Whether you’re a casual jogger or a serious sprinter intent on smashing records, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of appropriate running shoes.
But with such a wide choice available, selecting the right pair has almost become a science itself. The first part of the puzzle, according to footwear specialist Emma Sellwood, is ascertaining the level of foot support required.
“Support levels in running shoes range from mild to moderate to severe, and selecting the right one will depend on things like runners’ biomechanical tendencies,” says Sellwood. “For example, some people’s feet have a tendency to roll in to varying degrees while other people’s feet might be neutral. Then there are those who spend too long on the outside part of their feet. These characteristics, combined with training motives, determine what shoe is required.”
While agreeing that determining foot function and the level of support required is a crucial first step, Todd Ridge, owner of The Running Company at Bondi Beach, says that other factors, such as previous injuries, should also influence shoe choice.
“If someone’s getting shin splints, generally it’s down to a lack of cushioning and support,” Ridge says. “The more technology a shoe has, the more support, cushioning and durability of the material used,” Sellwood says. “This, of course, leads to greater comfort and a higher price.”
Sellwood says the type and intensity of exercise also affects shoe choice, with some runners possibly needing multiple shoe types.
“A serious runner wouldn’t wear a minimalist type shoe for their 100-kilometre-plus weekly training sessions, but on race day, they may prefer to go for a lightweight shoe designed for racing, not training.”
However, runners who are looking to move to a lighter, more competition-specific shoe should do so via a careful period of gradual transition, Todd Ridge says.
“People who’ve been in a very structured shoe and go straight to a very minimalist shoe and try to do the same amount of Ks can experience problems,” he cautions. “You need to transition down to those shoes rather than take a big jump. Your feet need time to adjust.”
For happy feet, stick to your race plan.
Keeping feet healthy and happy is a challenge for runners of all experience levels, especially when it comes to gruelling races such as The Sun-Herald City2Surf presented by Westpac.
Rob Mair, president of the Australian Podiatry Association, says sticking to your race plan is one of the best strategies for avoiding injury and strain.
“You would not believe the number of athletes who come undone in a race because they didn’t stick to their plan,” he says. “If you plan to walk it, then walk it. If you’re an elite athlete, stick to your plan of where you want to be on the course at a given time. Things like swelling, blisters, shin pain, knee pain, heel pain, Achilles [tendon] injuries, and stress fractures to metatarsals can start to occur when you suddenly find yourself going harder than you planned.”
Mair says water intake is also critical to foot health.
“A lot of foot and leg problems incurred during races are related to hydration issues,” he says. “If you’re over-hydrated, you may get swelling in your hands and feet. If you’re under-hydrated, you may get cramping and muscle pain.”