I was working with a client over the past week to do the seemingly straight-forward task of putting running shoes on her feet. You’d think that buying running shoes would be a simple affair. You might even think that it would fun. And for some people it surely is a fun experience. But for others, an exercise in patience it can be. Let’s look today at why buying running shoes might require some patience on your part.
First, there are people out there that are blessed with a great bio-mechanics, commonly shaped feet and a bit of luck. I admit to being such a person. I could put on just about any pair of running shoes in my size and I could probably run in them. For me it comes down to the feel of the shoe as well as picking a pair that helps me meet my performance goals. In fact, a lot of good runners fall into this category. Perhaps we’re not lucky. Perhaps the people at the running shoe companies use us as the models for their shoe designs and poof — they just work.
But then there is the vast majority of the rest of you out there. Those of you that put on a pair of shoes and realize that your knee-bone is connected to your ankle-bone and that’s connected to your hip-bone and it suddenly doesn’t feel that good.
Here’s the thing. Everything from the foot up to your head is connected in a big chain of linkages and carefully connected structures. When you take off running, your feet are engaged in a epic battle that requires balance, power, and leverage. In fact just about every muscle in your body from the foot up through your mid-section is doing something to either push you forward, keep you upright or create the counter-force that keeps you from flopping over forward or backward.
Your running shoes are the container in which your feet sit at the one point that is connected to the ground. Just as a lightning strike needs to hit the ground to connect the circuit and make the big bang happen, your feet come down bang, boom and they do it one foot at a time. Everything is balanced on top of that one connecting point.
So here is where the patience in picking out shoes comes in. On the one hand, the running shoe is a device that can provide correction to straighten out bio-mechanics that need a little help. If your foot, for instance, wants to turn inward toward the ground, this will result in pain in your knees. The correct running shoe can keep that foot from turning, thus keeping your knee from twisting and eliminating that knee pain. On the other hand, it could be that your feet need the freedom to move around and putting a too-restrictive shoe under them would cause problems of their own.
Feet can be a problem in this equation too. Even with many sizes, feet don’t always fit into any one specific container naturally. The person that I was working with this week fell into this category. She had this little protrusion on the side of her ankle and this little bump fell right where the upper of about 90% of the shoes crossed the side of her ankle. That’s where the patience part comes in.
The sales person that I was working with said, “we limit each customer to trying on 27 pairs of shoes in one session.” She was actually joking and we both got the joke. But our client didn’t. She got a little embarrassed that nothing seemed to be working. In the end it may have taken about 15 different shoes, but we got one that didn’t rub that little spot the wrong way.
So my advice today is this: first, go somewhere that actually has a lot of shoe inventory. It might take 27 pairs of shoes to find one that fits. Second, give yourself some time and patience in the process. Third, don’t fret if you need to return shoes a couple of times to find a pair that works. And fourth, throw out any preconceptions that you have about size going in to the process. Keep at it until you find a pair that works for you. Just like a lightning strike, when you find the right pair of running shoes you will know it — kaboom.
Coach Joe English, Portland, Oregon, USA
Running Advice and News
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