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Are You Wearing the Wrong Running Shoe?

With its great year-round weather, Central Florida is the perfect place for runners.

Whether you’re a marathoner or a beginner, the area offers plenty of places to get fit and stay healthy. But before you hit the pavement, you should have the right equipment—and that means wearing the right running shoe.

With running, what you put on your feet is just as important as the exercise itself. The right running shoe gives you better form and helps to prevent injuries and foot problems like heel or arch pain and shin splints.

With thousands of options online and in stores, it’s not always easy to choose the right running shoe. But with the right preparation beforehand, you can find a shoe that is the right fit and provides all the necessary foot support. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Find Out Your Foot Type

Do you need stability, motion control, or a cushion shoe? Before you can answer that question, you need to know your arch type.

The simplest way to get this information is through a “Wet Test.” All you have to do is wet the bottom of each foot and stand normally on a paper bag. After a minute or so, step off and observe the imprint your foot leaves.

A normal arch will have a distinct curve along the inside of your foot, with a band a little less than half the width of your foot connecting the heel and toe. A high arch will have a very sharp curve along the inside of your foot and a very thin band between your heel and toe. A low arch (flat feet) will have very little curve along the inside of your foot and your imprint will show almost the entire foot (see the chart at right).

Once you know your arch type, you then can pick the right running shoe. If you have a low arch—the most common type—you need a motion-control shoe that prevents your foot and ankle from rolling in too far. This type of shoe is sturdier and provides the most support, especially for heavier runners. People with low arches are more prone to overuse injuries, including arch pain and shin splints, but motion control shoes reduces the risk of these injuries.

Stability running shoes are best for people with a neutral arch. These shoes offer a good blend of cushioning, support and durability because they do not control foot motion as strictly as motion-control shoes.

Cushioned running shoes are the best fit if you have a high arch. Typically, your foot moves inward to evenly distribute the force of the impact as you run. However, people with high arches aren’t able to do this as much, which interferes with the way they absorb shock when they run. Cushioned running shoes allow your feet to absorb shock with plenty of flexibility to encourage foot motion, which gives you more foot support and may improve your running performance.

Follow all the tips I mentioned above to choose the best running shoe. If this is your first time purchasing a running shoe or if you’re getting back into the swing of things after a long break, visit a specialty running store to get help with your shoe selection. You also should consider a visit to your primary care doctor for a complete physical before you start running again. Your doctor could recommend a footwear assessment by a physical therapist who will examine the way you walk and the way your foot absorbs impact.

The point of running is to improve your health, but the wrong running shoe could have just the opposite effect by increasing your risk for injury. Before you step onto the track or hit the ground running, find out your arch type. Get help from staff at a specialty running store or visit a foot or ankle surgeon to get more information. Making this effort will help you avoid injuries like plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, knee and back pain, so you can enjoy your run without any worries.