The wet test is a simple way to gauge how your foot hits the ground and subsequently what kind of running shoes you should be wearing when hitting the pavement.

The wet test is a simple way to gauge how your foot hits the ground and subsequently what kind of running shoes you should be wearing when hitting the pavement. (Charlie Reed / S&S)

Those in the market for new running shoes should start with the "wet test" before plunking down a small fortune on just any pair that looks cool.

As 2009 swings into week three, many of us are hunkering down into newfound fitness routines, including jogging more, or just jogging at all. And experts say a good shoe can help newbies stick with it.

The wet test might sound like a potty-training technique, but it’s actually a simple way to help those new to the running scene determine what type of sneaker they should ideally be wearing, according to exercise physiologist Darrin Muhr, with the 48th Medical Group based at RAF Lakenheath. The wet test is also touted by Runner’s World, a popular monthly magazine and Web site.

The test involves wetting the feet and then placing them onto a brown paper bag or a towel. The impression reveals whether the feet are flat, normal or have high arches. Running shoes also come in three basic styles: stability, motion control and cushioned.

Normal feet perform best in stability shoes with moderate control features, according to a guide on Flat feet need motion control shoes or high-stability shoes with firm midsoles and control features while high arches work optimally with cushioned shoes, according to the Web site.

Everyone in the Air Force must be able to hoof it 1.5 miles in about 12 minutes to meet periodic physical training requirements, but not all airmen jog regularly. Wearing the proper shoes can make running more comfortable and less of a chore by reducing the chance of acute or prolonged injuries, such as shin splints and ankle sprains.

"If you’re hurt, you’re not going to do it," said Muhr, who teaches a monthly running clinic offered by the health and wellness centers at RAFs Lakenheath and Mildenhall.

The right shoes could also save you a few bucks because they likely will not wear out as quickly if you’re "diagnosed" correctly, he said.

Walking into an athletic store looking for more than trendy tennis shoes to rock with jeans can be a little daunting. The choices are sometimes overwhelming, thanks to the ever-growing variety of 21st-century sneaker features – from the old-school air pockets in the heel to high-tech gadgets that record distance and other variables with minuscule shoe sensors. But do the wet test and a little research before setting foot in the store.

Paying attention to these general rules of thumb when choosing running shoes "is definitely not a fad," said Muhr.

While some experts contend jogging is not good for the knees and joints, it’s a standard conditioning technique in the military and one that many civilians around base also embrace. There are other factors to consider, depending on whether you run indoors or outdoors, but the wet test will at least put you in the right direction.

Muhr said those taking up running would be wise not only to buy the right shoes but also set realistic goals.

"You don’t want to overdo it," he said. "Get good shoes for your feet and start out slow."

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