What’s the Best Shoe for You?
What’s the best shoe for you?
I spent a couple years working at Aerobics First (in Halifax) fitting customers for running shoes as well as educating on different types of footwear, running styles, and accessories.
*me in one of the original Aerobics First track suits from the 1980’s.
The #1 thing I learned is that no two feet are alike, not even your own (and that’s totally normal)! Also, different brands of shoes fit different types of feet depending on length, width, arch, and cushioning.
Shoes differ in their purpose. A running shoe is different from a training shoe, and a training shoe is different from a specific sports performance shoe (or cleat).
In this blog I’m going to touch on:
- Different types of running footwear
- Minimal running
- Sports performance footwear
- Gym shoes
- Kids shoes
- & Sizing
Let’s dive in…
Running footwear can be broken down into three separate categories: cushioned, posted, and minimal. All serve different purposes and, essentially, function differently.
Cushioned shoes are what’s now known as a “traditional running shoe.” These shoes are designed to absorb shock created by a heel-toe runner. A heel-toe runner is one who lands heel first and rolls to the toes. These shoes are designed to go in a forward direction (not the best for side to side action).
These shoes also raise the heel relative to the toes, this is what’s known as the drop. The drop of a shoe is the height difference between the front of the foot and the back of the foot. To picture this; if you’re barefoot there’s zero drop but in high-heels there’s a huge drop (please don’t run in heels).
Along with the drop of the shoe, a cushioned running shoe (given the thick layers of cushion) takes you off the ground and on top of a platform. Although not huge (we adapt to running styles) this increases a potential risk for sprained ankles (falling off the side of the shoe if you land awkwardly).
A posted shoe is a cushioned shoe with extra-dense cushioning on the medial (inside) part of the shoe under the arch. These shoes are designed for the runner who pronates when they land and transfer from heel to toe. Pronating refers to the motion of the foot where the arch turns inward and essentially falls with each step.
If a shoe is posted, depending on the brand, there will be a different colour scheme of foam under the arch or spotted/different design.
*Look closely at the above image, can you see the pattern under the arch? That’s what indicates a denser foam
Minimal footwear has gotten more popular in recent years. A minimal shoe is a shoe with zero or close to zero drop and one that you can twist, turn, and bend more easily than a cushioned shoe. If used properly, this shoe promotes natural foot function and can lead to a more efficient running style.
Although this sounds great, and it is, it’s important not to jump right into minimal running if you’re currently in a cushioned shoe. With a higher drop, cushioned shoes elevate your heel for the entire duration of the run, walk, or day (if you wear them all day). With your heels up all day, your calf muscles and achilles tendon become accustomed to being shortened and tight.
If you jump right into a minimal style of running your heel will be flat and your calf muscles and achilles stretched to a length that they’re not used to, increasing the risk of injury.
One of the differences between minimal running and cushioned running is where you land on your foot. As mentioned above in a cushioned shoe you land heel and transition to the toes. When running correctly in a minimal shoe, you’re landing mid-foot. Landing mid-foot results in a spring-like action from your foot and absorbs shock in a more natural way.
**If you’re interested in learning more about minimal running and you’re in the Halifax area (or planning a trip there soon) stop by Aerobics First. The staff are versed in minimal running and can offer tips on getting started. For example, instead of jumping right into a total minimal shoe they can offer you options, including a slightly lower drop shoe than what you have now.
An experiment you can do (or stop into Aerobics First for a demonstration) is to run on a treadmill. If you’re landing heel-toe there will be a loud pounding sound with every stride. Next, grab a metronome (there’s an app for that) and set it to 180 bpm. Match your strides with this beat and you’ll notice something really cool, the treadmill and your strides will go quiet.
Proper shoe size is extremely important for proper foot function. If you’ve ever experienced; sore toes, blue or broken toe nails, shoes falling apart fast, you’re wearing shoes that are too small.
One of the most common things I helped people with while working at Aerobics First was getting into a proper shoe size. It’s a relief for your foot! Your feet cannot function properly if they are touching the end of the shoe or being squeezed from the sides. Your foot wants to splay out when it lands.
There are 26 bones in the foot. Each bone has a separate system of ligaments and muscles that make it move and absorb. In order for all of these systems to properly work together they need space. Never buy running shoes too small.
Sport performance is different from foot performance.
The exception to the rules of sizing comes in sports or athletic performance. When you’re buying skates, cleats, or climbing shoes you want your foot to be in there pretty snug. You don’t want to be kicking a soccer ball and have the extra toe space hitting the ground before the ball.
And that’s fine.
If you’re wearing footwear for a specific task or sport you’ll most likely want a snugger fit. Just don’t wear those cleats all day, let your feet breathe.
What about kids shoes?
Kids shoes should be minimal. Kids (and all humans) are most stable when they’re barefoot. Feet have a huge amount of proprioceptors on them. Proprioceptors are receptors on the body that relay information to your brain and tell you where you are relative to the environment. They keep you balanced and help you move properly. Kids should be barefoot as much as possible or in minimal footwear. Plus, you don’t want to subject your kid to tight calf muscles and a tightened achilles tendon for no reason at such a young age.
Light up shoes may be cool to look at. But….they don’t bend, at all. They have a circuit board in them. Not ideal for proper foot function or long term foot/ankle health.
Best shoe for the gym?
Well, it depends.
Running shoes will work great for most things with a few exceptions. As mentioned above, we’re most stable in minimal footwear. Minimal footwear works best for major exercises including the deadlift. Why? The drop of a running shoe (which elevates your heel relative to your forefoot) moves the centre of gravity of your body slightly forward. If you’re wearing running shoes to the gym, I recommend taking them off for your deadlifts. Just watch your toes!
If you’re doing a lot of lateral movements (side to side) you may want to look at a pair of training shoes. These shoes usually have fairly low drops and are designed to reduce the risk of ankle rollovers with extra support on the lateral (outside) part of the shoe.
“Since 1980, Aerobics First has prided itself in being a full service retail shop, no matter what the focus of the time!
..we are still dedicated to instilling confidence in whatever our customers buy from us, and are happy to offer many services beyond the initial purchase of shoes, skis, triathlon gear, active apparel
You’ll be surprised (and refreshed!) with our old-school approach that allows the customer to feel good about their purchase, and good about coming back should there ever be any issues”
If you’ve gotten this far, thank you so much for reading!
[COUPON] Take a screenshot or a picture of this article, show the staff at Aerobics First and receive a $10 coupon towards your next pair of shoes! *on regular priced items*
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