One question runners have is whether they should use running shoes, or if shoes designed for other kinds of exercise will work. It is important to consider the advantage of running shoes in the context of shoe design tailored to a certain kind of exercise. The motion of a particular sport is what drives the design of a shoe that will best support the athlete performing the exercise.
Running differs from walking in several ways. While walking, humans push off the side of their feet while keeping the center of gravity over the leg taking the step. The motion finishes with a slow roll onto the toes. On the other hand, running keeps the body's center of gravity central to the torso. The foot meets the ground on the outside of the heel and rolls to the inside of the foot, an action known as pronation.
Based on the unique motion of running, today's shoe design for runners provides cushion, support, and traction. A primary component in contemporary design is the addition of proper cushion to the midsole. When considering impact of the foot against the surface, cushioning in the midsole is the main advantage of running shoes compared to those used in walking or other sports.
Cushioning in the shoe functions to protect the runner from objects on the running surface while helping to prevent pronation where the foot rolls to the inside. Absorption is also a key component. When the cushioning mechanism is able to absorb the force of impact, a good shoe can withstand between two and three times average body weight.
Advancement in materials for athletic shoes have led to the use of products called EVA and polyurethane. EVA is light and flexible although it can become compressed in the shoe after repeated use. Polyurethane is stronger and tends to last longer although it makes the shoe heavier than EVA. Shoe companies take advantage of the best qualities of both materials by combining polyurethane in the midsole with EVA in other parts of the shoe.
Proper shoe design ultimately results in less injury and pain for runners. Athletes who run over six miles per week can experience injury or pain in foot, legs or back without adequate shoe cushioning and support. Force of impact during running should not be taken lightly when it comes to proper shoe requirements.
There are many types of runners. Everyone uses a different training program. Each runner has an individual foot type, biomechanics, and overall mileage goals. Because of these differences, it is good to remember that finding the best shoe is an individual experience. In the end, each runner must combine shoe function with their own needs to find the right solution.
Selecting a shoe with so many brands and styles available in the market can be daunting. It takes proper research and adequate time to find the right fit and functionality. The ultimate advantage of running shoes is to provide a high level of comfort and support, resulting in an enjoyable and pain free experience for the runner.