If you’ve been in a running-oriented store lately you will know that the question ‘what shoes should I buy?’ is not a simple one to answer, as the options are seemingly endless. It’s incredibly important you choose the right shoe for your foot and running style – so we created this guide to help you out!
There are several questions you should ask yourself before buying a shoe. What is the shape of my foot? What does my foot strike look like? What type of terrain will I be running on? What type of runs is this shoe going to be used for?
When you go to a running-specific store, a staff member will assess you and help narrow down the best shoe for you. But it’s good to have a basic understanding before you go in, so here are some of the things you should be thinking about the next time you walk into a running store to buy a shoe.
We’ll start with what is called your ‘foot strike pattern’ because it’s very important. There are essentially three types of feet: the Pronator, the Supinator and the Neutral.
1. The Pronator
The pronator is someone whose foot falls inward, or their arch collapses, during walking or running. Pronation is not a bad thing, but a naturally occurring phenomenon and part of normal movement. However, overpronation – when your foot falls too far inward – can be problematic. Overpronation causes problems all the way up your leg and into your back. The best way to correct this is to get a shoe that offers arch support. These are usually called motion control shoes.
2. The Supinator
The supinator is someone whose foot rolls outwards during walking or running. Supination is a normal part of gait but only occurs at the very end of the cycle when your foot pushes off the ground. When it occurs before that time it can cause a whole host of problems up the line and into your back. To correct for this problem, you need a shoe to be stabilized in the heel and not as much into the arch. These types of shoes are typically known as cushioning.
3. The Neutral Foot
The neutral foot is the ideal running foot. The foot does not roll too far in or too far out. There is not too much to say about these feet. The typical shoe for a neutral foot is known as a stability shoe.
To recap: pronators should choose a motion control shoe, those with neutral feet should choose a stability shoe, and supinators should choose a cushioning shoe.
There are several ways that you can find out what type of foot you have. One way is to wet your foot and walk across a sheet of paper and look at the pattern your arch makes. If the mark is very narrow across the arch, then you are a supinator; if it is very wide across the arch you are a pronator; if it is just right through the arch you are neutral. However, you’re best to have an assessment at a running-specific store where they will look at your gait and recommend the right shoe for you.
The type of surface you run on affects the amount of force that is transmitted up through your legs into the rest of your body. Running on a softer surface is easier on your body. The ranking of hardest surface to softest is as follows: cement (sidewalk), pavement (road), dirt (trails), grass and, lastly, sand. You can get running shoes specific to road running and trail running.
Road running shoes are designed for the everyday surfaces that would typically be encountered city runs with the occasional trial or dirt path. A trail shoe is a road running shoe that has been toughened up. The trail shoe provides more stability for your ankles on uneven surfaces; it includes better traction through the sole to prevent slipping on things like mud or slippery tree roots. The trail shoe also has a rock plate between the sole and your foot, designed to minimize the risk of rock bruises. They are also more water repellant than a typical road shoe.
A road running shoe can be used on trails and a trial shoe can be used on the roads, but the relationship isn’t exactly equal. You will find it much easier to run on trails with your road shoes than to run on the road with your trail shoes.
Run Length & Type
The next thing that should be considered is the type of running you do. Not all runs are created equal, and you may notice that certain shoes feel better for certain types or distances of runs than others do. Let’s break the types of runs down into three categories: the long run, the weekday run, and intervals.
1. Long Runs
Long runs need a higher mileage shoe that can hold up to the constant pounding. These are made a little heartier than your average shoe, with a thicker sole, and more weight to them. This shoe should last you around 800km.
2. Weekday Runs
The weekday run shoe doesn’t need to withstand as much pounding as the long run shoe. These shoes tend to be lighter and have a thinner sole than the long-distance shoe and you may get around 500km out of these.
3. Interval Runs
The interval shoe tends to be in the minimalist category of shoe. They are lightweight, have thin soles and their heel drop (how far your heel is from the ground compared to the forefoot) is very minimal. These shoes are not your everyday shoes. They have very minimal cushioning and tend to be uncomfortable on longer runs. You may get 300-500 km on these shoes if you are lucky.
One advantage of having multiple shoes in your closet is the recovery time of the shoe. Just like you, a shoe needs to recover from a run. When you run four, five, or six days a week your shoes are less able to handle the load. This is because the foam in the sole needs about 24 hours to recover its cushion after a run. Not giving a shoe enough time to recover will make them feel flat on your runs. By having different shoes, you can simply switch the shoes up day after day, so each has its maximum amount of cushioning when you run.
This has just been a brief overview of the topic of running shoes. If you’re interested in getting more one-on-one support and advice on the topics of health fitness, your Nielsen Fitness personal trainer would be happy to help you. If you aren’t training with us yet, get in touch with us to book your complimentary first free workout and assessment. We can meet with you in your home, virtually, as well as in our Toronto studio location. We’ve helped hundreds of clients, and we look forward to helping you improve your running and overall fitness as well.