Foot health and the right shoes

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If you’re running the Gold Coast marathon, running shoes are the first thing you’ll think about. Dr Paul Butterworth from Southern Cross University shares some tips about putting your best foot forward.

Southern Cross University midwifery student Heidi Patenaude will run the 10km leg of the Gold Coast Marathon.

Feet are important, and for a runner, keeping your feet healthy and choosing the right shoes is fundamental. The science of footwear is a highly specialised health discipline, and, luckily for runners about to undertake the Gold Coast marathon, we have expertise right at our doorstep.

Southern Cross University is the only university in Australia to offer a Bachelor degree in pedorthics and a double degree in pedorthics and podiatry. Pedorthics is an allied health discipline that involves the design and manufacture of footwear supports and orthoses. These can provide better mobility for people who suffer from conditions of the feet and lower limbs. Pedorthists are also experts in the manufacture of sporting footwear, including running shoes. At the state-of-the-art pedorthics laboratory at Southern Cross University, students analyse, design and manufacture footwear all day.

“Running shoes, like all footwear, have different aspects to them. We refer to it as footwear anatomy. This includes a heel counter, a toe box and the upper of the footwear. All of these aspects of footwear anatomy vary according to the make and model of the shoe, but it’s important to understand what kind of foot you have and how to choose the right footwear for your foot,” says Dr Butterworth, senior lecturer at Southern Cross.


Podiatry expert Dr Paul Butterworth on footwear for marathon training/running. (1:55)

If a runner has a neutral foot (that does not roll inwards or outwards as they run) then a neutral runner will be appropriate. A neutral runner does not have any extra support and lets the foot maintain its neutral position.

“But if you have a really flat foot then something with a little more rigidity in the heel counter may be appropriate as this helps the foot to not flatten out too much. Flat feet as we know can cause serious problems such as chronic foot pain, swelling and even pain in the legs and lower back,” says Dr Butterworth.

Having an arch that goes the other way can also cause problems however. “Having a high arch can cause foot pain as you have more weight placed on the ball of the foot. So you will need support in a different part of the shoe,” Dr Butterworth added, noting the importance of getting shoes fitted professionally at a reputable store.

When deciding what to wear for the marathon, athletes should use common sense, making sure footwear fits and that it doesn’t cause any blisters or irritation. “Blisters are one of the biggest problems we see in runners. You should be wearing in your runners well before the big day – it sounds like the most basic advice but the last thing you should do is arrive on the day with new or nearly new shoes,” said Dr Butterworth.

Podiatry and pedorthics clinics are held regularly at the Southern Cross University Health Clinic on the Gold Coast campus.