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Test Your Running Shoes

Strength, flexibility, balance, running form and shoes are all part of the healthy runner equation. Runners are often quick to blame shoes for injuries, and although not always the case, a properly functioning running shoe is important.

 Aaron Hall, physical therapist with OrthoCarolina and certified post injury running coach wants to keep you running. Before your next run, Hall recommends doing a few quick tests to make sure your shoes are ready to log the miles.

First, visually examine your shoes – look for any rips or tears. Check to see if the sole is coming off or if anything is unglued.

Next, place the shoe down, with the back facing you. Look at the logo on the top of the shoe. The logo should be easy to see and perpendicular. If the logo is leaning left or right, it implies the top of the shoe is not firm to the bottom of the shoe, likely a result of wear patterns due to running gait mechanics.

Even if a shoe looks ok visually, most only have a 500-mile range. Aaron recommends a few additional tests be performed to ensure the shoe is working properly.

  • Twist test –  Hold a shoe in both hands and give it a little twist.  The shoe should give a little. If it does not give, or if it twists like your ringing out a rag, it’s time to invest in a new pair.
  • Break test – Hold a shoe in both hands, this time collapse and compress the shoe together. The shoe should have a natural bend where the balls of your feet would be. However, the shoe should not completely collapse or flatten.  If this occurs or if the shoe does not bend at all, it’s a sign that there is either not enough or too much support in the shoe.
  • Fit test – Put the shoes on with your normal running socks. Check the gap between the end of your shoe and your toes. If the gap is more than half a nail, then the shoe has stretched and may be too big. You would likely benefit from a better fitting shoe.

In addition to these tests, Hall shares that most shoes only have a two-year shelf-life. After two years, the foam in a shoe begins to dry rot and give out. Hall cautions runners to be careful when buying or stocking up on shoes that may already be wearing out due to age.   

Aaron Hall is a physical therapist with OrthoCarolina Monroe.

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