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Your feet work hard to carry you through life, whether you’re on your feet all day for work, partaking in a charity 5K or are a competitive runner. The shoes you choose are key, and the variables in footwear and biomechanics can greatly impact your stamina and endurance — in daily life and on every run.
To learn more, we spoke with Track Shack’s Director of Retail Operations Chris Hughes and AdventHealth Doctor of Physical Therapy Sam Singleton about how to find your perfect running shoes and get the most out of your strides.
The Factors in Finding the Perfect Shoe
Chris Hughes has seen a lot of feet. In his sixteen-plus years at the Orlando running store institution Track Shack, he has helped Central Floridians find the proper shoes for their exercise needs. Chris breaks shoes down to a granular level, using a multifaceted approach to helping customers get just the right fit.
A shoe is dissected by categories: shape, structure, volume, flexibility and weight. By analyzing your foot, ankles, hips and even arms, he can match you with a shoe that can alleviate pain and maximize performance.
Hughes says, “we look at a variety of muscles and movements to start with when engaging with a new customer. The alignment of your hips can rotate your feet inward or outward. The same with your knees: If you are bowlegged, it can push your feet further outside, whereas if you’re knock-kneed, it might cause you to over-pronate. Even your upper body is key: Arm gait can drastically affect posture and stride.”
How Your Feet Biomechanics Influence Your Perfect Fit
Your feet are the most important factor in finding the right shoe. From ankles to arches and toes to tendons, each foot is different. Track Shack has the tools and know-how to recommend the right shoe for every foot.
“First, we check the biomechanics and overall structure of the foot itself. The arch is a huge factor. We need to know: Is it collapsed? Is the instep super high? Is the foot wide or narrow?” Hughes explains.
“Then, we watch you walk — maybe ten yards down and back — and we watch the movement of your lower chain. We will have you stand on one foot like a flamingo, then lower the knee of the leg you are balancing on. That simulates the shift in body weight during a run and helps us determine the weight distribution of your stride from the knee down into the ankle.”
Even with all the kinesiology involved in Track Shack’s approach to fitting every customer with the right shoe, there is still some old-school technology when it comes to finding the right size, Hughes says. “We’ve got a pretty traditional measuring device: an old wooden stick. It’s tried and true, and very accurate. In some cases, people go up half a size to allow some room for foot swelling.”
The Art of the Fit
There’s more to the personalized Track Shack experience than the wooden measuring stick, though. Hughes says they look at a variety of factors to find the right shoe, shape, structure, volume, flexibility and weight. It is a combination of those things that make a great fit.
“A high arch needs a lot of volume and flexibility, so they aren’t popping out the top of the shoe. A more collapsed arch needs more structure, where the arch and the heel won’t bend at all and is very rigid.”
“Differences in foot width can require a wider shaped toe bed or narrower heel depending on the shape. And the different vendors we carry all have sliding scales we can mix and match a custom fit,” Hughes explains.
Our hot Florida weather can also determine what type of sock is appropriate for you. “Moisture-wicking material is key,” Hughes emphasizes. “Most of these socks are a polyester-nylon-spandex blend. They have different points to secure around the ankle, so they won’t slide down. A cotton sock might get waterlogged and soggy during a summer run. You don’t want puddles in your shoes.”
Making Shoes Go the Distance
Hughes says the shoe is like a tire for the foot, and often he can tell a lot from the wear on the soles. “A good shoe should last 300 to 400 miles, whereas a racing shoe might only last 100 miles before the specialized tread starts to wear, but that racing shoe has a very specific purpose.”
Common Injuries When the Miles Catch Up With You
Even with the perfect shoe, pounding the pavement mile after mile can take a toll on your body. Fortunately, AdventHealth Doctor of Physical Therapy Sam Singleton is here to help, as his team helps heal a lot of wear and tear injuries.
“With runners, we often see posterior tibial tendonitis, plantar fasciitis and shin splints. Those are generally overuse injuries. Sometimes they are compensating for a certain muscle that isn’t flexible enough,” Singleton says. While these technical terms may sound intimidating, Singleton breaks them down one by one.
Posterior Tibial Tendonitis
“Posterior tibial tendonitis is a weakness in a specific part of the calf muscles. This can either lead to the arch of the foot collapsing or can be caused by flat feet,” Singleton says. The tendon can become inflamed or torn and, as a result, can’t support the arch of the foot.
“With posterior tibial tendonitis, the foot has to work a little harder to propel you off the ground during running or walking. We see a lot of nurses or others who are on their feet all day, and then try to exercise when their muscles and tendons are already fatigued.”
Plantar fasciitis is another ailment that affects avid runners and people who spend long hours on their feet. “With plantar fasciitis, the tissue that connects the heel to the toes becomes inflamed and can cause pain in the heel and all along the bottom of the foot,” Singleton explains.
Most runners of all skill levels experience shin splints, a common injury, at some point. “Shin splints are another over-use, wear-and-tear injury where the muscles along the front of the lower leg can tear or become inflamed,” explains Singleton.
To Avoid Injuries, Stretching Is Key
Singleton says many of the symptoms of these common injuries can be alleviated or avoided altogether with proper warm-ups and stretching.
“A lot of times, our patients just get into the workout too fast. Generally, you would like to do a five-minute brisk walk to get the muscles flowing. Then, get into dynamic flexibility or dynamic stretching. Anything from lunges to pulling your knee up to your chest.”
He also warns against the dangers of static stretching before a workout. Singleton says it is much more effective as a cool-down technique after exercise while the body is still warm. “It can help get some of that lactic acid out of the body and relieve those overworked muscles.”
“Once we instruct people about the importance of getting muscles loose and limber, exercising and running are smoother for them,” Singleton explains.
AdventHealth and Track Shack: Count on Us to Run Your Best
Singleton knows the importance of AdventHealth’s relationship with Track Shack to help his patients, and how important it is to find your perfect running-shoe fit with help from experts like Chris Hughes.
“It’s really important to know your foot type and your arch structure,” Singleton says. “I have flat feet, so I need a bit more support to prevent myself from getting posterior tibial tendonitis. If we think part of a patient’s problem is equipment, we don’t hesitate to send them over to Track Shack to get fitted for a proper shoe.”
The right shoe, proper warm-up and post-exercise stretching help runners start off on the right foot. But if something feels off, don’t discount pain and discomfort as everyday aches and pains. The fix could be as simple as changing your shoe with help from an expert like Chris Hughes or getting a physical therapy from Sam Singleton’s team. So, whether you visit Track Shack for the perfect shoe, or AdventHealth for a little foot focused therapy, keep running strong, Orlando.
Learn more about how AdventHealth and Track Shack partner together, or schedule your visit to an AdventHealth Sports Med and Rehab location near you.