If there was the perfect way to run it would be to glide along the ground, with a strong stride and noiseless steps. IS this you? Or are you a noisy runner?
Here’s 4 tips to tell if your shoes are right for you and some sound advice from Steve Manning, founder of intraining Running Centre & Podiatrist.
Pounding, scuffing and slapping are 3 different foot strikes that can contribute to shin and calf pain, and faster wear on your running shoes. The way you run contributes to this, but with the right shoes, you can either decrease the wear and tear or maybe even get rid of the noise and pain altogether.
How do I know if my running shoes are contributing?
The best way to tell if your running shoes do not suit you is to listen to the sounds they make when you run. Energy is required to make noise. Excessive noise indicates that you are pushing yourself backwards every time you land. The energy that makes you run faster is instead being used to overcome the forces the noise creates. Besides being inefficient and slowing you up, this also creates a higher risk of injury with unnecessary forces.
The noise at impact and when your forefoot hits the ground can be pounding, slapping, or scuffing. All of these are signs that you are overstriding, or cannot control the transition from heel strike when you first hit the ground, to forefoot loading which occurs as you push off. While it is often the result of poor running form, this noise can also be because the shoe’s support does not match the way you run.
What about pronation control?
Pronation (rolling in) is the most important motion that occurs when we run. Its purpose is to deflect the forces sideways rather than up the leg. Some studies have indicated that excessive pronation may not actually be related to increased injury risk. Instead, they have shown that it is the rotation of the leg and knee that is the cause of pain.
Interestingly, shoes with excessive pronation control can cause what looks like pronation. The pronation seen is actually movement at the hip and knee to try to overcome the extra support in the shoe.
What does it mean if I make a ‘slapping’ noise when I run?
Slapping occurs when the muscles at the front of the shin cannot control the motion of the foot as it rolls through from heel strike to forefoot loading. When this happens excessive force passes up through those muscles further traumatising them.
The shoe can be a cause of the slapping when it is too stiff or stable. A certain amount of flexibility is required to smoothly make the transition from heel to toe. Otherwise the shoe will act like a stiff plank that pivots over the ground.
If external forces from the shoe are exerting unnatural force on the foot then this motion can not be controlled. This is particularly seen with shoes that are too stable.
Another cause of slapping is when the shoe has an excessive flare towards the heel. This causes premature strike and excessive rotational velocity of the foot greater than what the muscles on the front of the leg can control.
So if you are willing to listen to your feet they will help you buy the right shoe for you.
Steve’s 4 best tips how to listen to your feet:
#1 Seek out a quiet spot
Of prime importance is to find the right location to be able to hear your shoes talking. It should be quiet with little background noise and traffic.
#2 Find the right surface
The surface you run on must be as hard as possible – preferably concrete. Ideally, it should be totally flat and consistent without any bumps or dips.
#3 Get the ‘echo effect’
You need to run next to a wall that will give you a good echo effect. You must be able to run at normal training pace and get into a comfortable stride pattern. To do this go for a 5km run first so you will be slightly fatigued but warmed up. Then try running at a few different speeds to see how the sound changes.
#4 Let the experts do it for you
Let us listen to your feet for you. We always have you run in your shoes so that we can watch, listen and get your feedback about each shoe you try on.
Imagine if you were able to become a noiseless runner. It might be that extra boost to get your PB at the UQ Twilight Run or give you stealth to catch the next runner in your age group.
If you’re not sure but know that you wear your shoes out way too soon, or if you have foot and/or leg pain, come into the intraining Running Centre.
It’s amazing what a difference shoes can make to your experience when you have the right pair.
Steve Manning has been working in the running community for more than 30 years.
He’s the founder of intraining Running Centre, podiatrist and coach both kids and adult running groups.
Steve is now an associate lecturer in the school of Podiatry, QUT, writing and teaching their sports & biomechanical program.