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.

Feet are important, and for a runner, keeping your feet healthy and choosing the right shoes is fundamental.

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

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)

I am Dr Paul Butterworth from podiatry and pedorthics here at Southern Cross University and we're here in our manufacturing lab where we deal with footwear and our students deal with footwear on a daily basis.

If you're running the Gold Coast Marathon or the ten kilometre run perhaps footwear is going to be something you'll be thinking about so I'm here to just give you a few basic tips on things to consider prior to your run.

What we have here are some examples of shoes. Now footwear have different aspects to them we often refer to it as footwear anatomy so we have a heel counter, we have a toe box, we have the upper of the footwear and it al varies depending on make and model.

What you should be doing is firstly using a little bit of common sense and making sure that your footwear fits, that it's supportive that it's not causing any blisters or irritation.

You should be using your runners for a period of time prior to the main event to make sure that those things don't happen.

If you have a neutral foot then a neutral runner will be appropriate if you have a really flat foot you may require something with a little more support in the heel counter that gives you some rigidity to prevent your foot flattening out too much because as we know flat feet can cause problems.

At the same time having high arch feet can also cause problems and so making sure that you get the footwear to fit your feet is very important particularly with such a big event coming up.

So go to a good footwear store. I can't recommend one over the other, make sure that your shoes fit and that you're comfortable with them and that you wear them in prior to your event.

Good luck with your event and hopefully your feet survive the ordeal and if you need to see us here we have a student clinic where we can assess any foot problems you might have.


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.


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