Column: How to choose a running shoe

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Commentary by Joseph Hui 

As the weather gets warmer, many people will lace up their shoes and get back into or starting a running program for the first time. For a runner, shoes are everything. But how does one choose the right shoe?

The first question is – what type of surface will you be running on, road or trail? Trail-running shoes are typically heavier and designed to protect the foot and encourage stability on uneven, rocky surfaces. These shoes offer durable soles with more aggressive tread patterns and are generally wider and sometimes have an additional layer in the sole to reduce pain caused by stepping on debris.

Next, identify the type of running pattern you have. Find a well-used pair of running/athletic shoes from your closet and examine the wear pattern of the tread. Your running pattern is generally broken into three categories: underpronation, neutral and overpronation.

Overpronation typically occurs in runners with a flat to medium arch. If the sole of the shoe is worn down near the inside of the shoe near the big toe, then you have overpronation. Underpronation, the least common type, typically occurs in those with high arches and can be identified when the outside of the sole is worn down near the pinky toe. Neutral runners are in between and typically have even wear-pattern of the inside and outside of the fore foot.

For overpronators, shoes with a stiff midsole are generally more helpful and are marketed as motion-control shoes. For underpronators, neutral-type shoes are more helpful. Finally, for neutral-pattern runners, a stability shoe is typically the best fit.

The most important thing is how comfortable they feel. There has been a recent shift in the scientific literature to promote comfort as a strong predictor to reduce the incidence of running injuries.

For those who experience discomfort in the knees or hips during or after running, consider purchasing an over-the-counter orthotic. Take your shoes with you to the store. Start with the “blue” (neutral) insole, place them in your shoe and don’t forget to take out your existing orthotic. Walk around the store for 20 minutes to make sure they’re comfortable. If they aren’t, change them out and repeat the same process. When you’ve found a comfortable pair, work your way into them during the next three to five days.

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