The best running shoes are indeed those that provide you the highest quality of function, performance and comfort….those that will give you the most number of miles of running with minimum tear and maximum comfort.
Most shoes appear to be comfortable and smooth once you step in, but their main testing occurs when you actually step out and start that run!
Over time, you will have an idea that before you make your choice of shoes, the primary factors are really the style and shape of your foot and your running type and that the brand, its material and stitching styles are just secondary factors.
To analyze your own individual running skills and their development, you must analyze and study the biomechanics of running, which we explain here in this guide. We also aim to identify the two different types of running shoes that are manufactured keeping biomechanics in mind and the different foot types of people based on the Foot Type Model. We provide you the best recommendations to make your selection for finding the best running shoes that suit your feet.
Two Types of Running Shoes
We would begin with describing the two different types of running shoes that are engineered and are available in markets:
Road running shoes are light and airy and contain extra cushioning to provide support and stability to your feet when you repeatedly step upon uneven strides along your running path. These are, as the name suggests, best for running on roads or pavements which comprise of slight irregularities or small obstacles upon their surface that may impact your speed and control. Examples of such road routes include fire roads, tiled paths, wooden chip paths or nature trails.
Trail running shoes are especially designed for off-road routes where you may encounter more and bigger obstacles during your running. Obstacles may include pebbles, rocks, any wild plantation, and critter holes. Hence, these type of running shoes are provided with a strong and durable outsole which provide maximum amount of support and stability to the underfoot area to reduce chances of injuries from the obstacles and also to minimize tear.
Biomechanics of Running
Each individual has a different foot type and there are biomechanical differences between different foot strikes. The study of various foot strikes, where and how the foot is landing, how external forces react towards the step and what features must our shoes possess to optimize our run are all covered in the topic of biomechanics of running.
Running is a sport that needs practice and individual skill development. Something that works for others may not work for you. Your body power, your running style, your own skeletal structure, any exercise or training programs you are taking and the footwear you select all are major factors that impact your running. The way you run and the major phases your feet, legs, waist and hip area go through must be studied to determine the exact facilitators that support you during your run and allow you do display the most optimum performance.Major phases that are involved during running are two, the Stance Phase and the Swing Phase. These phases combine to create the Gait Cycle which starts when you step one foot on the ground and ends when the same foot makes contact with the ground again.
As soon as you put your left foot on the ground and your Gait cycle starts, your initial contact with the ground occurs. At this moment, the stance phase for the left foot starts while the right foot is in the swing phase. Meanwhile, at contact with the ground, the left foot experiences a pronation when it rolls inwards to brake or absorb reacting forces. A considerable amount of Elastic energy gets created within the soft muscles and the connective tissues of the left foot.This instance is the most crucial of all when your entire weight passes over your left leg. This is also the time when maximum chances of leg or foot injuries may occur. The Elastic energy that was created is now utilized to raise your left ankle, waist and hip to push the body forward. While the foot is in swing phase, the entire body length, leg, waist and hip area are in action.
If you are running with greater speed, the interval of stance phase is reduced where as the time duration of swing is increased. The time taken to complete a Gait Cycle also decreases with increasing speed.Correct analysis of biomechanics of running leads to optimal running performance with a proper foot strike, body movement and increased acceleration. But if the biomechanics are not thoroughly followed for your own individual self, any static or functional discrepancies may occur, increasing the risks of injuries.
Abnormal lower limb biomechanics may result in:
- Foot Pronation when the foot type is flat and the lower limb may have to roll or rotate continuously with each step taken forward. This results in sore tendons and medial shins.
- Foot Supination when the foot type has a high arch and is unable to absorb shocks or impacts of reacting forces. This may cause stress fractures in bones of the foot and legs.
- Abnormal Pelvic Mechanics occurs due to inefficient movement when there is less control over the anterior or lateral pelvic movement. Increased lateral tilt may damage the spine and tendons, whereas increased anterior tilt may overload the thigh area. More detail regarding foot types and the appropriate selection for shoes to be made on its basis, is mentioned further on.
Traditional foot type model
The Foot Type Model indicating various types of feet has been introduced much earlier but the works of Bookby Peter and R. Cavangh in 1980 are one of the earliest proofs of the introduction and use of this model.
The Foot Type Model uses the “WET FOOT TEST” technique, where the footprint is examined and studied to determine the shape and structure of the foot. The footprint clearly reveals the type of arch of the person which in turn determines the type of foot.
Major Feet Types
The traditional Foot Type Model indicates three major foot types, which are mentioned below in detail:
Feet having a standard sized arch are classified as Normal feet and these feet create a footprint that is vivid and enhanced. The foot print indicates presence of a broad band that shows connection between the forefoot and the heel. As Normal feet are used to take a step, the outside area of the heel has the major impact and the feet do not roll inward much to absorb any shocks. A runner may not need a motion management shoe as his/her feet are naturally efficient due to their structural design.
Recomendation: The best running shoes for normal feet are those that provide you maximum stability and support with minimum control features. If you have a standard sized arch, then you need neutral running shoes with normal stability power, enough to provide you normal cushioning as well as control. The best running shoes for normal feet must not contain excessive layers of foam on their sides and insole.
Flat(Low Arch) Feet
Flat(Low Arch) Feet have a low arch and the type of footprint they create is characterized by its completeness. It shows the entire sole of the overpronated foot, a type of foot that rolls inwards again and again on each step. These feet are liable to be injured more often, due to use compared to other foot types.
Recomendation: The best running shoes for Flat feet are those that provide motion control features to provide a reduced amount of inward rolling or pronation. These running shoes for Flat feet have durable and strong midsoles to provide maximum traction and stability. If you have Flat feet, then the best running shoes for you are those that are less curvy and less cushioned but contain technological features that provide more stability and support and reduces the rate of injuries, thereby.
High Arches Feet
High Arches Feet, these types of feet have a high arch and the foot print they create shows either a very narrow or no connection band at all between the forefoot and the heel. It is curvier and such type of feet may be underpronated, that is they do not roll inward at all making these feet to be not very good or efficient shock absorbers. Such a state is referred to as Supination, which has been discussed earlier.
Recomendation: The best running shoes for High Arches feet are indeed those that contain considerable amount of cushioning on its sides and front to create flexibility and smoothness and also allow easy motion of the feet. The extra softness allows the foot to rest comfortably in the shoe and decreases the chances of injuries due to wear and tear. If you have High Arch feet, then do not go for motion control or stability shoes as such type of shoes reduce foot mobility.
Why is the ‘foot type model’ used?
The origins of the model are unknown but essentially it revolves around the ‘wet foot test’ in which, depending on the imprint your wet foot leaves on the ground, you are said to have either low arches, normal arches or high arches. The first time an image linking this arch height with a shoe type appeared in print was probably The Running Shoe Bookby Peter R. Cavanagh in 1980.
The theory is that runners with high arches (also referred to as oversupination) need a more cushioned shoe, whereas runners with low arches (referred to as overpronation or flat feet) need a motion control shoe. Runners with a ‘normal’ arch are said to be neutral and are recommended a stability shoe, designed to provide a middle ground between the technology of a cushioning shoe and a motion control shoe.The model is beautiful in its simplicity and a very efficient way of ‘prescribing’ trainers, but as we said earlier there is unfortunately no evidence that it either reduces injury or improves performance. There are also some other important flaws with the model.
Based on this Buyer’s Guide, you must evaluate the type of feet you have, based on the Foot Type Model. Then depending if you have normal or low or high arched foot, you must then study the biomechanics of your own running style. Finally, make the appropriate choice and go for the pair of shoes that may look trendy and stylish, but give you the maximum amount of wear, comfort and performance.