1. Intended Use
Will you be road running, running on a purpose-built track or perhaps on a forest trail? All these surfaces require a different kind of shoe. Another basic distinction is between racing and training shoes.
2. Pronation type
Pronation is the term used for the way your foot rolls when you walk and run. Essentially, when buying any kind of sport shoe, you should know your pronation type first. Each shoe on the market is suitable for a type of pronation. You can find out what your pronation type is by getting an expert gait analysis done for you – many specialist running retail stores will offer this service.
- Cushioned - You're a neutral runner or an underpronator. Only 30% of runners fall into this category. If you're a neutral runner, you'll have an efficient running gait and you're likely to have a normal arch. If you're an underpronator, your foot doesn't pronate (roll inwards) enough during the gait cycle. You're likely to have a high, rigid arch. Both of these types require a cushioned shoe which won't hinder the natural pronation of the foot.
- Support - You're a mild to moderate overpronator. This means the arch will collapse through the gait cycle and the foot will roll inwards excessively. 60-80% of all runners overpronate, so don' t worry if you are an overpronator - this is normal! Support shoes are characterised by additional support features on the inside of the shoe.
- Control - You're a severe overpronator. This means the arch of your foot will collapse through the gait cycle and the foot will roll inwards severely. If you're this type of runner, you're likely to have a flat arch. Only 10% of runners need this type of shoe. Motion control shoes are particularly suited to heavier runners who need more support and cushioning. Motion control shoes are characterised by built in support on the inside of the shoe and tend to have wide soles for additional stability.
3. Length of the shoe
Keep an open mind with your shoe size and remember the following: your foot will need more room the more you run. The further you run the more your foot will naturally expand. This means it's wise to have just a little extra room in your shoe.
4. Width of the shoe
The width of your shoe is equally as important as the length when it comes to a good fit. People are not always built in perfect proportion and often have wider or narrower feet than the 'norm'.
Weight refers to two things:
- The runner’s weight - if you are a heavy or bigger built runner then you may need a shoe with a lot of support
- The shoe’s weight – generally, since you are going to be wearing your shoes for many kilometres, the lighter they are the better.
When you are buying shoes try them on in the evening (when your foot is slightly bigger) and try them on with running socks. There is a wide range available, with socks which are specifically designed for running and vastly improve the feeling of comfort and support inside the shoe. You can also buy socks which have been custom designed to match with a particular shoe design.
The old shoe test
Take a look at a pair of your old shoes to see what kind of shoes you need:
- Stand them on a level surface and look at them from behind the heel.
- If you over-pronate your shoes will show a slight inward lean. You need support shoes or motion control shoes if you feet roll too far. (Many people make the mistake of looking at wear on the outsole at the outside of the heel and thinking they don't over-pronate. This wear is caused on landing and does not relate to pronation)
- Under-pronation is when a runner's foot does not roll far enough. If you under-pronate your shoes will show a slight outwards lean. Choose a pair of cushioning shoes.
- Correct pronation means there won't be any lean. Your feet are said to be neutral. You should choose neutral shoes.
- A final thing to consider. If you have run in support shoes in the past, not had injury problems and your shoes show no signs of inwards lean it probably means you do need support shoes but the shoes have successfully prevented the over-pronation in the past.
An alternative way of being guided as to what type of shoe you'll need is the wet foot test.
With damp feet leave a barefoot print on a tiled floor (don't use a soft floor or carpet).
If you have a 'flat foot' it shows you have a low arch. Your foot print will show almost the whole sole of your foot with the band between heel and forefoot virtually the full width of your foot. Low arches usually indicate your feet are prone to over-pronation.
If you have a 'regular' arch the band between heel and forefoot will be around half the width of your foot. There is less likely to be a problem with over-pronation.
If you have a high arch you will see only a narrow band, or even no band at all, between the forefoot and the heel on your wet foot print. This indicates a high likelihood of under-pronation. You too should choose a neutral shoe.
Runners also vary in where their feet hit the ground. Most people heel strike. This means their foot hits the ground heel first before they roll forwards and off their toes.
A forefoot striker lands on the forefoot, they may then rock back onto the heel before moving forwards off the forefoot.
A midfoot striker lands with their foot heel and forefoot landing together.
A forefoot striker will need more forefoot cushioning as the forefoot is taking the initial impact force as well as the forces generated by toe-off. You will also find that as you run faster you will run more and more on your forefoot with the heel having less contact with the ground.
The shoe categories
We can divide running shoes into the following categories:
- Neutral - These trainers are for runners who are neutral or under-pronate. Some shoes in this category may also be suitable for mild over-pronators. Under-pronators should look for a flexible pair of well cushioned neutral shoes.
- Support - These still have the same kind of cushioning technologies as neutral shoes but in addition to this they have features to give extra support and guidance to slow and reduce over-pronation.
- Motion Control - People who over-pronate more severely and heavier runners who over-pronate can choose these shoes that provide extra support and guidance.
- Trail - specifically designed for off road running.
- Lightweights - for use in fast training or racing. Less protection than regular training shoes. These shoes are also either neutral or supportive.
- Racers - Made for racing or very fast training (eg track work). These shoes are very light but offer limited protection. Some offer some support for over-pronators.
General advice for buying shoes
There are some steps that you can take when buying your running shoes from a shop that can make sure you buy a good pair that will suit your running:
- Leave a thumb's width at the end of the shoe rather than going for a really snug fit. This will allow for the swelling of your feet and movement within the shoe which takes place as you run. You will probably buy a bigger size for trainers than for your regular shoes
- Buy when the shop is quiet. Saturdays can be busy so it is harder to take your time trying on the shoes and deciding
- When you go to the shop take along your normal running or sports socks. Put them on to trying your trainers on so you get the right sense of feel and fit
- Buy shoes in the afternoon or evening. Your feet swell slightly through the day so this will help get the fit right
- If the shop you go to offers an assessment using a forceplate or treadmill this is a good ting. But check the qualifications of the person doing the assessment. The most vital part of the assessment is the skill of the person doing it and their reading of the results.
Check out the collection of running shoes and trainers displayed on Amoochi