Written by Minh Mai
There are many factors to consider when choosing a pair of running shoes. For beginners, it can often be difficult to determine which factors are the most important to consider, and trying to take all of them into account without spending a fortune can be a challenge. First and foremost, your running shoes need to be flexible, durable and supportive.
A good first step which can simplify the process of purchasing running shoes, is gait analysis. Most good sports shoe shops offer free gait analysis, meaning shoe fitters can use technology to analyse how much your foot rolls inwards when you run and the point at which your foot strikes the ground. This can go along way in determining whether you need more or less cushioning on the sole, and whether your shoe needs to be more flexible or rigid.
Many people find it helpful to base their choice of shoe off of their preferred running surface. If you usually run on tarmac or hard surfaces, running shoes with more cushioning on the soles will help with shock absorption and prevent sprains. You can also go for a shoe with slightly more flexibility, as the surface you are running on will generally be more even.
If you are exclusively running on softer surfaces such as grass or mud trails, trail shoes with a deep tread that offer more stability and ankle support are the best option. However, these won’t be appropriate if you also run on tarmac, as the grip studs will press into the soles of your feet and cause discomfort.
In essence, there are five different types of running shoes, and determining which type is right for you all depends on the combination of your running style and the surface that you prefer to run on:
Motion Control Running Shoe
Motion control running shoes are ideal for any runner who overpronates (their foot rolls inwards too much as they run). Designed to reduce or control excessive rolling action of the foot and provide additional shock absorption they are usually the most rigid type of shoe.
Cushioned Running Shoe
Cushioning is important for runners who underpronate; either if your feet do not roll inward enough or roll outward too much. The rolling motion helps your foot absorb the shock of every step that would otherwise be sent through your joints towards your spine.
Stability Running Shoe
Stability shoes provide cushioning, medial support, and durability as a compromise between motion control and cushioned shoes. They’re designed to stop excess motion of your foot and ankle without restricting movement too much.
Lightweight Running Shoe
Lightweight running shoes are a more flexible shoe in general. Lightweight shoes tend to come with decreased weight and more flexible cushioning, that combines the best of "minimalist" approach (making it feel like you aren't wearing shoes) along with cushioning to protect your feet. Lightweight shoes will decrease your fatigue and pain after a run, as well as being incredibly comfortable.
Trail Running Shoes
These shoes tend to have a different, special set of features designed to help you run on all kinds of rugged terrain from hard pack, soft pack, fell, or a combination. The main focus of trail running shoes however is the level of grip they offer. Differing from shoe to shoe the outer sole will have a deeper tread to provide traction and stability on slippery and uneven surfaces and a lower profile to ensure a quicker response to the changing terrain.
Now you know the different processes that go into choosing the correct running shoe, hopefully the process will be less daunting. You don’t have to break the bank to assure good quality, and never buy a pair of running shoes just because they are ‘on trend’ or well reviewed at that particular time.