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Running Shoes… How to Pick Shoes That Are Right For Your Feet?

Henry Candelaria, BPHE, CSCS, ART®                                                                                                                                          

 

How to choose a pair of running shoes that best suit your feet? That is the question.

In this brief article I will review 4 basic but essential tests to use when purchasing a new pair of running shoes.  These tests will help establish if the shoe that you are purchasing is a good motion-control shoe.  What I meant by motion control is essentially does the shoe provide stability with mobility? 

Specific Shoe Tests for Motion Control

 

Dish-Rag Test:

Try to ring out the shoe as seen in the picture above.  If the shoe does ring out, do not purchase it as it has little to no rotational stability, which is important in the running gait.

 

 

 

 

 

Pinch Test:

Your feet are a major source of information for your brain.  Information on the type of surface, the speed of movement, and the amount of motion within the foot all contribute to telling your brain to inform the muscles of your feet and legs as to when, and how much to work.  The heel joint is a particularly large contributor to this system and as such, must reflect what is going on as accurately as possible.  If it is moving around in the back of your shoe then this extra movement may be interpreted by the brain as meaning that the muscles are required to work harder and the joints affected send the brain a signal indicating this.  When performing the pinch test, look for shoes that have a “rigid” heel counter to ensure that your heel is stable in the shoe and can provide accurate information to allow your body to function optimally during activity.

 

Fold Test: your foot is made up of numerous bones and joints that work together to propel you forward.  The joints of your foot are designed to bend at specific points.  The flex test ensures that the bending occurs at the right place.  Take the front and the back ends of the shoe and try to make them touch.  If you are met with resistance or if no resistance is felt, do not purchase the shoe because this result would indicate that the shoe either does not bend at all or bends too much, respectively.  A major movement point of your foot is at the balls of your feet.  The shoe should only bend at this point, which is called the forefoot region of the shoe (please see diagram above).  There are often grooves on the under side of the shoe at this point to allow for maximal flexibility.

 
 

 

Shelf Test: more of an observational test, this test allows you to determine if the boot (“upper”) of the shoe contributes to stability.  If a new shoe looks like the old shoe in the diagram above (some do!) do not purchase it as this indicates that the boot provides little to no stability.  This is particularly important in court shoes where lateral stability is a must.  A second component of this test is the finger push.  Place fingers on the inside of the shoe at the back and push out laterally on both sides of the inside portion of the boot.  If no resistance is met, do not purchase the shoe as this indicates poor “upper” stability and may contribute to overuse injuries as a result of inaccurate position messages to the brain, and consequently, inaccurate responses by the muscles used in walking/running. 

 

So, when do I know to replace my shoes?  Well, general rule of thumb is that runners need to replace their shoes every 3 to 6 months, but this is dependent on total running mileage.  Those who run more often need new tires sooner, compared to those who run less.  In closing, remember that the bottom line when purchasing a new pair of shoes is NEVER COMPROMISE on quality because this will be reflected 3 months down the line when overuse injuries begin to pop up.  The 4 tests presented here can act as a basic quality assurance tool!

 

Best of luck to you all in choosing a suitable running shoe and to achieving your running goals! Oh yeah, and don't forget to check out Yuri's amazing Treadmill Trainer running programs!

 

If you have any questions about this article or other topics related to the musculoskeletal system, feel free to email me at henrique.candelaria@utoronto.ca or check out my profile on Yuri’s website at http://www.totalwellnessconsulting.ca/meet_henry_candelaria.htm for more information.

 

 

References

Ross, K. (2003).  Personal communication.  Biomechanics Lecture.  First year curriculum, CMCC.

 

Reinschmidt and Nigg (2000) Current Issues in the Design of Running and Court Shoes Sportverletz Sportschaden 14:71-81

 

© 2007 Henry Candelaria, BPHE, CSCS, ART®