Monday, August 11, 2008

Fitness File: Flat Foot Floogie

I fancy myself a rather logical, practical gal, so it is with deep shame that I must admit that I have often purchased running shoes in the past . . . based on their appearance - "Mmm, I love the orange accents on these Nike Reax!" (That's them there to the left, my last pair of sneakers.) I mean, I would try them on, jog around in them a bit, and make sure they fit, but their appearance would still play an integral role in my decision-making process. The funny thing is that, despite this decidedly "girlie" tendency, I've actually found the majority of women's running shoes hideous - the pinks, lilacs, and teals looking like something straight out of Barbie's closet. Those orange Nikes were actually out of the men's department! But, still. In sports, choosing fashion over function? Foolish.

With my recent foray back into running, I decided to finally do the right thing and get a proper assessement of my feet and the way I run. I'd heard they do that at Road Runner Sports, so I headed over to the one in Newbury Park Saturday afternoon. They had me walk across a sensor pad to record where I was exerting the most pressure on the soles of my feet and then videotaped me running on a treadmill to analyze my gait (see image to the left - not me, but what it actually looks like). (Note: seeing my calves in slow-motion from behind afterwards? Kind of cruel.) They told me something I already knew - I'm pretty flat-footed - but I also found out that I pronate pretty badly too (see image to right here, not my actual feet - I'll spare you that).

They also measured my feet properly, which I haven't had done since I was a kid. Shoe stores have become so self-serve these days that there are hardly any that do this anymore! I've always had big feet, so I came to terms a long time ago with the fact that I would always have trouble finding shoes in my size, nevermind shoes in my size that were cute ("cute" and "size 10" just sort of never go together), but I was still a little bummed to hear the clerk say I should really wear a 10 1/2 when I'm running (because you need room for expansion when your feet get hot and swell). I thought about asking if paddles and life vests came free with the purchase of these canoes, but, again, this trip was about growing up and doing the right thing by my feet, so I saved the self-deprecating humor for another time.

The clerk showed me three shoes they had that were best-suited for overpronators, in the "stability plus" category, (by New Balance, Asics, and a running shoe brand I'd never heard of before - Brooks) and introduced me to Superfeet inserts with a modest level of arch support (a different brand of inserts I'd used in the past were brutally painful). I jogged around a little in each pair, with the inserts in place, and, in the end, I chose the pair that felt the most supportive and comfortable - a pair of women's Gel-Kayano 14s by Asics. Correction - a pair of TURQUOISE Gel-Kayano 14s. (*sigh* The things I'll do in the name or practicality.) Asics served me well when I ran track in high school, so that gave me added assurance that I was making a good choice.

The clerk warned me to take it easy the first few times I run in the new shoes because my muscles and tendons will have to adjust to being aligned properly, and I have to say it does feel a little weird. Because overpronating feels normal to me, when I run properly aligned, I feel pigeon-toed! But I think I can get over that quickly enough if I can get some relief from the chronic shin splints to which I'm prone (a problem resulting from the flat feet and overpronating). Here's hoping!


Cowpeace said...

Have you ever tried running barefoot? It will probably get rid of your shin splins and even make your arches perk up. It takes time and you have to start very *gradually*, but it may be worth it. Modern running shoes are like casts. Put your arm in a cast for a few weeks and muscles, tendons and ligament will atrophy. Read the book "Born to Run" by McDougal, and then point your browser to, and, and
Happy training! Simon.

Cheri said...

Hi Simon,

Funny you should mention running barefoot. I wrote a poem about barefoot running last year ( that includes a link to a similar article.

Sadly, I haven't been running for a long while now. I discovered I have asthma ( To stay in shape now, I've done fencing off and on for years (, and I also go for long walks, hike, and practice yoga.