The importance of wearing good running shoes for running.
Whilst wearing good quality running shoes do not cure injuries, they certainly do help to reduce the risk of impact injuries associated with running particularly with so many new people having recently discovered the many joys and benefits of this so very addictive form of exercise.
Whilst the introduction of the Park Runs a few years ago saw a huge upsurge in people of all ages, shapes and sizes turning up on a Saturday morning to run, jog and even brisk walk with hundreds of others, since March and with what was also the introduction of lockdown due to the Covid outbreak, more people than ever are now also getting out on to the roads and trails so as to not only keep physically fit, but for their mental health and well-being too.
However, and whilst it is important to wear a pair of good quality running shoes, it is also very important to ensure that when purchasing a pair of training shoes, they are the correct type for you and therefore just as important to seek out a specialist running store which is staffed by experienced runners. We have a saying at Sportlink “We don’t just hear what you say, we feel what you say”.
We also provide a very thorough Gait Analysis so as to be able to not only look at levels of pronation (the inward rolling of the foot upon making contact with the ground) or indeed under pronation, but we also look for other bodily imbalances which we feel could lead to issues and specific running related niggles. Then once the assessment has been completed, it should then lend itself to establishing which type of shoes will best suit your own individual running style and needs. It should also be noted that not everyone who suffers with over pronation will benefit from this type of shoe especially if they have been running without any issues prior to a gait analysis whilst wearing shoes that do not fall into this category.
Road Running shoes tend to fall into several differing categories, but the main three are 1. Motion Control/Maximum Support - 2. Structured and Guidance Cushioning and 3. Neutral running shoes for those who just require cushioning or prefer a more natural feel.
To elaborate a little further on this :-
Motion Control/Maximum Support
These type of shoes are designed for the severe over pronator so as to slow down and reduce pronation and inward rolling of the foot and will have been manufactured with materials which are slightly firmer along the medial section of the midsole commonly termed as dual density or even tri density so as to prevent collapsing of the shoe as the foot rolls excessively inwards. The likelihood is that shoes which fall into this category will also have extensive external heel counters to add further support.
This type of shoe is probably the most popular as whilst footwear in this category not only offers excellent cushioning and shock absorption in the same way as that of training shoes in the other categories, it also has that more natural feel of the neutral shoe while also providing a little bit of support for those that border on being neutral albeit with perhaps a degree of mild over pronation (sometimes just on one foot) and for those who weigh in excess of 13 stone. Whilst these shoes do have a small post built into the medial section of the midsole or indeed a guide rail, it is far less noticeable and prominent to that of the more supportive motion control shoes.
Needless to say neutral training shoes are designed for cushioning and comfort without any firmer materials or posts built into the midsoles allowing for a softer feel underfoot and a degree of more flexibility. It is also worth noting that many of the manufacturers are now producing some very highly technical single density materials which respond to the pressure of the foot whereby it will react under certain conditions and pressures negating the need for built in firmer materials into the midsole construction. In many instances, neutral shoes are actually pretty supportive in themselves and more than stable enough for those runners who have a degree of mild over pronation, but are still fairly light on their feet.
So What Makes a Good Road Running Shoe?
Having determined (albeit briefly) the differences between the types of shoes most commonly sold, what does actually make for a good road running shoe when in many cases they all look similar on the shelves (albeit different colours)? It is all to do with the materials which go into the midsole construction and whilst they may well all look very comparable in terms of depth under foot, some of the foams and specific technologies provide far more protection than others as well as holding shape retention for many more miles. A few years ago if you went for a very lightweight shoe then the likelihood is that the shock absorption properties would not be very good and the shoe would be more suited for the faster runner looking for racing shoes. However, during the last few years, many brands have now produced lightweight materials which certainly do offer high levels of cushioning and shock absorption, but always ask the staff as to what has gone into the construction before buying a lighter weight shoe. Be aware that light weight natural shoes and those determined as Free Running shoes whilst initially feeling comfortable in the store and even on that first run, they may not necessarily feel so comfy after a few miles and few runs in them on the harder surfaces especially on days when your legs may feel a little heavy and tired. Also be aware that if you do try out a natural and minimal running shoe, the heel lift may well also be much lower than that of a normal training shoe for which you may well experience some tightness in your calf muscles and Achilles tendons until you are more used to them.
Are certain brands better than others?
Most people have their preferred brands, but all established running manufacturers have built up their reputation after several years of being at the forefront of producing high quality footwear with their own specialist technology designed to protect and give comfort for all those many miles of running. Once you have found out (after the gait analysis) what type of shoes best suit your running style and biomechanics, make sure you try shoes from all the relevant brands which befits your own individual needs. Providing the store has a treadmill, then try them out on this or of course and providing the staff are happy for you to do so then have a short run up and down outside of the store so as to get a true feel under foot with regards cushioning, comfort and of course support if required. Then after trying them all on, hopefully one pair should stand out above all the others.
Trail shoes and Off Road Shoes
Trail shoes are designed with deeper tread for more grip when running off road and on uneven surfaces and of course when also wet and muddy. The uppers are also likely to be more supportive so as to hold the foot in place and keep it stable when twisting and turning. For hill and fell running, the mid soles are also likely to be of a lower profile so as to reduce the risk of turning the foot/ankle particularly on steep descents.
Many of the manufacturers are now producing hybrid shoes which enables the runner to mix up the terrain so as to take in off road and road sections during the course of a run, but just be aware that the more you use this type of shoe on the road, the likelihood is that you will of course wear the tread down much sooner reducing the level of grip when off road.
Racing Shoes/Racing flats.
Only for the elite? Well not necessarily, but out and out racing flats are much lighter and far less cushioned for which the emphasis is on speed and feel of the ground underfoot which means far less shock absorption and support. They are also much narrower just like a track spike so bear in mind if running longer distances your feet may swell a little and expand during the run. In truth, unless you are one of those runners at the front of the field or certainly weighing under 12 stone, then it might be better to go for one of the lighter road running shoes whereby you can still retain the extra cushioning which will certainly be required in distances over 10 miles.
Cost of Purchasing a good running shoe.
The saying you get what you pay for is not necessarily true especially if you have spent a lot of money on shoes which are not designed for your running style. As mentioned earlier in this article, it is all to do with the materials which has gone into the construction of the midsole i.e. expanded light weight foam vs the more substantial foams and materials which will not only give more shock absorption, but will also last longer. However, this still doesn’t mean you have to spend hundreds of pounds to get a high quality running shoe. At Sportlink, we suggest that if you spend somewhere between £70 and £100 then you can be fairly confident that you will have walked away with a shoe which should give you at least 400 miles of comfort, support and protection from the impact forces of running. Most importantly the word comfort is always the most important box to tick as what is the point of purchasing a shoe that ticks all the specific boxes, but still don’t feel comfortable?
Running is simple and a pretty natural past time and once it becomes a part of a persons everyday life and routine, then most people tend to get hooked. There are lots of running gadgets and brilliant accessories on the market, but always remember it is the shoes on your feet which is the most important part of a runner’s equipment.
Before signing off, Carbon Fibre shoes….Whilst shoe technology has most certainly improved during the last four or even five decades, with carbon plates now being additionally built in to the midsoles of some of the performance shoes on the market, this really does seem to have created the biggest stir since the manufacturing of the first shoes constructed with protective EVA midsoles or indeed the waffle outer sole during the very early 1970s. However, carbon plated shoes aren’t actually as new as many may think and have been used as far back as the early 1990s. What with the sub 2 hour marathon run by Eliud Kipchoke in October 2019 though, this is what has really created a whole new interest. Do they work and do they give as much as an advantage as suggested by the manufacturers be it Nike, Hoka, New Balance or any other brand which are now producing their own versions? I would say yes they most certainly do give an advantage, but not necessarily for everyone. I am not personally so sure that it is ethical either particularly when a shoe gives what seems to be an artificial aid to improve ones performance over that of natural ability: But then you could argue all day long about this and indeed say that shoes designed in the 1980s for instance gave an unfair advantage over those who were running twenty years prior to that and so on. However and what I will say is that the psychology behind it all is pretty powerful which of course will need to be when getting people to part with up to £250 so as to have the privilege of owning a pair.
One final foot note: - Running Shoes are designed for running. To use them for other activities will cause abnormal wear and break down to the uppers and midsoles.
Keep on Running albeit in shoes which best suit you…..