Choosing Running Shoes: The Essential Guide
How To Choose Running Shoes
No matter whether you’re a seasoned runner or just fancy testing your limits every once in a while; the shoes on your feet will have a huge impact on your performance. If you weren’t aware already, running without running shoes can cause serious damage to your feet and various other ligaments. You’ll find yourself having a really uncomfortable experience with injuries to match. If you want to get the most out of your run, you’re going to need to purchase a pair of running shoes which tick all the right boxes. This is no easy task though, as there are lots of things to take into consideration before you invest. From the comfort of the shoe right through to the terrain you’re running on, you need to understand how to choose the best running shoes for you. With the help from this essential guide on choosing running shoes, you’ll be sure to make the best decision.
To begin, we’ll start with the basic observations that you need to make when choosing running shoes. Don’t be fooled by how simple this is, though – the technical parts will come later. With the more experience you get with buying running shoes, the more you’ll be able to focus on these three all-important points:
- What type of running do you do? Do you have a particular running style?
- What type of running shoe has the best features that match up to your needs?
- Have you tried the shoe on? Did it fit well?
If you’re scratching your head while you read these points (particularly point 1 and 2), don’t worry. The rest is going to be explained shortly.
The Top 3 Types Of Runners
Let’s get stuck right into one of the most important aspects of a running shoe selection process: the categories. Of course, the type of running you do may differ as time goes on, but if you have a running style which is more favoured than others, then sticking by these categories will help you out immensely.
Road-Runners – If you tend to go on runs around the block or in residential areas, then it’s worth looking into road-running shoes. These types of shoes are specially made for hard surfaces like pavements, meaning they will stabilize your feet and avoid causing any damage when on irregular surfaces.
Cross-Trainers – If you’re a gym fanatic and spend most of your time on the cross-trainer, then you’d benefit from a pair of gym running shoes. Gym running shoes are extremely lightweight and will allow you to stay balanced while performing workouts on various different pieces of equipment.
Trail-Runners – For the nature enthusiasts who enjoy running in unexplored areas and off-road routes, trail running shoes will be necessary to purchase. Trail runs will have the roughest terrains, full of dirt and rocks, so you’re going to need a shoe with a solid support system which will give the soles of your feet plenty of protection.
Do You Have A Running Style?
As well as the environment in which you run in, figuring out exactly how you run will also help you to be able to make an informed decision on what running shoes to purchase. This is going to differ between runners, so be sure to assess the following points closely in order to establish what type of running style you have. Figuring out these patterns early on will help you to pick out features of a running shoe which will have the most benefit.
Please note that the following can only be done if you have a pair of worn-in running shoes. You’ll need to be able to see the wear patterns on the soles for this to be successful.
Pronation – When referring to running styles, your ‘pronation’ is what is focused on. Pronation is the rolling movement which takes place in your foot, from the heel to toe. If you have a proper foot strike pattern, the outer side of your heel will move up to the ball of your foot with ease. This is called the ‘proper’ strike pattern, as it plays a massive part in how your foot reduces the impact of hitting the ground.
Overpronation – If you roll too much on the inside of your foot as you run, then you are prone to overpronation. The cause of this is usually based on the lack of arch your foot has. We will discuss arches shortly in this guide, so hang on in there!
Runners with overpronation are likely to suffer from knee injuries. To solve this, it’s wise to opt for shoes which provide proper stability.
Under-pronation – Alternatively, under-pronation occurs when your foot rolls too far to the outside. This is typically caused by having a higher arch than normal.
If you have realised you have problems with under-pronation, then be sure to look for running shoes with plenty of flexibility and cushioning.
Check Out Your Foot Arch
As well as figuring out your running style, you’ll need to assess what type of foot arch you have. Once again, this is very important to figure out as you will need to buy a pair of running shoes that support it properly. Now, there are many ways which can be done, but a technique which runners swear by is the ‘wet test’. This isn’t anything too complicated, simply wet both of your feet and stand on a piece of paper for no longer than 15 seconds. As you step off the piece of paper, you will have foot imprints that will help you to discover your arch type. All will be explained…
Normal Arch – If your wet footprints have an obvious curve along the inside of your foot, then you have a normal arch.
High Arch – If there’s an incredibly thin mark (or no mark at all) connecting your heel and toe, then you have a high arch. This can be further confirmed through a prominent curve along the inside of the foot.
Low Arch – Has your footprint revealed most of your foot with very little signs of a curve along the inside? If so, then it’s likely that you have a low arch or flat feet.
Types Of Running Shoe
Once you’ve established which type of runner you are and what type of bone structure you have, you’ll be able to match the following features accordingly and figure out what you need to look out for. If the running shoe you have your eye on doesn’t hold any of these features, then you can say goodbye to it as it will be of extremely low-quality. Your running shoes won’t need to have every single feature on this list, but pay close attention to what you will need for the type of running you do.
- Neutral – Neutral shoes are perfect for runners who have a somewhat ‘average’ pronation. Neutral running shoes have a special type of cushioning which will absorb the impact of your feet hitting the ground, relieving a lot of pressure which heads towards your joints and knees, in particular. As well as this, with neutral shoes, you can expect slight arch support, but nothing too major, meaning they’re perfectly suited for runners with a normal arch.
- Motion Control – Motion control running shoes do exactly what they say on the tin; they ensure that the motion of your feet is under control. This stops your feet from over-rolling as a result. Motion control shoes are typically found to have a stiff heel so that those who suffer from major overpronation don’t injure themselves while running.
- Stability – Stability running shoes are designed for runners who may not necessarily have the best balance, giving the support needed to have a safe and enjoyable run. Stability shoes feature a structure which mimics the form of a foot arch, meaning they’re perfect for runners with flat feet or very little arch.
- Minimalistic – Minimalist shoes are typically used by those who run in the gym, as they provide very little protection on the sole. With minimalist running shoes, you’ll get enough flexibility and cushioning for a comfortable running experience, but nothing too specialised for pronation or specific arch type.
So, you have a basic understanding of what features your running shoe needs – what next? We recommend starting your purchase journey by browsing online at various different brands who offer high-quality running shoes. The price tags of some designer brands can be enough to make you ironically want to run a mile, but the price always reflects in the quality, and investing in running shoes is a wise decision to make. If you head to a cheap brand and pay next to nothing for a pair of running shoes, it’s unlikely that they will offer the support you need nor last as long as you’d like. Check out the running shoes provided to you by the following brands for a trusted buying experience:
- Under Armour – Under Armour don’t just provide sports enthusiasts with thermals specially designed for their desired activities; they also provide top-quality running shoes, too. In fact, Under Armour have shoes designed for a whole range of sports, from running to golfing to basketball. With such expertise creating shoes in a variety of different sporting categories, it’s safe to say they know just what to include in a fully functioning, comfortable and supportive running shoe. We suggest checking out the Under Armour HOVR Infinite if you want a shoe that’s perfect for road runs, as it features a very unique ‘energy web’ which works hand in hand with the responsiveness of its foam padding.
- Nike – Nike is probably one of the first brands which come to mind when you consider buying a new pair of sneakers. This is for all the right reasons too, as since 1964, Nike has been the go-to for all things sportswear. Now, Nike has been perfecting their running shoes for years upon years, so a simple Google search for a running shoe with your specific needs will deliver exactly what you need. However, a favourite which we can’t help but mention is the ‘Air Zoom’ range. Nike’s Air Zoom running shoes are utilised with just the right amount of cushioning to give those with any type of arch a comfortable experience. Not only this, but the trainers are available in so many different colours and patterns, that you’ll never have to fear about blending in too much with everyone else wearing this world-favourite shoe.
- Asics – Asics are another sportswear brand worth keeping an eye on. They may not be the first brand which comes to mind, but they’re the specialists in creating high-performing shoes for fitness enthusiasts like yourself, meaning it’s clear that they’ll have the products to suit. In fact, Asics are absolutely smashing it in the running shoe world at the moment, and have plenty of designs to choose from. Personally, we recommend the Asics Gel-Nimbus range – it’s been around for years yet still receiving so much praise from runners all over the globe. This is likely to be due to the fact that it’s made from three midsole materials which will support your arch and soften the impact of your feet hitting the ground while running.
Go To The Store & Find The Perfect Fit
Once you’ve got a rough idea as to what brand you want to buy from, it’s time to head off to your local shoe store to find the perfect fit. You might think that ordering online is the most efficient option, and we agree that it’s the easiest, but buying running shoes is something you want to get right the first time, meaning it’s best to try on a load of pairs in a store before spending any money. It’s likely that you’ll end up in a vicious cycle of having to exchange products online otherwise, which will take weeks to sort.
So, you’re at the store, with a wall full of running shoes in front of you. You have a few strong contenders, and it’s time to try them on. Take these three golden rules into account:
Pick The Right Size – Unless you’ve been wandering around barefoot your whole life, it’s likely that you know what size feet you have. If you’re still unsure or wish to double check, then you’ll be pleased to know that all good shoe retailers should have a measuring machine or qualified employee that will be able to help you. It’s important that you buy the right size of shoe, as too big will slip off and too small will give you blisters. No one wants that.
Don’t be in denial with your shoe size, either. If the store doesn’t have your size in stock, simply ask to get notified when it’s back in their warehouse. Don’t purchase the wrong size as a case of convenience!
The Thumb Technique – Just like any other shoes, running shoes require a little bit of breathing space to be comfortable. In order to make sure that the shoe fits you well, make sure that you have around 1cm of space between the tip of your toe and the tip of the shoe. If you don’t have a ruler on hand, roughly aim for a thumbnail’s length.
Comfort – If a running shoe isn’t comfortable from the moment you put it on, there’s no chance of the experience getting any better any time soon. Running shoes need to be comfortable, otherwise, you’ll have struggles running to the best of your ability. Wander around the store as much as need be in order to establish whether you feel comfortable in your chosen shoe. Do little runs across the store if necessary; you might feel weird doing this but it’s a logical test to carry out!
Know When To Buy A New Pair
If you’re wondering whether you need to go through all of this time and effort to get a new pair of running shoes, then we can happily settle this for you. It is suggested that running shoes should be replaced after they’ve been ran in for 300 miles. Now, 300 miles is a lot of miles, so you won’t be buying a new pair every week, that’s for sure! Of course, no one is forcing you to buy a new pair every time you hit the 300-mile mark, but around this stage you will start to notice the cushioning losing its foamy nature. Once the cushioning becomes ineffective, you’ll start to have extremely uncomfortable runs and may even end up injuring yourself.
Let’s Get Running!
There you have it! With all of the above pointers in mind, you’ll be well on your way to having a carefree shopping experience time and time again. This will all soon become second nature to you and you won’t even realise you’re going to these great measures to give your feet the treatment they deserve. Whether you decide to get a lightweight running shoe or something full of stability, we’re confident that you’ll make the right decision after using this guide.