CHOOSING THE RIGHT RUNNING SHOE

One of the questions most frequently asked by our clients is ‘What type of trainers should I buy?’ With so many to choose from it’s often difficult to know where to start.

The biomechanics of running will vary from person to person. They are dependent on your foot strike, your weight, your gender, your movement patterns or gait, the surfaces you are running on, your running goals and your mileage. Running is a complex biomechanical process which is why the top brands invest so much resource into developing the ultimate shoe, and athletes no longer run around a shingle track in a pair of plimsolls. Finding the right shoes can make all the difference in helping to prevent overuse injuries.

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Biomechanic running traits have broadly been placed into 3 main categories;

 pronation
 supination
 neutral

Which correlate to the three main categories of shoe available on the market;

 motion control/stability
 cushioned
 neutral

If you don’t have access to a gait analysis service there are a couple of ways to discover which shoes should suit your running style.

The Wet Test 

This looks at the shape of a wet footprint on a dry floor. It provides a basic picture of the type of foot arch you have and allows you to see how much stability may be required in your running shoes. Although this method is not necessarily an accurate representation of how your foot may function when you are actually running, it is a good guide.

The Normal Foot normal foot fall  ‘Normal’ feet have a regular arch and will leave a print that shows the forefoot and heel connected by a broad band. A runner with this foot is biomechanically efficient and least likely to sustain injuries along the kinetic chain. The foot will land on the outside of the heel and absorbs shock by rolling slightly inward.  Recommendation: Stability shoes with moderate control are recommended as a general rule.

The Flat Foot   flat foot fall   The print of a flat foot looks like the whole sole of the foot. It has a low arch and usually indicates an over-pronated foot. This means that the foot-strike is on the outside of the heel and the foot then rolls inwards excessively. Over time, this can cause a number of overuse injuries as the foot absorbs the shock less efficiently.  Recommendation: Stability or motion control shoes. They have a firm midsole and this can reduce the amount of pronation. Motion control shoes tend to be quite heavy and may suit a heavier runner. Lighter runners may opt for a stability shoe. This is down to individual preference.

The High-Arched Foot    high arch foot fall   This leaves a print showing a very narrow band or no band at all between the forefoot and the heel. This type of footprint tends to indicate a more inflexible foot. A curved, highly arched foot is generally supinated or under-pronated and is the least common. Because the foot under-pronates, the lack of shock absorption results in heavy forces being channelled through the foot and into the ground. Recommendation: Cushioned or neutral shoes with plenty of flexibility to encourage foot motion are recommended here. It’s important to avoid motion control or stability shoes, which reduce foot mobility further.

Another way that you can check your gait is by examining the soles of your shoes. In doing so, we can draw conclusions as to the way that your foot strikes the ground when you are running.

The Wear Test

Place your old shoes on a flat table and look directly at the heel. If you have a tendency for increased pronation in your gait your shoes may show a slight inward lean towards each other.  If the lean is obvious you may need a stability or motion control shoe.

If your shoes show a slight outwards lean it is likely you have a more rigid foot type, which as discussed in the wet test (high arch) suggests decreased pronation and the requirement for cushioning/neutral shoes to encourage motion and to give maximum shock absorption.

If you’ve been happy in your current running shoes and are injury and pain free then there is no need to change the type of shoes you’re running in.

How often should I replace my trainers?

A lot of mileage figures are banded about in response to this question, but in truth it is dependent on the individual. For example, a heavier runner is likely to need to replace them sooner than someone of a lighter build. If you are light but tend to have a heavy footstrike, again, you’ll need to replace them more often. Likewise, if you train on the roads you’ll need to replace your shoes more frequently than if you primarily use a treadmill. These are all factors which should be taken into account. Just checking the bottom of your shoes to see if they are worn out will not give you the evidence you need. The midsole, which provides the cushioning and stability, usually breaks down before the sole shows any major signs of wear. A good benchmark figure is around the 300-400 mile mark.

Now you’ve started to establish the type of shoes you might need, visit our fitness shop to see what our partners have to offer.

© Hillcliff Personal Training 2012
Hillcliffchoosing a running shoe