Improving your running form can help you run faster, more efficiently, and with less stress on your body and reduced injury risk. Follow these tips to work on perfecting your running form.
• Look Ahead
Your eyes should be focused on the ground about 10 to 20 feet ahead of you. Don’t stare at your feet. Not only is this proper running form, but it’s also a safer way to run because you can see what’s coming and avoid falling.
Don’t be a toe runner or a heel-striker. If you land on your toes, your calves will get tight or fatigue quickly and you may develop shin pain. Landing on your heels means you have overstrided and you’re braking, which wastes energy and may cause injury. Try to land on the middle of your foot, and then roll through to the front of your toes.
Make sure your toes are pointed in the direction you want to go. Running with your feet pointed in or out could lead to running injuries.
• Keep hands at your waist.
Try to keep your hands at waist level, right about where they might lightly brush your hip. Your arms should be at a 90 degree angle. Some beginners have a tendency to hold their hands way up by their chest, especially as they get tired. You may actually get even more tired by holding your arms that way and you’ll start to feel tightness and tension in your shoulders and neck.
• Relax your hands.
As you run, keep your arms and hands as relaxed as possible. You can gently cup your hands, as if you are holding an egg and you don’t want to break it. Don’t clench your fists because it can lead to tightness in the arms, shoulders, and neck.
More: How to Avoid Tension While Running
• Check your posture.
Keep your posture straight and erect. Your head should be up, your back straight, and shoulders level. Keep your shoulders under your ears and maintain a neutral pelvis. Make sure you’re not leaning forward or back at your waist, which some runners do as they get fatigued. Check your posture once in a while. When you’re tired at the end of your run, it’s common to slump over a little, which can lead to neck, shoulder, and lower-back pain. When you feel yourself slouching, poke your chest out.
• Relax your shoulders, too.
Your shoulders should be relaxed and square or facing forward, not hunched over. Rounding the shoulders too far forward tends to tighten the chest and restrict breathing.
• Rotate arms from the shoulder.
Your arms should swing back and forth from your shoulder joint, not your elbow joint. Think of your arm as a pendulum, swinging back and forth at your shoulder.
• Don’t bounce.
Try to keep your stride low to the ground and focus on quick stride turnover. Too much up-and-down movement is wasted energy and can be hard on your lower body. Take short, light steps, as if you’re stepping on hot coals. The higher you lift yourself off the ground, the greater the shock you have to absorb when landing and the faster your legs will fatigue.
Avoid side-to-side arm swinging. If your arms cross over your chest, you’re more likely to slouch, which means you’re not breathing efficiently. Imagine a vertical line splitting your body in half — your hands should not cross it.
Proper form, strength training, and the right shoes can prevent injury.
May 17, 2013
It’s an all too common scenario: Runner begins training program. A month or so later, a twinge settles on a knee. Runner stretches, pops ibuprofen, keeps running. A few—or maybe 100—runs later, runner is on the couch, ice pack on knee. What are the chances? The answer isn’t exactly clear: A review of studies suggests that as few as 19 percent or as many as 79 percent of runners are sidelined each year. Many multiple times. Some—ouch—never run again.
The good news: Researchers are on the hunt for an injury solution, perhaps more fervently than ever, in part thanks to the release of Born to Run in 2009. The best-selling book, which claims that the modern running shoe is the culprit behind the sport’s high injury rate, got runners talking about shoes and form, and it spotlighted the debate about the cause of injuries. Is it the way we run? The shoes we wear? Because we sit all day? Or do we keep repeating training mistakes: big jumps in mileage; running the same five-mile route, on the same side of the road, week after week?
The true cause is all of the above. Injury—and injury-prevention—is multifaceted. “A combination of things—for example, an anatomical issue plus a training error and the wrong shoes—can add up to injury,” says Joseph Hamill, Ph.D., a biomechanist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Plus, every runner is a puzzle, with a different anatomy and injury history, says Anthony Luke, M.D., director of RunSafe at the University of California, San Francisco. “Which is why injury prevention is so challenging.” But over the last decade, running science has shifted its focus from treatment to the prevention of injury. Scientists are studying uninjured runners to decipher who gets hurt—and who doesn’t—and why.
Most experts agree that to lower injury risk, you need not a magic bullet but a loaded gun. One with a three-bullet chamber: a strong body, good form, and the right shoe. On the following pages, we take a closer look at each, offering exercises, form tweaks, and shoe advice that all runners can use to lessen their chance of injury and enjoy a long, happy, ice-pack-free running future.
In the battle against injury, a runner’s best armor is a strong body. Strong muscles, ligaments, and tendons guard against impact, improve form, and lead to a consistent gait. “If muscles are weak, one footfall will not be like the rest,” says Reed Ferber, Ph.D., director of the Running Injury Clinic at the University of Calgary. “How your knee turns in, your hip drops, your foot pronates changes with each step. But with strength, these movements are the same each time, so your mind and body know what to expect.”
When a strong body runs, the brain tells the muscles to brace for impact before the foot hits the ground. The glutes and core contract to steady the pelvis and leg. The foot and ankle muscles are activated, providing a solid foundation to land upon.
But if one stabilizer isn’t strong enough or isn’t recruited, other muscles get overworked, and the entire chain of movement is disrupted, says Eric Orton, a running coach featured in Born to Run and the creator of the recently launched B2R Training System, which combines strength training with form changes to reduce injury risk.
Most runners lack strength in at least one muscle group, as well as in their neuromuscular pathways, the lines of communication between brain and body, says Jay Dicharry, M.P.T., the director of the REP biomechanics lab at Rebound Physical Therapy in Bend, Oregon, and author of Anatomy for Runners. Strong pathways help muscles fire more efficiently and in quick succession, which enables you to run with greater control and stability.
These exercises, adapted from Dicharry’s and Orton’s programs, strengthen running’s key muscles and those neuromuscular pathways. You can do them as a full routine or insert them into your day while watching TV two or three times a week. If possible, do the moves barefoot.
Donkey Kicks with Bar Why By adding a bar (or broomstick) to this old-school move, you teach the body to fire the glutes without arching your back—just like you should while running. Bonus You’re also strengthening the transverse abdominus, a stabilizing muscle in your core. How Begin on all fours with the bar across your lower back. Lift one leg back, knee bent at 90 degrees, keeping the bar still. If the bar moves, perform smaller movements. Do 50 reps on each leg. Wall Press Why Activates the gluteus medius in a bent-knee position, similar to running How Stand with your left side near a wall. Bend your left knee 90 degrees and make contact with the wall. Push your knee into the wall and hold, while keeping your body stable (i.e., don’t press your shoulder against the wall). Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Do two or three sets on each side.
Single-Leg Balance on Forefoot Why Increases strength in the entire leg chain: big toes, calves, ankles, and hips How Balance on one leg on your forefoot (barefoot is ideal), heel off the ground. You should feel the side of your hip (gluteus medius) working. Hold for as long as you can keeping the body tall. When you lose balance, rest, then repeat three more times.
Eccentric Heel Drop Why Strengthens calves, ankle muscles, and Achilles tendons, which allow for a stable landing when running How Stand on one leg on a curb or step with your heel off the edge. Lift up onto your toes, then slowly lower down until your heel is below the step. Start with a set of 10 on each leg. Build to three sets of 15.
Clam Shells Why Strengthens gluteus medius to improve knee and pelvis stability How Lie on the floor on your side, legs stacked. Bend both knees, keeping legs and feet aligned. Open the knees like a clam shell while keeping your feet together. Do two sets of 30 on each side. Next Level Put a resistance band around your thighs.
Stability Ball Bridge Why Strengthens and activates the gluteus maximus and the multifidus (small muscles in the back that aid spine stability) How Lie on the ground with calves on a stability ball, arms extended out. Lift your hips up off the floor so your body forms a straight line from ankles to shoulders. Hold. Once you can hold comfortably—and without your hips dropping—for 60 seconds, move on to a greater challenge. Next Level
1) Place your feet on the stability ball and cross your arms over your chest to perform the move.
2) From the lifted position, do single leg lifts, alternating lifting your left and then your right leg into the air.
3) From the lifted position, rotate your body in each direction, with control, to activate more core muscles. Stability Ball Walkout Why Strengthens core, arm, and shoulder muscles for better running posture How Lie face down, stomach on the ball, palms on the floor in a push-up position. Walk your arms out, keeping your abdominals tight, until your shins are on the ball. Keep your back straight. Hold for 30 seconds; build to two sets of 60 seconds. Next Level
1) Walk out until just your feet are resting on the ball.
2) From a plank position with shins on ball, pull your knees to your chest.
Single-Leg Balance and Squat Why Develops balance in pelvis, ankles, and feet so your body lands on a secure platform every time you take a step How Balance on one foot (shoes off, ideally), with your back straight, arms in running motion, and your weight evenly distributed between your fore and rear foot. Once balanced, press your big toe into the floor and hold for 30 seconds. Aim for three sets on each leg. Next Level Standing on one leg, lower your hips back, bending your standing knee. Then push back up. If you can’t keep your hips even and your knee aligned over your foot, stick with just the balance move.
Jumping exercises increase elasticity—the springs that give running a light, bouncy feel. But they can also teach you how to minimize your impact on landing. If you’re not currently strength training, add these moves after performing the other exercises in this program for eight weeks.
Standing Jump How Use a step at a gym (or find wide steps at a park or building) about midshin height. Standing with the step directly in front of you, jump up with both feet landing softly. Step back down. Do 10 to 20 times. Next Level When you can no longer hear your feet landing, jump up and then jump back down off the step.
Lateral Jumps How Place a pole (or broom) on the ground and jump over it quickly side to side, staying on the ground as little as possible. Aim for three sets of 10 jumps. Next Level Switch out the pole for something taller, like a foam roller; the added height creates a bigger challenge. Mobility
The natural stress-recovery cycle of training can cause muscle fibers to knot up and stick together, limiting their function and leaving you more susceptible to injury. Breaking down these adhesions increases what’s known as tissue mobility, which allows muscles to properly contract and lengthen. These exercises increase mobility in notorious problem areas for runners. Do them after a run. Kneeling Hip-Flexor Stretch Why The leg swings like a pendulum from the hip when you run, and if you have tight hip flexors, the back swing is limited. That can contribute to overstriding (landing too far out in front of your body), which puts more stress on the leg joints. How Kneel on one knee in a doorway so that your back is pressed against the inside of the door frame. Tuck your pelvis under so that you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh. For a deeper stretch, rotate your front foot slightly out. Hold for three minutes.
Foot Massage Why Your plantar fascia, a band of tissue along the bottom of the foot, guides the foot from landing through to toe-off when you run. Limited mobility can affect this motion and lead to problems all the way up to the hip. How Sit down and prop one ankle on top of your knee. Using your thumbs, apply pressure to the arch of your bare foot, prodding for tender areas. Press firmly on any sore, tight spots, then flex and extend the toes to release the tissue. Do for three minutes daily until the soreness is gone.
Calf Smash Why Knotted calf muscles are less-effective shock absorbers. How Sit on the floor with a foam roller under the calf of your extended leg. Roll your calf over the roller, and when you find a painful spot—a sign of knotted tissue—press into the roller. Hold until the pain dissipates (usually 30 to 90 seconds). Alter your position slightly and repeat. When that no longer hurts, ask a partner to press down on your shin to add pressure.
Can Strength Training Fix Faulty Form?
Strength training can improve your form (makes it more stable, corrects imbalances), but it can’t resolve faulty biomechanics. If you have knock knees, for example, you will need to train your body to run differently through a process called gait retraining, says Irene Davis, Ph.D., P.T., director of the Spaulding National Running Center at Harvard Medical School. In two studies, Davis gave runners visual and verbal cues to gradually retrain their movement patterns. The runners were able to correct their flawed form and maintain the new improved mechanics after just eight training sessions. Davis advises seeking out a physical therapist with gait-retraining experience instead of attempting it on your own. Without proper feedback, it’s difficult to know if you’re making the right corrections, she says. Improve Form
If you want to stir up debate in your running group, bring up form. Proponents of minimalist-style running and other methods (see “Finding My Chi”) believe that just as there is a correct way to swim or swing a tennis racket, there is a right technique for running. Other experts say the way we run is individual, and messing with it invites injury. (Find an in-depth discussion of this debate at Does Running Form Matter?.) But there is some common ground: Both camps agree that certain components of form, such as good posture and proper stride (as demonstrated here by Olympian and world champion triathlete Andy Potts), can help prevent injuries. Here’s a look at these elements.
Just before the foot strikes, the brain sends a signal to the muscles to prepare for impact. The muscles contract so they can stabilize the joints. If this line of communication is weak or slow, the muscles won’t get this heads-up.
1 Run with Good Posture What It Means Upper torso straight, lower back not arched, head directly over shoulders Why It Matters Poor posture can put excess stress on back and knees. If your back arches, your body weight tends to shift back, making you more prone to overstriding. Try This Strengthen your core and upper body. Practice good posture during the day. Bad postural habits carry over to your run.
2 Swing Arms Efficiently What It Means Arms moving forward and back Why It Matters Arm swing affects trunk stability. An across-the-body arm swing tends to rotate the shoulders, or cause the trunk to sway, compromising core stability. Try This Bend your elbows about 90 degrees and let your arms swing relaxed. Keep your elbows close to your body with your hands loose, which helps the entire body relax.
Some studies connect the impact forces of this touchdown phase to stress fractures and other injuries. And while midfoot- and forefoot-strikes minimize forces, experts agree that the greater hazard is overstriding—when the foot lands well ahead of the knee.
3 Land Lightly What It Means Consciously landing more softly Why It Matters “When we try to run quietly, we make natural adjustments like shortening our stride and landing on our midfoot, which lessens impact forces,” says Anthony Luke, M.D., of RunSafe. Try This Run in place, letting your knees rise naturally for 10 seconds. Then lean forward and run for 50 yards holding that posture. Repeat three times before you run. MIDSTANCE
The foot is moving through pronation, and forces are at their peak, which makes this phase the most potentially injurious. Loads as high as 2.5 times your body weight pushing down on unstable hip, knee, ankle, and foot joints can wear down muscle, tissue, and bone.
4 Lead with Your Hips What It Means Initiating the running motion from the center of your body Why It Matters Running from your hips and driving forward with your knees rather than your feet helps you maintain a tall posture and avoid overstriding. Try This Engage your core muscles and imagine stepping over logs while you run.
5 Evaluate Your Cadence What It Means Your step rate, the number of footfalls you take in a minute Why It Matters A faster cadence can minimize overstriding and reduce forces on the joints. Should You Increase Yours? Some experts see the value if your easy stride rate is 160 steps or less (a sign of overstriding) or if you’re injury-prone. Count every footfall. If you’re above 160, not injured, and not overstriding (ask a friend to shoot a video of you and check your foot and knee position), there’s little reason to change. If you want to experiment, increase it by five percent.
The hip goes into maximal extension; if hip flexors are tight, you’re more apt to excessively arch your back.
6 Engage Your Glutes What It Means Tapping your butt just for a second or two occasionally as you run is a simple way, says Dr. Luke, to remind your body to contract and engage your glute muscles. Why It Matters It keeps you thinking about form. "Having an awareness of what your body is doing, where your feet are, what muscles are working helps you become a better runner," Coach Orton says.
A running shoe has different characteristics from a walking shoe. Runners should not run in walking shoes, while fitness walkers can usually find a running shoe that meets their needs better than most shoes marketed as walking shoes. Let’s take a tour of what a fitness walker should look for in a running shoe for walking, or a so-called walking shoe for fitness walking.
Runners impact the ground with three times their body weight with each step, while walkers impact with only 1.5 times their body weight. Runners need more cushioning in the heel and forefoot than walkers, which is why you see all of the hype about air cushioning systems. Walkers need less cushioning, especially in the forefoot. Extra cushioning adds extra weight, so it is a trade-off between a heavier shoe that lessens the trauma to your feet and legs and a lighter shoe in which you may be able to run or walk faster.Fitness walkers should look for a lighter shoe that still provides adequate cushioning so their feet and legs do not feel beat up from the impact after a long walk. While racing flats and extremely light shoes may work for shorter walks, they do not have enough cushioning for regular use or longer walks.
Runners strike the ground anywhere from the forward part of their heel throughthemidfoot to the ball of the foot, depending on the individual. Walkers should strike with their heel. Running shoes are designed to provide stability for runners with a built-up heel. Runners who strike with their heelormidfoot should look for less built-up heels, while those who land on the ball of their foot need a more built-up heel.Walkers should look for running shoes with the least difference in height from the heel through the toe. The shoeoutersole can be deceptive, some may appear to have higher heels but the heel actually sits lower inside the shoe. Walkers will be striking with their heel and rolling through the step. They have no need for a higher heel.
Running shoes may have aflaredheel to provide extra stability for runners who strike the ground attheirmidfoot for forefoot. A flaredheel is also often seen on trail running shoes.Fitness walking shoes should not have a flared heel. Walkers strike the ground with their heel, and a flared heel impedes rolling forward through the step. A true fitness walking shoe would have an undercut heel rather than a flared heel or built-up heel.In the photo, the running shoe on the left has a flared heel, while the running shoe on the right does not.
Flexibility for a Running Shoe vs. a Walking Shoe
Doctor Recommended BBall Shoe Maximum Support: Get Back Quickly!
Both running shoes and walking shoes need to be flexible. Press down with the toe of the shoe and see where the shoe bends. Many running shoe designs flex most at the arch ormidfoot. But some designs flex most at the forefoot. These suit the differing needs for runners who strike atmidfoot or with the ball of their foot.Fitness walking shoes should flex at the forefoot, as walkers shouldpush off with their toes. A shoe that bends at the arch does not provide the platform they need. A shoe that doesn’t bend at all is unacceptable. Unfortunately, many shoes marketed as walking shoes do not flex at all. They are unsuited for fitness walking.The photo shows a running shoe that flexes at the forefoot and is suitable for fitness walking.Motion control shoes and stability shoes will be less flexible, as they have medial posts and other construction elements that aim to keep the foot from rotating too much during a step. Runners and walkers who need motion control have to sacrifice some flexibility in their shoes.
Do these 10 exercises consistently, and you’ll run faster and stronger.
Whenever the topic of strength training and running comes up, most runners tend to respond with, “Wait, I’m supposed to do something other than running?” Supplementing running with strengthening exercises will not only aid in injury prevention but will make you a stronger, faster, and more efficient runner.
But runners need a different strength-training program than your standard gym rat. Instead of pushing weight away from the body with bicep curls, leg extensions, and bench presses, runners should focus on targeting the key muscles that will keep them balanced.
We asked our experts to come up with 10 essential strength exercises for runners. Worried about fitting this routine into your training schedule? Don’t worry, these 10 exercises take 30 minutes to complete and can be done twice a week. Try adding them to your easy or cross-training days.
Prop yourself up on your elbows with your feet slightly apart. Make sure your body is aligned, your abdominal muscles are tight, and shoulders are directly above the elbows and down and back, not hunched up. Hold this position for 45 seconds to one minute. Gradually add time as your core gets stronger.
Modifications: Plank variations include: side planks to target obliques, single leg planks, spider planks, mountain climber planks, and supine planks.
Repetitions: 3 to 5
Muscles worked: core, lower back, shoulders
LOWER-BODY RUSSIAN TWIST
Lie on your back with your upper legs perpendicular to the floor and your knees bent 90-degrees. Without changing the bend in your hips or knees, lower your legs to the left side of your body while keeping your shoulders in contact with the floor. Lift them back to the starting position, and repeat to the right side of your body. That’s one repetition.
Modification: To make it harder, keep your legs straight.
Repetitions: 10 to 12
Muscles worked: core
Get into pushup position but with your feet on a bench. Raise your right knee toward your left shoulder as you rotate your hips up and to the left as far as you can. Then reverse directions, rotating your hips up and to the right, and try to touch your right foot to the back of your left shoulder (you won’t be able to do it). That’s one repetition. Continue for 30 seconds with your right leg, then switch legs.
Modifications: To make it easier, do step one of the exercise, twisting in just one direction. To make it harder, instead of putting your feet on a bench, do the exercise with your shins on a stability ball.
Repetitions: As many as you can in 30 seconds
Muscles worked: shoulders, core
Lie facedown on a stability ball with your feet spread wide for balance. Your elbows should be bent with your hands lightly touching the ground for initial support. Squeeze your glutes and lift your torso up until your body forms a straight line. As you lift your torso, allow your hands to come off the ground, keeping your elbows bent. Extend your arms overhead. Hold for one or two seconds. Release your arms and then your torso back down to the start position. That’s one rep. Aim for 10-12. No stability ball? You can do the movement on an exercise mat: Raise your thighs and arms off the ground while your torso stays in contact with the ground.
Modifications: To make it harder, hold light dumbbells.
Hold the kettlebell with both hands in front of your chest. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Push your hips back, and lower your body into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Press the kettlebell above your head, and as you stand back up, return the kettlebell to the original position.
Modifications: Do the squat without the overhead raise by just keeping the kettlebell in the center chest position for the duration of the exercise.
(Editor’s Note: video has been updated to show model performing lunge so her knee does not extend beyond her lead foot.)
Hold a pair of dumbbells straight above your shoulders, with your arms straight and elbows locked. Step forward with your left leg, and lower your body until your front knee is bent 90 degrees. Return to the starting position, and repeat with your right leg. That’s one repetition.
Modification: To make it easier, hold dumbbells at shoulder level.
Get into pushup position but instead of placing your feet on the floor, rest your shins on a stability ball. Pull the stability ball toward your chest by raising your hips and rounding your back as you roll the ball forward with your feet.
Modification: To make it easier, pull your knees as close as you can to your chest without lifting your hips into the air, and return to the starting position.
Repetitions: 10 to 12
Muscles worked: shoulders, core
STABILITY BALL HIP EXTENSION
Lie on your back on the floor, and place your calves on a stability ball. Extend your arms to your sides to help support and balance your body. Push your hips up so that your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Without allowing your hips to sag (keep with your body at all times), roll the ball as close as you can to your hips by bending your knees and pulling your heels toward you.
Modifications: To make it easier, only do steps one and two, and skip the leg curl. To make it harder, do the exercise with just one leg, holding the other leg in the air above your hips.
Repetitions: 6 to 8
Muscles worked: hamstrings, glutes, core
ROTATIONAL SHOULDER PRESS
Stand holding a pair of dumbbells just outside your shoulders, your palms facing each other. Press the dumbbells overhead as you rotate to your left. Lower the dumbbells as you rotate back to the center, then rotate to the right as you press the weights upward again. That’s one repetition.
Modification: To make it easier, do half of the repetitions without the rotations.
Repetitions: 6 to 8
Muscles worked: shoulders, triceps, core
ALTERNATING DUMBBELL ROW
Hold a pair of dumbbells at arm’s length in front of you, palms facing your thighs. Keeping your back naturally arched, bend at the hips and lower your torso until it’s nearly parallel to the floor. Keep your arms straight as you bend your hips so that the dumbbells hang straight down . Pull the dumbbell in your left hand by bending your elbow and raising your upper arm toward the middle of your back . Lower and repeat with your right arm. That’s one repetition.
Five shoe-buying strategies that won’t leave you tied up in knots.
October 31, 2006
March 18, 2014
WHEN THE SHOE FITS
Finding the best-fitting shoe among the many choices at your local running store isn’t always easy. To ensure you walk out with happy feet, you need to make sure the shoe fits properly from heel to toe. We asked two prominent specialty-running-store owners—each of whom has fitted thousands of runners—to share some of their secrets. Knowing what to look for will give you a better idea how your next pair should feel on your feet. —Matt Allyn
String it Out
Your heel should fit snug, but not tight, says Carl Brandt. “Laced up (but not tied), you should be able to slide your feet out.” Lacing your shoes up through the final eyelet minimizes slippage. There will be some heel movement, but it shouldn’t be uncomfortable. Any irritation you feel in the store, adds Brandt, will be amplified once you hit the road.
The Third Dimension
A shoe’s upper should feel snug and secure around your instep, explains Brandt. “When people tell me they feel pressure and tightness, they need more space.” If an otherwise great shoe has hot spots or pressure under the laces, try lacing it up a different way (check out Runnersworld.com/lacing for alternative lacing techniques) before moving on to the next shoe.
Spread Out a Little
Your foot should be able to move side-to-side in the shoe’s forefoot without crossing over the edge of the insole, says James. You should be able to pinch a quarter inch of upper material along the widest part of your foot. If the shoe is too narrow, you’ll feel the base of your little toe sitting on the edge of the shoe last.
Feet swell and lengthen over a run, so make sure there’s a thumb’s width of space between your longest toe (which isn’t always the big toe) and the end of a shoe. A friend or shoe fitter can measure this while you stand with your shoes laced up. Your toes should also wiggle freely up and down, explains Super Jock ‘n Jill running store owner Chet James. “Wiggle room protects against front-of-the-foot issues.”
Check for the Bends
Check the flex point before you put on the shoe, suggests Carl Brandt, owner of San Diego’s Movin Shoes running stores. You can do this by holding the heel and pressing the tip of the shoe into the floor. The shoe should bend and crease along the same line your foot flexes. An improperly aligned flex point can lead to arch pain or plantar fasciitis, while a lack of flexibility leads to Achilles-tendon or calf strain.
Step on It
Knowing your arch type isn’t the whole story. You still need to pinpoint shoes that match your own arch’s contour. You can’t get a good feel by just standing, says James. So take your shoes for a quick jog, either on a store’s treadmill, on the sidewalk, or down a hallway. A natural-feeling support under the arch works for most people, adds James. “Back off the amount of support if you feel your arch cramping.” AVOID COMMON SHOE-BUYING MISTAKES
Specialty running store staffers see runners making the same mistakes again and again when they come in to buy shoes. But not you, not anymore, thanks to this advice from five prominent store owners/managers. —Amy Gorin
Mistake #1: Buying for looks. “Some runners are too concerned with fashion, and we try and steer people away from that. Often, when they get a shoe that looks cool, they end up coming back in a few months and saying, ‘This shoe hurts me. I had a problem with it.’ When you buy, think feel and fit, not fashion.”
—Bryan Mahon, Philadelphia Runner , Philadelphia
Mistake #2: Not asking for deals. “When you’re ready to pay, ask if there are any discounts available for running club members. Most specialty stores offer discounts from 10 to 20 percent; we offer 10 percent to our local track club. It costs $20 to join it, so if you buy two pairs of shoes, your track membership is paid for.”
—Tim Rhodes, Run For Your Life , Charlotte, North Carolina
Mistake #3: Buying shoes that are too small. “Tight-fitting shoes lead to blisters and black toenails and that kind of thing. Women in particular are used to wearing their shoes close-fitting, as they’re often more self-conscious about the size of their feet. We like to say, ‘Play the piano with your toes,’ meaning the fit should be roomy enough in the forefoot—about half an inch—but not sloppy.”
—Mike Johnson, Road Runner Sports , San Diego
Mistake #4: Shopping at the wrong time of day. “A lot of times people come in the morning and say, ‘This is the shoe I need.’ Then they’ll come back the next day and say, ‘I wore them at 5 p.m. and they were too small.’ Your feet start swelling in the morning and they don’t stop until about 4 p.m. That’s as big as they’re going to get, so always buy your shoes in the evening.”
—Tish Borgen, Running Room , Minneapolis
Mistake #5: Assuming your size. “People assume that a size is a size—that an 8 in a Nike will be the same as an 8 in a New Balance. But sizes differ because of different lasts (foot forms), the different shape of the upper, and the way the shoe is stitched together. Have your feet measured every time you buy, and always try the shoes on for fit.”
—Johnny Halberstadt, Boulder Running Company , Boulder, Colorado