How to Choose The Right Running Shoes
How to Choose Running Shoes That Suit Your Running Style and Fit Life Goals
“The best runner leaves no tracks” – Tao Te Ching
Running is an excellent way to boost your health, lose weight and meet new friends. It’s an important part of many exercise regimes for sport and recreation and a vital component of a fit life.
From short runs to marathons, fast-paced field races to multi-day trail runs there are a multitude of events to suit all types of runners, just as there are a plethora of running shoes to suit everyone’s fitness levels, preferences and abilities.
There’s an old adage that goes, ‘no foot, no horse’ and the same could be applied to runners. Without high-quality, well-fitting running shoes, you may as well stay on the couch and enjoy the latest series on Netflix.
Correctly fitting running shoes are all that there is between you and the cold, hard road or rocky outcrops. They cushion your feet from the impact of each step and help to soften the blow on joints and cartilage.
While the near-mythical Tarahumara people, an almost lost tribe in the remote wilderness of North America can run ultra-distances barefoot, the majority of us are simply not built to run and our bodies bear the brunt of our obsession for the sport. Running in the wrong shoes can instigate and aggravate injury and frustrate your fitness goals – here’s how to choose running shoes that will help and not hinder your progress.
How to Choose Running Shoes 101
You don’t need to splurge on the top brands of running shoes unless you are looking to fill your trophy cabinet or tackle the ultra-distances.
Shoes in the mid-range price bracket will work just as well for low-level running, but they may not last as long as the more expensive ones. Choosing correctly fitting shoes will help them to wear evenly and prolong their life.
Always shop for shoes after 4 pm. Your feet start swelling in the morning and only stop in the late afternoon, much as they would when running the longer distances.
This may sound like an obvious point but try the shoes on before you buy them. One size does not fit all when it comes to different brands of shoes. A size 8 Nike may not be exactly the same as a size 8 Reebok, and within each brand the fit around the foot will differ.
Also important when you go shopping for running shoes is to try the shoes on while wearing the same thickness of sock you usually run in.
Ladies, listen up! Shopping for running shoes is no time to be self-conscious about how big your feet look or which color best suits your running gear. There’s no such thing as squeezing your foot into a running shoe for the sake of fashion. There should be at least half an inch of wiggle room for your toes inside the shoe. Tight running shoes cause black toenails, blisters and poor circulation.
Get the Support You Need
A good running shoe should hold your feet in a firm and comforting hug that makes you feel like you could keep going forever. There are three elements in a shoe that affect the support it offers your feet, namely:
- The upper layer of a running shoe is the largest and most obvious part. It also provides the most support to your entire foot during running. The top of your running shoe should fit snugly and have no irritating seams that can cause rubbing and blistering.
- The heel counter is a semi-rigid cup on the inside of the shoe that support the heel on landing and help to center it.
- The midsole of the running shoe is where the magic happens. This rubbery layer cushions the foot from impact and provides arch where necessary.
Energy return is what puts the spring in your step when wearing running shoes. This is determined by the amount of bounce in the midsole. Generally, the lighter and more comfortable a shoe feels, the higher its energy return.
While high energy return shoes won’t give you much of your energy back as you run, they do return to their original shape quicker for lasting support and comfort.
The offset, or drop, of a running shoe refers to the difference in height between the front of the shoe and the heel, with a range of zero to 16mm. The preference would seem to favor a drop of between 4mm to 8mm.
In theory, a heel-to-toe drop dictates how your feet strike the road. New technology and continual research has produced a minimalist running shoe with zero drop that is supposedly closer to barefoot running. The transition though from a heel drop of 8mm to a zero drop should be done gradually to reduce the impact on your joints, and lessen the change in your natural biomechanics.
There is no right-or-wrong way to choose the correct heel lift but if you experience tightness in your tendons while running, a lower lift can help.
Don’t buy a running shoe because your friend has a pair that they like or because you fancy the color or design on the outside. What works for them may not work for you.
Also, be wary of shoe salesmen lumping you into categories of running styles such as pronators and supinators that fit with a certain design of shoe. You’d be better off getting advice from a biokineticist about how to correct your running style than trying to find a shoe that fits. The most important elements to consider are fit, feel and function:
- Properly measure your heel-to-toe length, as well as the arch length from your heel to the ball of your foot which is where your foot flexes.
- Don’t be scared to go up a shoe size, or even half a size for a better fit.
- Whatever you do, don’t give in to peer pressure or advice from a friend. It’s about feel, not looks.
An Important Consideration
Remember, running shoes are designed for running. Don’t use them for your gym workouts or for a trip down to the grocery store. These activities will cause uneven wear on your shoes and affect their ability to cushion your foot during running.
Above all, listen to your body. No matter how good your shoes are, the best way to avoid injury is to steer away from overdoing it. Run consciously, think about the way you’re using your body during exercise and don’t over exert yourself.