Bright, candy-coloured running shoes are just another chapter in fitness fashion, but there’s a lot more to finding the right fit for your feet.
The brighter the colour, the faster you run, right? This may be true for some running fans, but it’s important to remember that there’s a lot more to consider when it comes to buying a new pair of joggers.
Barefoot running, or reduced-support shoes, seem to be all the rage with runners with many pointing to our evolutionary ability to run as the purist way to find your stride.
But it’s not as simple as just going out and buying a new low-support pair, says Peter Charles, podiatrist and owner of Shoes Feet Gear in Paddington.
“Most people enjoy the light, fast and natural feeling of these types of shoes,” says Charles. “But how much support and protection you need from your running shoes depends on your individual anatomy, exercise load and running technique.”
He says to begin running barefoot safely it’s imperative to gradually reduce support, heel height and cushioning.
“The biggest problem we see at Shoes Feet Gear are people who replace their normal supportive training shoes with a minimalist/barefoot style shoe and continue training normally,” he says. “The sudden increase in workload commonly results in injury. Gradually introduce less support mid-week for your lighter sessions and build up slowly.”
So is barefoot running all it’s cracked up to be? Some fans claim it can even cure the dreaded case of shin splints, but Charles says it all depends on the individual.
“Some people love the lighter, firmer feeling and will slowly progress all the way to bare feet. Everyone finds their own ‘happy place’ – as far as enough support and cushioning to keep you pain-free but light and fast enough to feel amazing,” he says. “I am always surprised at the number of people who get fitted with shoes to be used for running and no one has watched them run!
“Depending on which shin muscle is involved, your run technique and how your foot functions all affect which shoe will work and what other treatments will be effective. The right type of shoe definitely reduces the workload of these muscles and will relieve the symptoms of shin splints.”
Quick tips for picking a new pair:
- If you are a forefoot striker, then any support and cushioning in the back half of the shoe will be useless and only weigh you down
- If your foot lands quite flat relative to the ground, then the drop of the shoe (difference in height between the heel and forefoot) starts to really influence your running mechanics
- The majority of people are heel strikers – this is when the cushioning and support in the back half of the shoe becomes very important
- Shin splints most commonly are caused by the small muscles that support your ankle being over-worked and their small attachments to the lining of the shin bone becoming inflamed and should be diagnosed by podiatrists