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Choosing the correct trainers

Not that you may realise, but buying a pair of trainers which are right for you rather than ones you like the look of can be one of the most important things you do. Buying trainers which are not suited to you can lead to an array of problems and is one of the most common mistakes people make.

Remember, 65 per-cent of runners and walkers choose the wrong shoe. Choosing the wrong shoe can lead to injury and discomfort which can then cause many other joint and muscle defects. Finding the right shoe can seem a daunting task but if you understand the following basic tips and take them into consideration, the purchasing experience will become a lot easier and more worthwhile.

As individuals we are all different, so are our feet and running mechanics so never wear a running shoe on the advice of another person – after all you wouldn’t take another person’s prescription would you? When running, your foot impact, body weight and running style will determine your shoe choice. Once you determine which type of foot you have, you should purchase a running shoe which counteracts any problems you may have.

You can fall into any of these below categories: NEUTRAL FOOT OVER PRONATOR UNDER PRONATOR Pronation is the inward roll of the foot when running or walking so over pronation is the excessive movement while under pronation is the failure to achieve full movement.

All these descriptions can have a negative effect on your muscle movements and joints so it is very important to choose a shoe that will minimise the negativity. The best way to determine what category you fall into is to find a professional running shop that will have the equipment to monitor your running, thus informing you of the results and recommending a suitable trainer for you.

This is called a gait test. Unfortunately in our immediate area we haven’t the pleasure of these facilities but from memory there are a few of these shops outside of our district. Disappointingly this is not ideal, but you only need to be tested once and most of these facilities offer the service for free. Most marathon and Iron Man events have this service at their expos.

Alternatively, you can do ‘the wet test’ at home to ascertain which running style you have. The wet test is done by placing your wet foot onto a dry surface which in turn shows your foot print. Wet the sole of your foot, step onto a piece of paper and remove your foot to see your print.

Observe the shape of your foot and match it with one of the foot types at the bottom of the page. Although other variables (such as your weight, biomechanics, weekly mileage, and fit preferences) come into play, knowing your foot type is the first step toward finding the right shoe for you.

NORMAL (MEDIUM) ARCH

If you see about half of your arch, you have the most common foot type and are considered a normal pronator. Contrary to popular belief, pronation is a good thing. When the arch collapses inward, this ‘pronation’ absorbs shock.

As a normal pronator, you can wear just about any shoe, but may be best suited to a stability shoe that provides moderate arch support (or medial stability). Lightweight runners with normal arches may prefer neutral-cushioned shoes without any added support, or even a performancetraining shoe that offers some support but less heft, for a faster feel.

FLAT (LOW) ARCH

If you see almost your entire footprint, you have a flat foot, which means you’re probably an overpronator. That is, a micro-second after foot strike, your arch collapses inward too much, resulting in excessive foot motion and increasing your risk of injuries.

You need either stability shoes, which employ devices such as dual-density midsoles and supportive ‘posts’ to reduce pronation and are best for mild to moderate overpronators, or motion- control shoes, which have firmer support devices and are best for severe overpronators, as well as tall, heavy (over 165 pounds), or bowlegged runners.

HIGH ARCH

If you see just your heel, the ball of your foot, and a thin line on the outside of your foot, you have a high arch, the least common foot type. This means you’re likely an under-pronator, or supinator, which can result in too much shock travelling up your legs, since your arch doesn’t collapse enough to absorb it.

Underpronators are best suited to neutral-cushioned shoes because they need a softer midsole to encourage pronation. It’s vital that an underpronator’s shoes have no added stability devices to reduce or control pronation, the way a stability or motion-control shoe would.

Below are examples of types of running shoes and their purposes:

Neutral/cushioned shoes for runners who have a normal pronation or under-pronation

Support/stability shoes for runners who have mild overpronation, also a good shoe for a beginner looking for extra support

Motion control shoes for runners who over-pronate very heavily

Trail shoes for runners who are running off road and require extra grip

Lightweight – these shoes are designed for racing or speed training, these shoes offer very little support and protection.

Not an everyday training shoe Many people get carried away with purchasing top end training gear and equipment which is not always suited to them and which is can be a waste of money.

I see this in the world of triathlons all the time. Just because athletes purchase expensive gear it definitely won’t mean that this gear will turn them into top end athletes. Personally I advise to buy what you need and what suits the level of running you are participating in.

In our society, the neverending marketing ploys tempt us into this trap but why not do a little research instead and gain some basic information prior to acquiring your footwear?

Hopefully now instead of just picking any old trainer in the shop you will be able to instruct the seller of your specifics, running needs and requirements. Choosing a shoe size should not be underestimated either, remember the feet swell when running so allow for this too. If you experience problems or pain when running and are attending a physio for the complaint, take your running shoes to your appointment.

Judging by the wear on the sole of your trainers, the professional will be able to assess whether the running shoe you are wearing is the cause or if they still provide the correct support your feet require.

Finally a few brief thoughts, I remember going into a sports shop and asking for a pair of neutral running shoes weighing no more than 300 grams. The look on the salesperson’s face was of disbelief as they had no idea what I was talking about.

This then encouraged me to source the running shoes myself, basically I am trying to say that there is no excuse for wearing the wrong trainers with all of the resources we have access to and don’t be put off by someone else’s lack of knowledge, there is no excuse.

On Monday past I participated in the Dublin Marathon, so next week’s article will be based on my training diary including my nutrition pre, post and during the race and my experiences on the day.

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