The 2nd annual Maine Coach and Athlete Cross Country Clinic was on August 18th, 2008 at the University of Southern Maine. This is the third part of my reporting on the clinic; the first part was about injury prevention and treatment and the second part was about nutrition basics and fueling. This part covers foot and biomechanical structure and the selection of proper footwear.

Selecting Proper Footwear

John RogersThe third presentation of the night was from the owner of the Maine Running Company, John Rogers. John’s career in the running business started in product development for Nike and Mizuno, but he retired from doing that to start a specialty running store here in Southern Maine about 4 years ago.

“We try to find the right shoe for people.”

John and his employees use a 6 step fitting process to make sure that they are getting fitted with the proper shoes when they come into the store.

The 6 steps consist of determining information about the runner and his or her running habits, as well as some specific tests to help them determine what each athlete needs.

This 6 step process includes:

  1. Determining the approximate height and weight of the athlete.
  2. Determining how much the athlete is running on a daily and weekly basis.
  3. Determining what shoes the athlete has worn in the past.
  4. Determining if the athlete uses orthotics or similar devices.
  5. Testing the athlete’s foot with a digital scanner.
  6. Doing a visual assessment of the amount of pronation from the athlete when they walk or run.

The correct shoes for each athlete may be different. You should first find the best shoe that you can, and only once you have chosen that shoe can you begin to worry about the extras such as orthotics. If you need to wear orthotics but you put them into the wrong shoes, then the orthotics are not going to help any.

If you need help choosing shoes, speak first with your coaches who might have experience with different types of footwear and are going to know a lot about your running style. Once you have gotten their advice, you can visit the running store and speak with a local specialist who can narrow down exactly what you need.

Be an active participant in the fitting process. Always operate under what John refers to as the Doubt Factor: If you have any single doubt on a shoe, then don’t buy it.

Once you have bought the shoe, then write the date that you bought it in the insole. Your shoes should be replaced every 4 to 6 months, or every 400 to 600 miles, depending upon your running style and the model of the shoe and the environment that you run in.

Shoe Categories

“We’ve come to a point in the industry where everybody is making high quality shoes.”

There is basically a model of shoe for everybody, these days. The big companies got into a habit of over-teching and over-building their shoes in the past few decades, but that trend has turned around and the industry is moving back towards minimalist concepts. Many trends are even going so far as barefoot running, or as close as you can get and still have something to sell to the consumer.

Neutral shoes are the fastest growing category in the footwear industry, which has been helped by the orthotics manufacturers. Neutral shoes are for a high rigid arch and can come with either moderate cushioning or maximum support.

Stability shoes are still the largest category of shoes on the market. They are appropriate for mid or late stage pronators and for duck footed folks.

When choosing racing shoes, you should apply the same sorts of philosophies towards your shoe selection as you would for trainers. Find something that will suit your needs for the different circumstances that you will be racing in and pick the correct racer or lightweight trainer that will suit your needs.

John is also a big fan of rotating your shoes, although he does not have a preference on whether or not you should rotate the same style of shoes or different styles. That will be an individual decision that will be different for each runner.