Return To Racing – Preventing Injury In 2021 (Part 3)

It’s Gotta Be The Shoes

Guest Blogger: Miriam Salloum (PT OCS COMT) // The Runner’s Mechanic

Now that we’ve got you organized and stretched out, now it’s time to talk about your equipment, specifically that on your feet!

Rotate Two Pairs Of Slightly Different Style of Shoe Equally

Running ShoesWhat is a better excuse to get some new shoes! There is a some research on the benefits of rotating two pairs of shoes that may be a slightly different design but both very comfortable. The idea of a “comfort filter” is the idea runners perform best in shoes they feel the best wearing! This will give your body a little bit of variability with your runs. Also make sure you are wearing the right size! Have the lovely people at our local shoe stores actually measure your feet!

Another important shoe concept is to be aware of is the kind of shoe you are wearing most of the day, especially if you stand for your job. Making sure you are in footwear that is not placing a lot of strain on one part of your foot or lower legs is important. Examples of strain a shoe can cause are a heeled shoe (puts pressure on the bottom of the ball of your foot and the front of the knees) or narrow shoes (squeezes the bones of the ball of the foot). THIS IS TRUE WITH BOTH MEN AND WOMEN’S DRESS SHOES! Do not undo all that good training with a simple mistake of sacrificing foot health for a work shoe! You can find great looking shoes and still check the boxes for a good fit.

What To Look For When Buying Running Shoes

Now, the design of shoes varies immensely. Shoe store employees are wonderful at helping you identify these design features, and especially educate you concerning changes in a shoe model that may be new that year and different from the last time you purchased that exact shoe model.

Heel counter
Heel counter is the back of the shoe where your heel sits. The shape of the heel counter can be more curved or more straight, and if you have had a history of Achilles tendon pain it is important to find a heel counter shape that doesn’t irritate that area. Also a “stiffer” heel counter can decrease the “wiggle” of the heel during running, and can also be an aspect that keeps irritated Achilles symptoms at bay.

Break Test
The “Break Test” is compressing the shoe from the toe to the heel and seeing where the shoe naturally breaks. A very flexible shoe, or more minimalist, may ball up easily and compress into a complete “U” shape with little to no force. Some runners are looking for this quality, but those with a history of plantar foot pain may not do well to have a shoe sole that stretches out easily. A normal break area for shoes is exactly where the ball of the foot is located, the metatarsal heads. If someone is having metatarsal pain they may want a shoe sole that is stiffer through that break area and cushioned. A general rule of thumb is the more flexible a shoe, the more it loads the Achilles and plantar fascia and increases the work demand on those structures. This is great when a runner wants to do that and doesn’t have any injuries that could be overloaded.

Twist Test
The “Twist Test“ is when you wring out a shoe from toe to heel. Again this will give an idea of shoe stiffness and based on that allows you to know how much foot mobility and muscle work you will have available to you.

Ramp Differential
Shoe “Ramp Differential” is the difference in height of the shoe between the heel and the ball of the foot. The term “zero drop” comes from the situation where there is no difference between the height of the shoe sole from heel to toe. It is level, and this allows for the heel to sit down in the shoe more. When the heel is higher than the ball of the foot, this is measured in mm and can be anywhere up to 12 mm difference. This will allow the heel to sit a little higher than the ball of the foot. Runners with tight calves, or Achilles pain, sometimes find a ramped shoe with the heel slightly higher and more comfortable.

The weight of a shoe is an aspect that can afford a runner more efficiency. A lighter shoe is more desirable for competitive runners. For every 100g more a shoe weighs it can cause a 1% loss in running economy. I would never recommend a runner choose weight over comfort in any instance, but weight aspects can help pick between shoes when better race times are a goal. This aspect is not as important for trail shoes when heavier tread is part of the construction and adds to the shoe weight, but obviously is more important with that kind of terrain.

The stiffness components of the sole of a shoe help define it as “motion control”, “stability”, and “cushioned”. It is no longer correct to assume the shape of your foot should dictate the shoe category you fall into. The “comfort filter” mentioned in the beginning of this article is used to find a shoe that may best fit your natural running form.

Lastly the width of the toe box is important. When you stand barefoot you will notice the toes and ball of your foot splay out. When looking at shoes, choosing a toe box width that doesn’t squeeze your foot is critical. Tight shoes can compress the nerves in the feet and cause pain eventually. There are now a few lines of shoes that allow a great deal of room for the forefoot.

4% Shoes
Everyone asks about the 4% shoes. In short, these shoes do what they say they do: make it feel easier to run and bounce forward, therefore providing proven improvements in a person’s running economy. They are made from very light material, and allow for 100-200 miles of running before wearing out the outsole. They are a very cool piece of technology that has been introduced to the road racing world, but not meant for every runner, and definitely should not be the only shoe in your wheelhouse. Always keep other shoes in the rotation for training.

Trail Shoes
When it comes to trail shoes, the considerations are the same with the exception of heavier and deeper tread to tackle the terrain. Shoe sizing is very important. Definitely have your feet measured for fit, and also take into account extra toe box room with a lot of downhill terrain and times when feet may swell with hotter weather or longer distance runs. Buying shoes that are too small is a common mistake, and as we age with more miles under our feet, our feet can change in size and structure.

I hope all this helps you find the shoes of your dreams, and always know as the research continues to come out in new and exciting ways, so will our recommendations as clinicians! Happy running!

About the Author

Miriam Nelson - Runners MechanicsMiriam Salloum is owner and director of The Runner’s Mechanic Physical Therapy Clinic and has practiced orthopedic and sports physical therapy since 2000 while residing in Asheville, NC. She specializes in the treatment of running injuries with a background in foot and ankle rehabilitation, foot orthoses fabrication, taping techniques, spine and lumbopelvic neuromuscular reeducation, spinal manipulation, and the biomechanical analysis of running gait. Miriam also specializes in dry needling techniques, also known as Intramuscular Manual Therapy (IMT), to reduce pain and restore normalized function of the neuromuscular system appropriate for most patient populations. In 2016 Miriam became the physical therapist for the Olympic Training Site under the Center for Excellence for Sports Science in Johnson City where she rehabilitated Olympic athletes in bobsled and track and field sports.

She has been a national presenter for North American Seminars for the past 4 years which allows her to educate health professionals in the most recent techniques for treatment of running related injuries. She models her approach to runners’ rehabilitation after the Speed Clinic & Center for Endurance

About Glory Hound Events

Glory Hound Events was started in 2006, initially managing the historic Bele Chere 5K. Shortly after that first year the Lake Logan Triathlon was introduced and eventually became a part of the Lake Logan Multisport Festival. Glory Hound Events is now the largest endurance event management company in the Western North Carolina region, producing an average of eighteen events annually. In addition to producing its own events and those for a variety of clients, Glory Hound Events offers consulting services for events outside of Western North Carolina looking to take theirs to the next level.