10 Tips for choosing the perfect running shoes
There's no such thing as the 'best shoe' – every runner has different needs, so no matter what you've heard, you need a shoe that meets your individual requirements. Whether you're new to running, a morning run addict or training for a marathon, factors such as your weight, the shape of your feet and the surfaces you run on can all affect your choice of shoe.
With New Year right around the corner, many of us are setting health and fitness goals for 2015, so if you haven't tried running before, why not make this the month you get stuck in? Running alone or with a fitness buddy is a great workout which can boost your energy levels and get your endorphins flowing, keeping those January blues at bay. Plus, it's a great excuse to enjoy a post-workout snack afterwards; we have plenty of suggestions here for you to try! Believe us, we know how daunting the vast selection of shoes on offer in your local running store can be, but with our 10 tips (and a little help from the experts in-store), it's going to be much easier to find your perfect running shoes – honestly!
#1. Find your footprint
Heading to your local specialist running store is the best way to find out the shape of your foot, as experts will measure you and make recommendations for the right type of shoe for your needs. However, if you don't live near a store or need to measure your footprint at home, you can try the 'wet footprint' test. Simply wet your foot and place it on a clean piece of paper or dry floor, to see your footprint! The resulting mark will tell you what type of foot you have. You could have a:
- Normal footprint – With a normal sized arch, a normal foot naturally rolls inwards slightly when running, and you'll find a wide range of shoes available for your foot type
- High-arched footprint – If your footprint shows a very narrow band of connecting skin between your heel and the ball of your foot, you have a high arch. You'll want to choose cushioned shoes which provide extra support
- Flat footprint – If your footprint appears 'flat' as if it's the whole sole of your foot, you will want to choose high-stability shoes or motion control shoes, for the best running performance
#2. Visit a specialist store
If you have a specialist running store in your area, we highly recommend you visit, not only to have your feet assessed by experts, but also to receive advice on the correct type of shoe for your training needs. A casual runner's needs will be very different from someone training intensively for a marathon or fitness challenge! The right shoes can help prevent against injury and protect your feet; remember you're looking for cushioning, support and flexibility.
#3. Watch out for your toes
Experts in-store will be able to advise you on fit, but as a general rule, you want to ensure you have plenty of space in your new shoes. Ideally, you'll need from half to a full thumb nail length between your big toe and the end of the shoe – this is because our feet naturally swell when running. You don't want to end up with black toenails and blisters, which can occur when shoes are too small! Many people find they need a size up from their normal shoes.
#4. Replace them regularly
Did you know that one of the most common causes of injuries whilst running is wearing worn-out shoes? You might not think it, but once you've found your perfect match, we're afraid it isn't going to be a bond for life! You'll want to replace your running shoes every 300 to 400 miles, depending on the surface you're running on. Over the miles, your shoes lose their ability to absorb shock, their stability and cushioning, all of which could mean you're no longer protected from injury. You'll probably notice discomfort in your muscles and joints when it's time to replace them.
#5. Take a test run
Your new running shoes aren't designed for standing about, so to determine if they're right for you, you'll need to take a short test run around the store. Check they fit well, are not rubbing or falling off and are generally comfortable, before you head for the till. Shoes which give you blisters aren't going to motivate you to go on that morning run!
#6. Spend as much as you can afford
It's important to buy the highest-quality running shoes you can afford, so don't be tempted by 'bargains' at your local discount sports store, particularly if you are training for a race. Whilst you don't need to spend hundreds of pounds, set yourself a rough budget and be prepared to go over it by 10 – 20% in order to get the best possible running shoes. Remember, these shoes could protect your from injury in the future, so it's important to choose quality over price.
#7. Have your gait assessed
Experts at running stores will usually want to see you run, either outside or on a treadmill, in order to assess your gait or footstrike. Everyone's feet are different, and you need the right shoes to aid shock absorption, correct any overpronation or complement a neutral footstrike. This is why it's so important to have your feet assessed.
#8. Take advice, make your own decisions
Store staff can only advise as to what they think are the best shoes for your needs – only you can decide which pair feel best. You'll find endless models of running shoes out there, depending on your style of running and your preferences. Maybe you like a cushioned feel to your shoes, or perhaps you prefer to feel the road under your feet? Trying and testing shoes is so important when searching for the perfect pair.
#9. Think about where you're running
The type of shoes you need will largely depend on the surfaces you're running on, as well as how much running you plan on doing. For example, racing flats/track spikes are great for track running, as they provide less cushioning and are tapered at the front to increase speed – but you wouldn't train for long distances with them. Off road or trail running shoes tend to have a deeper tread, which means they provide more grip on slippery, uneven surfaces, ideal for challenges such as Tough Mudder or those cross-country runs.
#10. Don't be sucked in by the brand
Yes, your friend's pair of customised Nikes are pretty cool, but are they right for you? Whilst we think it's great to be loyal to a brand, stay open-minded when it comes to choosing the perfect shoes for your after-work run. You may find that other brands are more affordable or offer more choice for your gait and footstrike, so don't be afraid to experiment and try shoes from different brands when shopping.