Run, Training

Which running shoes? Gait, what?

Brooks CascadiaWhen I first started running I knew very little about running shoes and different types of gait. After a few expensive pairs of shoes, a lot of trial and error, and an injury to my right foot, I finally decided to get my gait assessed. Read on to find out more about what this means and how you can avoid making the same mistakes that I did. Scroll to the bottom of the article for my quick tips!

Gait, what?

Your gait is all to do with the way that you move when you run. From a bio-mechanical standpoint it is pretty complicated and it can be affected by many different factors, but ultimately it is all about the foot/floor contact and how your foot reacts as you move through your stride and roll through each step. it takes an expert eye to assess your gait and get you in the right pair of shoes to ensure that the repeated act of your foot striking the floor while running doesn’t result in a long term injury. I could go into  detail about over-pronation, heel strikes, fore foot running etc, but there is a lot of information about that elsewhere on the Internet such as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot_type

What happens next?

I went to a small running shop in Fochabers, northern Scotland, where the owner first made me walk up and down his shop, before putting me in a new pair of shoes and watching me run up and down the lane out the back. As I was doing a mix of trail and road running I ended up walking out with a pair of Brooks Cascadia and I’ve been buying new ones of the same every year since. That simple act of listening to an experienced runner and taking his advice has totally changed my running experience and I have had very little trouble ever since.

When my wife told me recently that her gym shoes were giving her a black toenail after just a 15 minute treadmill session I took her straight to our local running shop. The experience at Frank Elford sports, Plymouth, was fantastic. They advised that a simple gait analysis would be £10, or free if my wife purchased shoes. This wasn’t an issue for us as she had to have new shoes and we expected the advice to be good. We weren’t disappointed. They put her on a treadmill and recorded a film of her feet while she ran Brooks Cascadia 2barefoot. They then played the footage back slowly and we could clearly see that she was slightly flat footed, i.e. she over pronates. This steered her immediately towards a shoe with some support in. The shop also advised that her current shoes were a bit too small, which was causing problems when her feet warmed up and expanded slightly. They insisted that she try on at least two pairs, so that she had something to compare with, and checked her gait on the treadmill in each pair. She was having difficulty deciding between two particular shoes, so they put her on the treadmill on both and made her go a bit faster. Basically wearing her out until she made up her mind….Ok that isn’t quite the reason, but it’s good enough for this article. Eventually she ended up with a pair of Brooks Ravenna in a fetching white with bright green highlights and a couple of weeks later she still smiles any time that you mention them. I’ve made it sound a bit simple here, but I must stress that there were quite a few other factors involved in the shop’s recommendation and we wouldn’t have come to the same conclusion anywhere near as quickly without the professional help.

The Result

My wife has been surprised at just how comfortable she is when running now. Before she experienced foot, knee, hip and shoulder pain that she wasn’t relating to her shoes. Now it’s just the same muscle and lung pain that the rest of us get. She’s putting more and more miles in and now comes out a couple of times a week with me plus her gym work. Frank Elford Sports were fantastic in that they listened carefully to what type of running she would be doing and how often before assessing her gait and recommending shoes. They also had a huge selection of shoes to chose from. We were so happy that we didn’t even mention price until we got to the till. In this case the shoes were £80, but they really were worth it and it turns out that was comparable to Internet prices anyway.

Quick tips:

  1. If you are a runner, have never had your gait analysed and have any sort of ongoing pain while running then get down to your local running shop and have your gait analysed. It will change the way you run.
  2. Be prepared to spend up to £100 on a pair of shoes. I recommend not discussing price until you’ve found the shoes that fit you best, so that it doesn’t affect your judgement.
  3. Your gait can change, particularly if you are carrying an injury. Be prepared to have your gait assessed occasionally just to be sure that your shoes are still the right ones for you.
  4. If you can afford it then buy two pairs of shoes so that you can alternate shoes each time that you run. This lets the shoes recover properly between runs and each pair will actually last you longer than they would if you were using the same ones every day.
  5. Buying the right shoes for your gait will enable you to run faster, further and longer than before, simply due to helping you be more efficient and bio-mechanically correct.

If you have anything to add then feel free to leave a comment below or contact me on twitter.

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