Picking the proper Running Shoe

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So, if you are like the masses of people out in the world, you like your tennis, running, or any other athletic shoe based on the brand name, or even first… how cool looking that shoe looks on your feet! Name brand and shoe styling is nearly always the determining factor for most people in choosing the next purchase. Speaking of purchase, we may decide the price is a factor; the more expensive, the better right??? Well, we should trash can all those decision factors and look at the science of a proper fitting shoe. I have often found that the shoe that is right for me, may be a cheaper model than the one at priciest.

First, let’s determine your foot type.

  1. Is your arch normal, flat, low arch, neutral, high arch, under-pronated, over-pronated? Huh? What do all these mean and how do you figure out which you are?
  2. Using the Degree of Guidance from Avia ) start with the Wet Test


    The arch height of a foot can be determined by a wet test. To take the test, stand normally on a paper bag for about ten seconds after wetting each foot. The resulting imprint will show whether the person has a normal arch, a low arch, or a high arch.

    Refer to the Avia DEGREE OF GUIDANCE chart to see where you “land” in the scale and also understand how a flat foot correlates to the term low arch over-pronation.

  3. Ok, I am as flat footed as they come. When I joined the Marines in the 90’s they were still making you sign a waiver for flat footed people if you wanted to join their ranks. Why? Flat feet don’t take the impact of a foot strike in the arch and distributing it outward and upward. Instead, the entire shock of impact shoots straight up your leg to your knees and hips and can cause a lot of problems. Compound that over a Marathon distance event and you could end up in physical therapy quickly.
  4. Another recommendation is to take your existing shoes and look at the wear on the rubber sole of a shoe. If the inside forefoot is more worn than the rest of the shoe, then the person requires more guidance. When the outside forefoot of the shoe is more worn than the inside, then the person requires less guidance. If the wear is equal across the forefoot, then the person has a neutral stride.

  5. This will give you a pretty rough guide to the model to start with. That put me between the Avia AVI-Quest and the Avia AVI-Quest Lite

  6. So, yes the sole of the shoe really does make a huge difference:

  7. Now, let’s look at whether the model actually works for your foot type. What I mean by this is something that most people may have never done. But I am getting ahead of myself, a few quick points before the video camera gets rolling.

Before trying on new shoes, it is best to do the following:

  1. Make sure you try on your new shoes in the type of socks you’ll wear with the shoes. Different socks may alter the fit.
  2. Feet swell during the day. Try on your new shoes later in the day, when your feet are their largest.

Once you have your new shoes on, check the following to ensure your new shoes fit properly:

  1. The heel should fit snugly with no slippage.
  2. The mid-foot – the area under the arch and over your instep – should fit comfortably snug but not too tight.
  3. The toe-box should have enough room to wiggle your toes.
  4. Because feet swell during a run, allow a thumbnail’s width between the length of your longest toe and the end of the shoe.
  5. Moving from the ankle forward, the material of shoe around your foot should go from fitted, to relaxed, to loose around the toes. The material should not be taut around the ball of the foot. If it is taut, then you need a wider shoe.

Before you run, keep the following in mind:

  1. Give your feet time to adjust to new shoes – walk around the house casually for a bit before working out in your new shoes.
  2. A good rule of thumb for running shoes – if they hurt in your living room, they will definitely hurt on the road.

Just because you have picked the right model and brand, we may not have a good fit yet. You can go into certain running stores and they will video tape you on a treadmill in various shoes models that “should” fit your foot type. Then they will play the video back frame-by-frame to watch your foot impact/strike, gait, and stride. What they are looking for is a proper landing and execution.

If you are like me, there aren’t any nearby, I was fortunate before I retired to travel this wonderful country of ours and find a store franchise “Fleet Feet” which taught me this technique. So for the rest of us without this kind of technology, refer to your Cell Phone video!

Most cell phones these days can capture video and are easy to upload to your computer for analysis. I used my iPhone 4 with the assistance of my wife and the basement treadmill. Getting me on a treadmill is torture, I run outdoors year round, but when forced I will jump on and knock out the miles.

  • Get the treadmill up to your normal running speed and ensure your elevation is at least at a 1 (or whatever number equal a street surface).
  • Warm up for a 2 – 5 minutes to ensure you are in your normal stride and gait.
  • Capture at the rear of the treadmill at a minimum and the front for 15 – 20 seconds per shoe model. This will ensure you capture enough steps to really analyze your shoe performance.
  • If you have a proper fitted pair of shoes, this is the best because you can video capture it and see how you run and mimic that shoe with the new one.
  • Playback each video frame-by-frame by using the mouse to move the slider across the screen slowly. If you hit “Play” you will not be able to see it slow enough to analyze.

What to look for:

A neutral strike of the heel without the shoe collapsing inward or outward. In other words a solid even heel to toe impact. It should look something like this:

Notice the zero collapse or rotation to either side. The foot does not rotate inward or outward throughout the step movement!

Compare the new shoe:

Notice the slight impact to the outside of the heel and then ever so slight rotation inward. It’s so slight you may say so what. Well, over many miles you will get the point when you get calf, shin, foot, and knee pain.

I was able to correct this by changing the insert to an over the shelf product.

Now for an example of the wrong model on the wrong foot:

While I really like the shoe, you can see that too much support meant I was initially striking too far outside on the right of the heel instead of right down the middle. You will also see quite a bit of rotation from the outside to the inside. You can use a ruler line and determine the angle of your shoe heel to your calf to see if you are rotating inward, outward, or level. Notice the heels green sole showing in figure 3, that means I have completely collapsed my arch and need more stability in the shoe. Notice the angle of the leg, not vertical!!!


So while I thought that the Avia AVI-Quest with a scale number of 8 would be a better solution because it offered more stability in a shoe, I found that by inserting my usual over-the-counter lite-gel inserts, in fact the Avia AVI-Quest Lite provided a better solution. That’s right the shoe with a guidance scale of 6 fit better. When competing in Triathlons or Running events over 5k in distance, your feet, legs, and hips will thank you!

Good luck and get outdoors and run!

Comments 19

  1. This is awesome! Are the photos stills or am I supposed to
    be able to play the video? I just ran in some “not right for me”
    shoes that were a half size too big and I gotta say my lower legs
    are screaming at me…… I’m not in an area that doesn’t have a
    local running store that does video analysis… or have a
    treadmill. Bummer! I think I’ll get my friend to video me the next
    time we’re both at the gym. Should get some interesting looks from
    that! 🙂

  2. Excellent post Chad! The way you described your arches you would have thought the more cushioned Avia would be better for you — bUT the pics clearly show that the Lite were better!

  3. Chad – this is a SPECTACULAR post! Thanks for doing this. It’s really amazing what just a little bit of analysis can yield – like Jeff, I supposed from the description of your foot that the Quest would be your shoe.

    Again – great job on this post!

  4. Holy cow, awesome post. I love the analysis – I am flat footed too and went with the Quest Lite because of the way my foot strikes. I never thought of adding inserts, I will have to try that for sure.

  5. Solid job of explaining!! I notice a ton of athletes that I
    coach pick the wrong shoe, because they like the color!! I tell
    them that after 13.1 or 26.2 they won’t care what color their shoes

  6. Pingback: Sore Feet – Chronic or Acute Issue? « Cooper's Tri-Harder Blog

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