session, you’ll need distance runners.”