Gear Guy

Gel Kayano 13 Running Shoe     Photo: courtesy, Asics

Q:

Can a super-cushy running shoe alleviate heel pain?

I have a modest build and run three times per week on mostly hard surfaces. Recently, after every session I’ve developed persistent heel pain. Any suggestion on a good running shoe that offers outstanding cushioning? Rich New York, New York

A:Well, for starters, it sounds like you have a foot problem–not a shoe problem. Maybe you injured your foot, probably from hammering it into hard roadways. You could be suffering from plantar fasciitis, bursitis, or even achilles heel tendinitis. So far starters, I’d stay get off the running paths for a week or two, icing the sore area regularly (just rub an ice cube on it until the cube melts, or do same thing with two cubes back to back). Then, if you can run pain-free, slowly build your miles back up while trying to stay off the concrete or asphalt if you possibly can. If the pain persists, see a sports medicine doctor. I am NOT a sports medicine doc.

Besides, cushioned shoes may not be the answer. They have extra cushioning, it’s true, but that usually comes at the price of stability. So you could get a shoe that does indeed help with the heel issue, but that causes some other problem if you have any issues with over-pronation or over-supination.

With your frame, you don’t need a super-cushioning shoe, in my view. Try something like the Adidas Supernova Cushion ($85; adidas.com). It uses a polyurethane cushioning material (AdiPrene), which should provide a good combination of cushioning and durability. And it is built on a slip last, which is the best fit for most feet. I’m also a big fan of Asics shoes, such as the Gel Kayano 13 ($135; asics.com), which offers lots of cushioning in a stable shoe. New Balance are excellent as well; the 1060 ($110; newbalance.com) is a highly cushioned shoe, but New Balance always makes sure their shoes are stable, too. “Stable" in this case means they’ll support a neutral foot. They aren’t “motion control" shoes, which actively counter a foot’s tendency to skew one way or the other.

It may be that you should see a podiatrist for an orthotic for extra support for your heel area. But I think with some conservative treatment and good shoes, you’ll soon be running pain-free.

The Gear Guy reports from 2007 Winter Outdoor Retailer, the bi-annual gearapalooza in Salt Lake City. Check out his top picks for gear to watch in 2007.

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