Find the Right Running Shoes

Photo Credit: Josiah Mackenzie CC-BY-2.0
Since the settlement between the Federal Trade Commission and the shoe company Sketchers, some people may be wondering if there is any shoe that lives up to fitness claims. Beware of any shoe company that claims you can lose weight, strengthen your muscles or improve your circulation if you wear their shoes. If there is one lesson to be learned from the Sketchers case, it is to always carefully evaluate the claims made by fitness equipment manufacturers. If you are a runner, it is critical that you wear a shoe that cushions and protects your foot. Running shoes are not the same as tennis shoes or sneakers. They are designed specifically to absorb shock and protect your foot. How can you select a shoe that is comfortable and protective? 
Each runner has an unique style and some run more miles more frequently than others. There is no perfect fit for everyone, but every runner needs a stable shoe that protects the foot from shock when it hits the ground. Most running shoes are designed to absorb the shock of 2 1/2 to 3 times your body weight. There should be ample cushioning in both the heel and front of the shoe. Running shoes should also be flexible, yet provide stability for your foot. The bottom of the shoe should have a tread designed to grip the ground to prevent slipping. 
Make sure that the shoe you buy has adequate arch support. Shoes are designed for high, neutral and low arches. The best way to determine which type of arch support you need is to see a podiatrist, but you can find your type of arch by simply looking at your bare foot print. Select a shoe that fits snug but comfortably and is designed for the type of terrain where you will be running.
Runner’s World has an easy-to-use shoe finder to help you find a style of shoe that can work for you. 

"Barefoot" Running Shoes?

Photo Credit: Aleser PD

One of the fastest growing trends in running shoes is the minimalist or “barefoot” shoe. These shoes have been flying off the shelves of exercise and fitness stores across the United States. The shoes are designed with a minimum of amount of material between the runner’s foot and the ground in order to mimic running in bare feet. The risk of injury is high for barefoot runners due to scrapes, cuts and bruises from the high-impact on runners’ feet. Minimalist running shoes provide little support, but can protect the feet from injury.  Do these shoes actually help you get more from exercise value from your run? 
Manufacturers of these shoes claim that barefoot runners tend to land each step near the balls of their feet near the big toe instead of on the heel as runners wearing regular shoes. Landing each step on the ball of the foot reduces the impact on the feet and legs. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) exercise physiologist Pete McCall recommends minimalist running shoes that mimic barefoot running because the foot has better contact with the ground. According to McCall, regular running shoes have an elevated heel that can interfere with balance. Wearing minimalist running shoes during your walk or run may also increase the dexterity of your feet and toes. ACE sought the assistance of a team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse to conduct a study of the effectiveness of the barefoot shoes. A group of casual joggers were given a pair of barefoot shoes which they used for 20 minutes three times each week for 2 weeks. At the end of the trial period, about 1/2 of the subjects had changed from the common heel-strike style of running to landing on or near the balls of their feet. 
The bottom line on bare-foot style running shoes is that they provide no cushioning for heel-strike runners  who should either not wear the shoes or change their running style to a toe-strike gait. Heel-strike runners risk injury to the feet and legs if they run or jog in minimalist style shoes. Be prepared to change the way you run if you want to try a pair of these shoes.

Are Toning Shoes For You?

Toning shoes are popular among many walkers, joggers and runners. Some makers claim that toning shoes can firm and tone your legs while helping you to burn more calories to lose weight. Makers of toning shoes claim their shoes are designed to simulate walking barefoot or walking on uneven terrain to make your leg muscles work harder with ever step. Do toning shoes really firm, tone and strengthen your legs while helping you to burn more calories? 
According to the Mayo Clinic’s Edward R. Laskowski, M.D., there is no evidence to support the claim that toning shoes give you a better leg workout or help you to burn more calories. Dr. Laskowski stated that there is no harm in wearing the shoes and wearers may benefit from wearing the shoes if owning and wearing a pair causes them to increase their physical activity. 
Photo Credit: Steve Ling CC-BY-2.0
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) conducted a study to test the effectiveness of toning shoes. ACE tested the comparative effectiveness of toning shoes against regular walking shoes and found no evidence to support the claims that toning shoes burn more calories, tone or strengthen muscles. Researchers stated that if owning a pair of toning shoes provided the wearer with the motivation to get more exercise generally, then the shoes provided some benefit. The ACE study did not address the potential effects on the wearer’s balance due to the unstable design of the shoe sole.
The bottom line on toning shoes seems to be they provide no additional benefit to the wearer when it comes to burning extra calories or strengthening and toning leg muscles. If you like them and owning a pair motivates you to get more exercise, that is definitely a plus for these shoes.