By Nicole Montoya
In 1972, the first ever Nike running shoe hit the track at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, OR. Sporting an innovative shoe sole crafted from a good, old-fashioned waffle iron, Steve “Pre” Prefontaine bolted down the track in Nike’s “Moon Shoes,” setting records in seven distances and the industry standard for the sport.
The rest, as we all know, is history (although most of you never knew it all began with something as uncomplicated as a kitchen appliance).
Almost 40 years later, running shoes have come a long way…or have they? “It comes and goes in cycles,” said Chris Rowley, owner of Up and Running, a running specialty store in El Paso, TX. Chris is one of many local residents who knows a thing or two about running, and somewhat of the go-to-guy for runners in El Paso. “If you look at the early running shoes, they were light, with almost no sole, at least not like the thicker, more buoyant ones we became used to. We seem to have come full circle.”
Yes we have, and as most runners have noticed, the new trends in running shoes have begun to tow the line between state-of-the-art technology and natural instincts. The newer running styles are based on the idea that, as runners, we should return to running in our natural state. What could be easier, right?
Shoes such as Vibram’s “Five Fingers” are touting the benefits of running barefoot, with flexible plastic soles making up the foundation of their support. The Nike “Free” and the Saucony “Kinvara” are throwbacks to earlier models, adding to the growing list of super lightweight footwear designed to free the runner from the cumbersome weight of a shoe.
But with so many brands to choose from and so many options to consider, we want to know: does the shoe really make a difference?
For those of you hoping to pick up your next pair of shoes off the rack at your local blowout sale, we hate to do this to you, but…the shoe really does matter. Ask any experienced runner, and he’ll tell you: you can get enough sleep, eat the right foods, and train your little heart out, but if you don’t have the right shoes, you might as well hang up your laces and pick another sport.
The right shoes make the runner, not because the newer running styles come in sassy colors and are as light as a feather (although we do love making a statement). No, it’s because the right shoes make all the difference when you’re trying to protect your feet and avoid injury. Shin splints, Plantar Fasciitis, and Runner’s Knee are just a few of the injuries that can sideline a runner, and all of which can be avoided by choosing the right shoe.
Figuring out the best shoe for you involves understanding pronation, or how your foot strikes the ground as you run, and your foot type. “Runners have different running styles,” Chris said. “Most of us heel strike, but there are different types of pronators and different types of shoes that provide varying levels of support.”
So just how do you figure all of this out? “All someone needs to do is come by and let us watch you walk,” Chris said. “We’re able to tell what type of arch you have, whether you have an arch, whether you overpronate, underpronate…you name it.” Sounds simple enough. But what about those of you who reside beyond the realm of Chris’s support? We have an option for you as well. Check out “Foot Diagnostics” at Runnersworld.com and you’ll find quick and easy tips to help you diagnose your foot yourself.
Sounds confusing? Ok, maybe a little. But if you’re serious about running and new to the sport, or if you’ve been serious about the sport but never put much stock in your shoes, then it’s about time you gave them a little more credit. After all, they are the only thing coming between you and the finish line.
For more information, visit Up and Running at 3233 N. Mesa, Suite 205, El Paso, TX, (915) 317 – 5733.