One question that we are often asked in clinic is “What’s the best type of running shoe?”
The simple answer is- there isn’t one. Every pair of feet is different, every type of shoe is different, and it very much depends on your own running style and what you find to be most comfortable.
The two most common mistakes made when choosing shoes are going for fashion over function, and not replacing your running shoes often enough! Shoes need to be replaced every 500-600 miles, which is normally every 8-10 months (for someone running 5 miles 3 times a week).
The type of shoe you need will depend on a number of factors, such as your weight, natural running style, foot shape, and type of running you are doing.
What’s my foot type?
Foot type can be divided into three categories- overpronators (flat foot), neutral, and supinators (high arches). You can assess what type of foot you have by making a print on the floor or a piece of paper with your foot when it is wet.
Neutral foot: This foot should leave a footprint which has a normal-sized arch, a widened flare across the base of the toes, and show the heel connected to the forefoot by a broad band. This is the foot of a runner who is using their foot in the most biomechanically efficient way and should not need a shoe that counteracts your natural foot-type.
High arches: The print of your foot will show either very little, or no band between the heel and the forefoot, and you will have a high, pronounced arch on the foot. It is likely that your feet will roll outwards when you run, leaving you prone to “turning over” on the ankle and injuring it. High arches may gradually fall over time and therefore it is very important for high-arch runners to have both their feet and their shoe fit measured regularly.
Flat foot: A wet footprint of a flat foot will look as though the majority of the foot is in contact with the floor. Having a lower medial arch means that you may strike on the outside of the heel, rolling the foot inwards as you do. This can often lead to ankle instability and overuse injuries.
So what type of shoe do I need?
Now you know what type of foot you have, you can start to look for an appropriate shoe type. Broadly speaking, shoes can be divided into stabilising, neutral, minimalist and performance.
Stabilising shoes are best for those who overpronate as you will need a shoe with good support and cushioning for the midsole to avoid your foot “rolling inwards” as you run.
Neutral shoes provide plenty of cushioning for the whole of the foot and are best for runners who have good technique (with minimum pronation) and mid/forefoot runners who have high or normal arches.
Minimalist shoes provide a small amount of cushioning and are popular amongst runners who seek responsiveness without hindering the natural movement of the foot.
Performance shoes are lighter in weight and fit more closely than normal running shoes, and are often custom-made based on the runner’s preferences for cushioning.
You can often tell how much or how little support a shoe offers by looking for the amount of grey posting on the middle side of shoe. In most running brands, this is a dual-density foam that helps prevent pronation of the foot. Generally the amount of grey will indicate how much correction the shoe will offer your foot.
Top tips when shoe shopping
- Wear your running socks when trying shoes on. The thickness of the sock worn when trying on the shoe can affect the overall fit.
- Measure your feet every time- foot size can change in terms of both length and width, and can be different between left and right foot. It is important to ensure you have your feet measured every time to make sure you are buying the right size.
- Shop at a specialist store- the staff there will be better equipped to assess your foot and recommend an appropriate shoe.
- Shop later in the day, or better yet, after a workout when your feet are generally at their largest. You are more likely to get a better fit if you shop for a new pair at these times.
- Where are you going to be running? Cross-country shoes will be uncomfortable when running on roads, and similarly road shoes will not offer enough stability if you’re fell running on uneven ground. Consider where you’re most likely to be running and choose a shoe appropriate for the activity.
- Your shoes are a piece of equipment, not a fashion statement. Do not be swayed by colour, marketing strategy, or fancy brand-names. Choose only based on comfort, fit, and functionality.
- Don’t run in shoes that have lost their support. Running shoes can be expensive, and so the temptation is to avoid replacing them for as long as possible. Trying to squeeze extra life out of shoes that have lost their support (and therefore the protection they provide) will leave you susceptible to injury.
Remember- running is a cheap activity, no expensive gym memberships are required. The only thing you need are good running shoes and it is worth investing in the right pair!