Shoe and Gear Notes:
Shoes: Time is fast approaching for many of you to get a new pair (or first pair) of real running shoes. Make no mistake, there are significant differences between running shoes and fashion sneakers. Most brand-name manufacturers produce shoes designed for athletes and for fashion wear so it’s important to know what to look for.
Types of running shoes:
There are only two basic designs; stability and neutral.
Stability shoes have additional material, thickness, and density built into the midfoot of the sole. They are designed for people who have pronation/footstrike problems and help keep the shoe in proper contact with the ground. Stability shoes do not correct issues with footstrike, gait, or stride. Most young runners do not need a stability running shoe.
Neutral shoes do not have added density built into the midfoot of the sole. Neutral shoes accommodate most young athletes.
A few other notes about shoes:
Running shoes are also categorized by the amount of cushioning and something called the stack height or “drop”. As the term implies, cushioning in the shock absorber of the shoe and ranges from highly cushioned to minimal. While it may be intuitive to want a highly cushioned shoe, it may not be the best thing for all runners. Try a variety of shoes with differing levels of cushioning - again, if you can’t test drive them outside, don’t buy them. Stack (heel) height or drop refers to the difference in height between the heel and the toe. Bigger is not better when it comes to this issue. There is evidence that states a “drop” between 8 millimeters and 4 millimeters correlates with improved running mechanics (specifically, ankle mobility) and lower injury. I recommend a “drop” between 8 millimeters and 4 millimeters and a moderate to low cushioned shoe.
Coach, what brand of running shoes should I buy?
I have no interest in any shoe manufacturer and receive no sponsorship (although I wish I did). My recommendations are based on years of coaching/training athletes of all ages and sizes and decades of anatomy and physiology education. With all that said, my favorite brands of running shoes are Saucony, Asics, Mizuno, and Brooks. The bottom line is that the best shoe for you is the one that feels best on your foot. Make sure you “test drive” your shoes outside the store (on the sidewalk or parking lot) before you buy. If the store doesn't allow that, don't buy there.
Inserts/Arch supports: Interestingly, running shoes do not have any arch support in them. To check this for yourself, simply pull out the liner (called the sock liner) and look at the inside floor of the shoe. You’ll see that it is perfectly flat. The sock liner may be molded to appear as if it provides support but it is flexible and designed only to provide comfort and protection from the stitching inside the shoe. Some retail outlets may encourage you to purchase inserts for new shoes but in many cases, they are not needed. Athletes with certain conditions; “flat-feet”, injury, or plantar fasciitis to name a few, may benefit from a firm, supportive insert that protects the midfoot and heel. Be cautious with any insert that is soft, “gel”, spongy, or advertises adding cushioning as these traits may be detrimental to running.
Running socks: Yes, get at least one pair. Running socks are made of a variety of synthetic or natural/synthetic blend and are designed to wick moisture away from the foot. They are similarly designed to keep their shape and resist sliding or bunching up inside the shoe. These qualities promote healthier feet, reduction in blisters (the #1 running injury), and may help decrease odor.
Sports Bra: This is an often overlooked, yet crucial, piece of equipment for the female athlete. Sports bras, like running shoes, should be fitted to meet the needs of the female athlete wearing it. Also, like running shoes, sports bras wear out over time. A sports bra is designed to support the Cooper’s ligaments (a supporting structure in the breast) and breast tissue in general. Sports bras do much more than supporting the breast tissue. A properly fitted sports bra will promote good running/athletic form thereby decreasing neck, shoulder, upper and lower back discomfort that female athletes often encounter.
“spikes”/racing flats: These are ultra lightweight shoes with turf spikes. They have little cushioning and are designed to be worn for racing only. They are not required but many athletes prefer running races in them as they gain experience.
Coach, where should I buy my gear?
There are several good places in our area. I recommend (in no particular order) Dalberths Sports and Fleet Feet Sports. Both are locally owned run-specialty stores who have quality shoes and usually run some type of sale or special for high school cross country. Fleet Feet offers a large selection of the latest shoe models and a variety of apparel. Dalberths focus is on shoes and may offer a more competitive price. I urge you to avoid shoe stores/sporting stores in the mall. If you have any questions, text, call, send a picture to me before you buy. I’d be happy to help.