An interview with Dr. Nicholas Smith, DC – a distance runner and chiropractor

Q: How can a person find the right shoe for general exercise?

A: Most running shops have detailed analysis systems to help you select the right shoe. The best shops have computerized pressure scans that generate an image not only of foot shape and arch height, but also where you tend to apply more pressure on your feet. This gives the shop a sense of which shoes will best fit you. Additionally, most shops will have you run or walk barefoot on the treadmill and either visually assess you or take video. Video is nice as it allows them to see your biomechanics, and they can replay your recording in slow motion or frame-by-frame. It ’s a rare opportunity that we get to see our own bodies in motion. From here, the shop can determine the right shoes for you based on the type of exercise you are doing. I t ’s best to let the experts help you decide, especially if you are new to exercise.

Q: What expense should a person expect when buying a good exercise shoe?

A: Most quality shoes will range from $80-$100. Some shoes are now $150-$180. For the most part, you get what you pay for. The best thing to do is consider a broad range of shoes that a shop considers mechanically sound for your foot, and stay within budget.

Q: What tips do you give for making a shoe last?

A: The number one thing is to make sure you only use your workout shoes for working out. If you wear them to mow the lawn, shop at the mall, or wear them to work, they will wear down faster. Additionally, if you wear the same shoes all the time, it will stress your feet and body in the same exact way all day long. I think it will increase your risk of injury. This makes it easier to justify your enormous shoe collection! I t ’s better for you to have lots of shoes!

Q: What typical foot pain can be corrected with the right shoe?

A: I have seen diagnosed cases of plantar fasciitis, posterior tibialis tendonitis, and lots of other aches and pains from knees to low backs clear up or improve from being in the correct shoe. I do see people fit into the wrong shoes acquiring everything from bad blisters to consistent knee pain.

Q: Is there any other information patients should know about getting the right exercise shoe?

A: There is a large movement in running and exercise towards minimal shoes. You have probably seen people cruising around in the Vibram Five Fingers that fit to your individual toes. Ultimately, research will help us decide whether or not it is healthier for us to be in shoes that let our feet do the work as much as possible. That research is being done at institutions like the Harvard School of Public Health, the US military, and the University of Colorado. The New York Times does a particularly good job of keeping up with this emerging research; I suggest online search and reading. It is nearly impossible to say that one thing is good for all people, so this decision must be made on an individual basis. As a chiropractor educated in advanced biomechanics and orthopedics, and as a former elite distance runner, I believe the minimal shoe argument to be plausible. As with being in any shoe and starting into exercise, you must listen to your body and ease into new challenges to allow your body to adapt. Staying healthy is most important!

Dr. Nicholas Smith, DC, is a chiropractor in Denver, CO at Botanica Wellness Sanctuary. As a competitive distance runner, he had a strong career at the University of Missouri and competed in many US Championship races, including a personal record of 29:21 for 10,000m in track and 23:30 for 8,000m in road racing.

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