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Running Shoes and Running Gait

The right style of running shoe should be protective and shock absorbing, as well as a comfortable fit for long runs. Running is great exercise, and running shoes are the most important part to consider before you put your first foot forward.

 The wrong running shoes can cause your joints to take too much impact, as shocks reverberate from the ground upwards to your knees and shins, harming your joints, back and neck. There is no one ‘great running shoe’ and what works for a friend may not work for you.

 The first step in finding your best running shoe is not looking at brands, but should be an analysis of your running style. You can do this by letting a GO Outdoors trained expert have a look, or by looking at wear and tear on your existing running shoes. 

They can assess how you run, and what type of running shoe to choose from.

 

The Gait Cycle

The Gait Cycle is the term used to describe the action of taking a step and is broken down into two phases: 

Swing Phase, during which the foot is off the ground and swings through to start the next step; and Stance Phase, when the foot is in contact with the ground. 

Stance Phase then breaks down into three phases; Contact Phase, Midstance and Propulsion.

 

Contact Phase

This is initial contact with the ground. The foot first comes into contact with the ground Larges forces need to be absorbed here (between 3-5 times your body weight) 

Contact phase can be at the heel, midfoot or forefoot depending on your running style. The most common area for initial contact is on the outside edge of the heel, and this is known as Fatty tissue under the heel helps to absorb shock. It is the point of maximum impact in the gait cycle.

 

Midstance

The foot comes into full contact with the ground supporting the whole body. Weight transfers from the heel to the midfoot. The foot flattens on the ground. Natural shock absorption takes place through varying amounts of pronation. Weight and muscle activity is at its greatest. Midstance is the phase when most injuries are occur.

 

Propulsion

The body weight is transferred onto the toes to push the body on ready for the next step. The heel raises. Weight transfers to the ball of the foot. The foot becomes a rigid lever. The body is propelled forward ready for the next step. The ideal toe off should be centrally through the toes (between the big and second toe)

 

Running Gait

Pronation refers to a gait where the feet or ankles roll outwards during movement. 

A small amount of rolling is ideal, which is seen in a neutrally pronating foot. 

The foot rolls from the ankle, towards the toes. Pronation can also be increased, known as over pronation, or decreased, as with Supination, where the feet do not roll as they should. Under or over pronating are common reasons for ankle injuries and strains. 

Pronation can be genetic, or can come from other areas, such as previous injuries, weakened muscles, unusually high or low arches, or a difference in leg length. Excessive pronation or underpronation can be corrected or helped by the use of an orthotic insole or a specially designed shoe or boot.


Neutral Pronation

Normal pronation is where the rolling of the foot optimally distributes the forces of impact. The outside part of the heel makes initial contact with the ground. The foot “rolls” inwards about five percent, and comes in complete contact with the ground, this movement supports your body weight without any problems. At the end of the gait cycle, you push off evenly from the front of the foot. This is more commonly known as having a neutral gait

Neutral pronation is also referred to as ‘normal rolling.’ Only around 15% of the population have a neutrally pronating gait. 

Over Pronation

As with the “normal pronation” sequence, the outside of the heel makes initial ground contact. However, the foot rolls inward more than the ideal five percent, which is called overpronation. This means the foot and the ankle have problems stabilising the body, and the shock isn’t absorbed as efficiently. At the end of the gait cycle, the front of the foot pushes off the ground using mainly the big toe and second toe, which must then do all the work. Weight is not evenly distributed as the foot lands, often causing strain as pressure is placed on the ankle joints. Over-pronators typically wear out their soles more quickly than runners with other types of gait.
Over pronators should look for shoes with medial support. 

Underpronation/Supination


 Supination occurs when the foot doesn’t roll far enough on impact towards the medial side. This means that on ‘take off’ when running or walking, pressure is placed on the smaller toes.
Again the outside of the heel makes initial contact with the ground but the inward movement of the foot occurs at less than four percent (i.e. there is less rolling than for those with normal or flat feet.) Consequently, forces of impact are concentrated on a smaller area of the foot (the outside part), and are not distributed as efficiently. In the push off phase, most of the work is done by the smaller toes on the outside of the foot.

 Supinators have a very rigid form which is generally inefficient at absorbing shocks. Inefficiency at shock absorption on impact can lead to affected joints.

Foot Shapes

Hollow Foot- ‘Pes Cavus’ 

Pes Cavus or a hollow foot is typically associate with Supination. Hollow feet are recognized by a high arch. This high arch can cause shoes to fit too tightly leading to pronation in the foot’s gait. Those with hollow feet often require more cushioning and padding in footwear or via an insole in order to provide comfort. 

Wide spread flat foot: ‘Prolixus Emanio’ 

A wide spread flat foot is distinguished by ‘fallen arches’ and is typically associated with over pronation. The lowered arch is less severe than that of a flat foot, but places wider pressure on the foot. This wider surface area of foot in contact with the ground places pressure on the largest metatarsal bone, causing inversion of the foot. The inversion of the foot typically leads to an overpronating gait, which requires more cushioning.

Flat foot: “Pes Planus”

A flat foot is usually associate with pronation, and describes the condition where the foot has a very flat, fallen arch, making most of the foot in contact with the ground. Flat feet can be hereditary, or can be caused by injury, or pregnancy. Orthotic insoles are typically used to treat flat feet, by increasing padding over time to help raise the arch. 

The force an impact on the foot is very rigid and strong, and a flat foot struggles to ‘roll’ efficiently, either leaning too far towards the medial side (overpronation) or not far enough (supination).

 

Common Running Injuries

Excess pronation can cause injuries. When a neutral foot pronates during walking or running, the lower leg, knee and thigh all rotate internally (medially). 

When running this rotation movement is exaggerated and becomes more marked. Excess stress on the inner surface of the foot through over pronation can cause injury and pain in the foot and ankle. 

Repeated rotational forces through the shin, knee and pelvis also place additional strain on the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the lower leg. The health of your feet has a dramatic impact on the health of your body. Many people don’t realise that instability of the foot can lead to painful skeletal alignment issues and injuries, the most common of which are:

 

Plantar Fasciitis

This is the inflammation and possible tearing of the plantar fascia ligament that attaches the base of the heel bone to the toes. This causes pain in the heel region and arch and is commonly triggered by lack of underfoot support or improper footwear.

 

Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)

ITBS is a common injury to the thigh and one of the leading causes in knee pain in running. Iliotibial band syndrome is due to inflammation of the iliotibial band, a thick band of fibrous tissue that runs down the outside of the leg. 

The iliotibial band begins at the hip and extends to the outer side of the shin bone (tibia) just below the knee joint. The band is crucial to stabilizing the knee during running. ITBS is most commonly caused by excessive lower leg rotation due to over-pronation, biomechanical issues such as unnaturally high or low arches, excessive training, inadequate warm-ups or cool-downs.

 

Shin Splints

Shin splints generally occur in the lower section of the leg around the shinbone and occur when the muscle attachment of the lower leg tears away from the bone

 

What Running Shoe To Choose

Why do I need running shoes?

Running is a high-impact sport. Unless your feet are well cushioned with shock absorbing materials, the repeated impact on your legs can lead to injury. Cushioning is important for every runner and is often provided without adding extra weight to the trainer. For example, using air units or a gel in the sole of the trainer provides cushioning. In addition, trainers need to be flexible enough for running. Trainers that are not designed for running have more rigid soles. This increases the tension in the calf and can increase the risk of strains in the muscles that run up the front of the shin, which can lead to shin splints. 

Another issue for runners is the natural tendency for the foot to roll inwards after the heel strikes. It's important that your running shoes offer the support that you need to help reduce any excessive rolling motion of your feet. When buying your running shoes, don't go for the latest fashions. Concentrate on how they perform rather than what they look like. There are many types of shoe for people with various foot types and running styles. Structured cushioning or stability. These are for overpronators, who need stability as well as cushioning. They have a mix of cushioning, stability and durability.

 Cushioned (neutral). These shoes are the most flexible. They have the least support and the most cushioning. They are designed for people who don't overpronate (neutral runners), people who underpronate, or people who have high arches. Trail. These shoes are designed specifically for off-road running. This is where you are running on a variety of rugged hilly terrains. Trail shoes compensate for this by having soles with a deeper tread. You can also choose shoes by your foot type.

 

Flat Arch/Overpronator

If you have a flat arch or an overpronator, choose shoes with strong padding and midsoles, with good support and motion control. As an overpronator you may be susceptible to injuries due to your excess toe strain during push off, you require stability shoes which can help keep you supported. 

 When running, your front toes do most of the lifting of your body weight. You need extra support because your ankle is not as involved in taking impact, whilst your toes are having to work extra hard to support your weight whilst you spring up again, step after step. Seek out shoes with a mixture of good support all over, as well as cushioning around the midsole. 

Any inbuilt features such as ‘motion control’ can help you maintain stability and make sure you get support on impact.

 

Medium Arch/Neutral Gait

If you have a medium arch and no pronation, excessive, or otherwise, you should choose neutral cushioning and all over support. You don’t require bulky padding and can choose a slimmer shoe. Because you have no orthotic needs to correct, you have plenty of options when it comes to running shoes. Based on your feet, you are a ‘good runner’, simply because you make contact with the ground on the outside of your heel and roll through around 15%, supporting your body weight as required to reduce the risk of impact. 

You will have no discernable wear and tear in any particular area of your running shoes. You also push off easily from the front of the foot levelly. You have a normal pronation style that means when the arch collapses inward on impact, your whole foot absorbs shock and helps minimize injuries. When choosing running shoes you should look for shoes with neutral cushioning all over to continue to offer good support. 

Lightweight or specific racing shoes can ideal for you.

 

Underpronating/High Arches

If you have a high arch or underpronate when you run, you should look for padded running shoes with cushioning that protects either your high arch, or pressure to the sides of your feet and heels. The opposite of the overpronator, your foot, on impact with the ground, moved at less than 15%. 

You may appear quite flat footed and have excess wear and tear on the sides of your running shoes- as often your small toes pick up most of the work on lifting off for each step. Look for shoes with neutral cushioned or high cushioned shoes are ideal for high arched styles, and can provide good comfort as well as keeping your support focused on key pressure areas.

GO Outdoors Trail Shoes Buying Guide



What Is Trail Running?


Trail running is a form of running where you run on trails, specifically hills and other uphill terrains.

Trail running by nature means heading off the beaten track and into the hills, and often, trails aren’t yet made or marked.

Because of the steep paths and other obstacles, as well as varying weather conditions,  trail running requires a specific pair of shoes.

Trail running events are becoming more popular, and for competition it is even more important than ever to be light on your feet and quick.
For this reason trail running shoes are designed to tackle hard impacts, but are also lightweight and airy.

Why can't I trail run in normal running shoes?

You may want to cut costs and consider a standard running shoe, but sadly, if your serious about trail running, these won’t be rugged enough to tackle hilly terrains. A trail shoe should be a compromise between the tough thickness of a walking boot, without the cumbersome weight and rigidity. Trail shoes also have a lower framed design, and are built with less bulky cushioning than a standard road running shoe or trainer.

However it is worth looking at the best trail shoes you can buy, and treating them as a worthwhile investment, as theyw ill ensure that your ankle doesn't slip or twist out of place, resulting in a nasty injury.

 

Trail Running Shoes- Soles


The soles of trail running shoes are typically designed with high levels of grip to offer increased stability that would be wasted on flat lands such as a pavement.

For this reason Trail Running Shoes need to be protective.

Because rocks and other obstacles are all part of trail running, as well as a thick sole, many trail running shoes also incorporate other features typically seen in mountain walking boots, such as rubber rands that protect the trail runner from injury.

Aggressive soles with semi-deep tread are a must for trail running on muddy and off road terrain. They should also provide more stability than road shoes.
 
Today's trail running shoes are flexible enough for walking fast on natural surfaces, so you aren't fighting your shoes with each step. The design levels put into a pair of trail running shoes is more often than not exceptional, and plenty of know how goes into the shape, texture and weight.

Trail Running Shoes- Cushioning


The midsole is key to a pair of decent trail running shoes, because it offers the protection you need from  the shock and impact associated with pounding along hardened trail. However, whereas running trainers are designed with masses of padding, trail shoes are typically much firmer to ensure you have a better grip.

Look for a padded collar and tongue to add support and avoid rubbing, particularly if you run for long periods of time, these small details can make the difference. 

 

Trail Running Shoes- Weather Protection

To prevent moisture such as water and mud entering your trail running shoes, most are created with laminates such as DWR, a Durable Water repellent, or GORE-Tex membranes.

Materials vary because each trail running shoe is created to offer different features.
However most are designed with synthetics as opposed to natural fabrics such as leather, because these are able to offer supreme levels of breathability.

 If you want to run in icy conditions over slippy areas, look at using metal based grips, tugsten are most common.

 you anticipate poor weather – look for waterproof linings and fabrics as GORE-Tex and eVent which are breathable and waterproof, so your feet can still breathe whilst staying dry.

Trail Running Shoes- Weights


Look at weight with your trail shoe, but remember it’s more important to have a comfy style with a chunky midsole,low profile and great grip than to quibble over a few grams in weight.

Trail shoes are designed to be lightweight and easy to hold, whilst still offering protection from rocks.

 

Running Shoe Care and Replacement

Running shoes should fit well and should be laced to provide the optimum level of support. Make sure you have some flex in your shoe to move your toes, with a thumbs width between your largest toe and the shoe’s end. 

Ensure your foot doesn’t slip off the heel, and if in doubt, pick a smaller size. If the shoes do feel too big, add in an insole. 

Look to replace your running shoes as the cushioning starts to lose it’s responsiveness, or if any rips or tears occur. This should be around every 600 miles, easily clocked up when you break this down into half a year, at around 2-3 miles per day.


Blisters...And How To Avoid Them

Your socks are the first area of contact next to both your skin and your boots or shoes. With new boots, the stiffness and heavy materials put extra pressure on your socks, so you should adapt what you wear whilst breaking your boots in. 

Liner socks are worn like a baselayer, unerneath your standard hiking socks. 

They not only work to wick away sweat, mositure and bacteria, but also are designed withouts seams, so they won't rub or irritate your feet. However, blisters are formed as the skin is irritated and rubbed, sometimes caused by chaffing from non wicking fabrics, such as wet cotton socks or a too tight shoe. Movement causes irritation, which in turn causes the skin the break open and form a water filled pustule, known as a blister. 

 With an appearance similar to a burn, blisters raise up off the skin, usually in a circular shape. which can be both painful and unsightly. If you are wearing tight boots or shoes, the blister bubble can then itself impeed walking and if the offending shoes or boots are not removed at the first stage of the blister, it can soon become rubbed and irritated further.  

This then results in the blister opening up completely, or bursting, leaving an open wound which can the crack and bleed. Skin may flake off from the affected skin. The blister will scab down eventually, causing hardened skin on the area where it once was. 

Most blisters do not scar, but can cause discomfort, particularly in situations where the pressure cannot be relieved, such as hiking.  

Reactive Solution: 

Blister treatments can help cut down blister’s healing time by 20%, dependent on when they are used in the blister forming process. 
These are typically plasters that can cover the blister in order to avoid irritation to the area, infection, and to reduce the risk of bacteria or moisture entering the wound. 

Preventative Method: 

Anti Blister Sticks allow you to lubricate your feet for prevention of blisters, whilst patches cover the blisters as a second skin to absorb moisture form the foot, provide cushioning and provide relief, as well as ideal healing conditions, free from bacteria.

Other lubrication options are available, but a specific anti blister solution will have been designed to offer anti bacterial properties. 
 
Dry skin treatments are to be used when the blister has gone through all it’s stages. Dry skin treatments are either moisturising lotions or sprays that are applied to the affected area, or the whole foot in order to remove the dead layer of dermis that has been left by the blister. 

They usually contain both moisturising and exfoliating elements in order to 'sand off' the dead skin gently, whilst replenishing lost skin moisture. 

Feet that aren't moisturised, or are subjected to over chlorinated water or extremes of heat and cold can become dry and cracked, which as well as being unsightly in sandals leaves gaps in the skin, which are more prone to fungal infections. 

The scaly effect of dry skin can also become painful if the cracks are deep set. 

A dry and cracked skin cream can be applied to the foot regularly as a preventative measure as the human body becomes less efficient at ridding itself of dry skin when cell renewal slows with age. 

The removal of dry and dead skin should leave your feet ready to be moisturised an conditioned, making an ideal base on which to wear socks and boots or shoes, without discomfort. 

For prevention, as well as an anti blister stick, use a mosituriser before putting on a liner sock or a wicking, breathable sock. 

Cotton socks do not protect you from moisture as well as a manmade synthetic or wicking merino wool, leaving you at risk from bacteria as well as rubbing as moisture stays on the fabric. 

Exfoliating treatments can be applied to your feet to rid your feet of hardened calluses and skin, allowing your feet to breathe. Blister patches and plasters come in a variety of sizes to suit your foot and the area of infection.

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