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Healthbeat: Choose proper shoes to avoid injury
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Let this summer’s warm weather inspire you to walk around outside more or even enter your first race as a runner. Just remember that regardless of the distance, or whether you plan to run or walk, a foot or lower leg injury will definitely slow down your progress.

The good news is wearing the correct running shoe can go a long way to limit these bumps in the road. There’s an easy way to choose which shoe is right for you.

As you take a step, your heel usually strikes the ground first. The foot then rolls slightly inward and the arch flattens to cushion the impact (pronation). Then the foot rolls slightly outward (supination) and stiffens to create a springboard to propel your next step.

The type of foot structure we each have plays a significant role in this process. There are basically three different types of feet:

• Flat: Very little arch is under the middle of your foot when standing and walking barefoot. This means you’re most likely an overpronator, meaning your foot rolls excessively inward as you run.

• High-arch: Excessively high arch under the middle of your foot while barefoot. If you are high-arched, you’re most likely an underpronator or an excessive supinator. This means your foot is rigid with limited shock absorption.

• Neutral: Arch appears normal while barefoot. This is the most common type of foot and also the least susceptible to injury.

Fortunately, running shoe companies have designed specific shoes to help accommodate each of these three differing foot types.

• Motion control shoes are designed for runners with flat feet. These shoes have flatter soles and extra stability features to control overpronation.

• Cushion shoes are designed for runners with high arches. These shoes are flexible and have elevated shock absorption which encourages natural pronation.

• Stability shoes are designed for runners with normal arches. These shoes generally have light support features and well cushioned mid-soles to help support mild to moderate pronators

Fortunately, most running shoe stores group their shoes these different categories. Once you know what foot type you have, it is best to go in and try three to four different brands in your classification to see which one fits your particular foot best.

Hopefully the right shoes will make it easier for you to meet your fitness and weight loss goals while avoiding those nagging injuries.

Jim Hlavacek MS, PT, DPT, is a physical therapist at The Rehabilitation Institute, 597 South Enota Drive NE, Gainesville; 770-219-8200, www.nghs.com/rehab.

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