Proper footwear is not a joke…

By Brianne, Sidelined but not out!

As you may or may not know, at the end of September I was sidelined with an irritated meniscus and lingering knee issues from an old injury.  I had to drop out of a 25km trail race and then walk a destination half-marathon I had signed up for in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Being on the injured reserve list has made me even more sympathetic to the woes of our clients when they come in to Foot Tools with issues, especially when they are knee and foot related.

Normally when I’m in a race, I’m not really paying attention to the people around me – other than the odd person lacking in race etiquette who goes kamikaze all over the place and doesn’t really look to make sure they aren’t taking people out (sigh).  My attention to detail, however, completely changed while I was walking the half-marathon in St. Petersburg.

First of all, the expo prior to the race leaned heavily towards minimalist footwear.  There were reps from Inov-8, Vibram, Newton, and Zoot, as well as Saucony, Brooks, New Balance and Pearl Izumi.  Front row and centre in all of these displays were the latest in the minimalist line, with these reps more than happy to tell you all about how wonderful their shoe was for your foot.  There was even a shoe there with actual metal springs inserted into the heel to help relieve plantar fascitis and heel spurs and cure any other issues you experience when walking/running.

I’m a fan of minimalist footwear, when worn for the right reasons.  Yes, it is possible to run far distances in a minimal shoe, but not if the day before you were running in a Saucony Triumph or Asics 2160.  Of all the reps I chatted with, only the Saucony and Inov-8 reps really seemed to get it.  They asked me first if I had ever worn a minimal shoe, and then asked what activities I did when wearing their shoe.  Both firmly agreed with me when asked if a person should first drop down to a lighter shoe but with a less drastic heel differential, especially if their goal was to run distances greater than 5km over the long run.

At any race, I am guilty of checking out people’s footwear when waiting for the race to start.  While I was walking in Florida, I couldn’t help noticing how many people were wearing the wrong running shoes for their gait and speed!  It is pretty much a fact that a fast runner can get away with wearing a lighter shoe for a longer distance, because their foot is not touching the ground for very long.  A slower runner (that would be me as well) benefits from a little bit more under their feet, reducing soreness and injuries.  I cringed when I saw a woman running slower than I was walking in her Vibram Five Fingers, on concrete, cobblestone and brick.  I was wearing my Saucony Kinvaras and watching her go made my feet hurt.  My whole body ached when I watched another woman with severe pronation (her knees were collapsing with each stride) as she struggled through each step (in defense of women runners, this was a women’s only half, so there were few men to criticize!)  It isn’t necessarily their fault though – I wonder where they purchased their shoes and if anyone asked them what they were wearing the shoes for.

These are just two of many examples I saw while I was walking the half marathon.  It reminded me why it is important, when training and running – no matter if it is for a race or every morning before work – to always be wearing the proper footwear, and to know and understand what is needed to enjoy doing what we love.  When working at Foot Tools, I appreciate any opportunity I have to help our clients understand what they are putting on their feet and how it can help (or hurt them).  There are so many shoes out there, with pretty colours and neat features, but it doesn’t mean it is the right shoe for your feet.  Similar to resting and recovering from an injury, you don’t want to make a mistake and risk reducing how much you can go out and enjoy running.  A bad shoe can really ruin that experience, and if you are new to running – for whatever reason you have decided to run – it is important that you educate yourself and get to know your feet.

Foot Tools offers gait assessments, as well as advice and technical information when it comes to our products.  We can help you decide what shoe might be the best option for you and even let you take it for a test drive outside on the sidewalk to see how it feels in action.  We encourage you to take the shoe home, wear it around your house and out for a run (in dry weather of course!) or on a treadmill, and if the shoe just doesn’t seem right, then we’ll gladly exchange the shoe for one that works better, or give you a store credit for when the right shoe comes in.  We don’t want you wearing the wrong shoes; that’s why our motto is, Foot Tools…on your feet!

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