Sunday, 9 June 2013

Finding the Right Running Shoe with Active Feet

Back in March this year I decided it was time for a new pair of runners to replace my well aged Asics Gel 1100's. I had done quite a bit of research into how to pick the right runners for my feet and worked out that it wasn't actually that easy. There are so many running shoe brands out there, each making a range of shoes which suite different feet. But perhaps the most difficult bit is working out what type of feet you have and what type of shoe is right for your feet. I decided I would enroll the help of experts in my quest. My triathlon mate, Adam, recommended I look at Active Feet, a chain of shoe stores which have podiatrically trained shop assistants. I gave them a go and after a bit of a journey I'm very happy with the shoe I am now running in.

The Active Feet experience.

Every runner's feet and biomechanics are unique. When running long distances, any weaknesses in these biomechanics are exposed and can lead to issues which limit performance or cause injury. Having the correct running shoes can help correct biomechanical issues such as pronation of the feet by providing the support and cushioning that your feet require. This will reduce your risk of injury and will make you a better runner. Buying the wrong shoes can actually have the opposite effect by exacerbating any biomechanical issues.

As an endurance runner, this makes your running shoes the single most important piece of equipment you will buy. So it's worth spending a little bit of extra time, money and effort in finding the right shoe. That's why I decided to try Active Feet rather than going into a general sporting goods store.

Active Feet have stores in Prahran, Heathmont, Camberwell and Sandringham. They stock running shoes, walking shoes, trailing running shoes, football boots, tennis and netball shoes from a range of brands including Asics, New Balance, Brooks, Nike and Saucony. But the most important thing that Active Feet offer is a free podiatric analysis in order to prescribe the correct shoe for your feet and activity.

Some of the shoe range at Active Feet Prahran.

The assistant's at Active Feet are all either qualified podiatrists or are senior students currently training to become podiatrists. So they know feet! You don't need to make a booking and the assessment is absolutely free with no obligation to buy the shoes they recommend. The shoes are generally a little on the expensive side compared to other running shoe stores generally, so you pay a premium for the service they provide but I do think it's worth it as they will put you in a shoe that's right for your foot. You could easily walk away after the assessment and buy the recommended shoes for much cheaper online but if everyone did that then stores like Active Feet would not exist and the Melbourne running community would be much the poorer. It's definitely worth supporting businesses that go the extra mile and provide a service worth paying for!

I tried out their store in Prahran. They start the assessment off by asking questions around how many kilometres you currently run a week, how many kilometres a week you intend to run in the future, the type of events you intend to run, the surfaces you run on, any running related injuries you are suffering or have suffered from and of course your budget. My budget was up to $220 which meant the majority of the shoes they offer were an option.

I would suggest you bring your current pair of runners in and wear comfortable clothes that you can run in. They can tell a lot about your foot by examining the wear on the sole of your old runners. I brought in my old Asics and the assistant got me to run with them on the treadmill. They have a camera just behind the treadmill so you can see the back of your legs as you're running and she quickly pointed out that I was an overpronator. This means that my foot strikes the ground on the outside of my heel and then rolls inward more than a normal pronator. My foot then pushes off with the inside of my forefoot using mainly my big toe and 2nd toe. That explained the wear marks on the inside of the forefoot of my Asics.

The treadmills at Active Feet Prahran.

Overpronators require stability control shoes that reduce pronation. The assistant pulled out some shoes that fit the bill and got me to run on the treadmill with each pair. One of them felt ok when I put them on but were terrible on the treadmill. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 13 were the last pair I tried. I got onto t treadmill and the assistant pointed out how much more stable my pronation was. I went for a run around the block and I couldn't believe how different they felt to my old Asics. It was like running on cushions and I was sold! I bought them for $190 which included a 20% discount because I was running the Run for the Kids.

The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 13 initially recommended by Active Feet.

For the next few weeks I tried wearing them in with some slow runs of about 4-5km. However I noticed that once I started increasing my pace that I would get anterior shin splints in my left leg. I switched back to my Asics and did the same run at the same pace and there was no problem. However with the Adrenaline's I would start feeling anterior shin pain every time I stepped up the pace. I made up my mind that the new shoes were the problem.

Luckily Active Feet back up their advice with a 30 day satisfaction guarantee. They will exchange the shoes during this period regardless of wear. I went back to Prahran and went through the issues I was having. They put me back on the treadmill with the Adrenaline's and pointed out that they looked like they were doing the right job for me. However they suspected that maybe the Adrenaline's were too much of a departure from what my feet had become used to with the Asics Gel 1100's. So they brought out a pair of Asics Kayano 19's. They offered less support than the Adrenaline's and so were closer to what I had with the 1100's. They felt great on the treadmill and on the pavement. These would be my new shoe.

I love my Asics Kayano 19's. Thanks Active Feet!

They got it spot on with the Kayano's. I did suffer some slight anterior shin soreness during the wearing in period but it was nothing compared to what the Adrenaline's were causing. I've now run over 100km in the Kayano's and I can honestly say they are the best shoes I've ever run in.

Active Feet were really sympathetic to my situation and the staff genuinely wanted me to be happy with my shoes. This is why you pay the premium for their shoes and in my case it was well worth it. The Kayano's were more expensive than the Adrenaline's so I had to pay the difference of $20 but there was no other charge involved.

So they might not have got my shoes right straight away but my experience with Active Feet has been an extremely positive one. I would recommend them to any runner who is not sure which shoes they should be buying. They genuinely want to put you in the best shoe for your feet and their staff have the expert podiatric knowledge to enable them to do this. All this is backed up by their 30 day satisfaction guarantee which gives you great piece of mind.

So if you're unsure whether you under or over pronate or whether you need a lot of support or more cushioning, give them a go at least once and get into a pair of shoes that will be the right fit for your feet. Happy running!