22 Jun Choosing the Right Running Shoes
By Andrew Saunderson, Sports Podiatrist
Imagine walking into your local running shoe store store and seeing well over 150 shoes across more than 30 different footwear brands all on display trying to convince you they’re the one for you. Let’s be real here – we’ve all probably felt this way at least once in our lives. It’s overwhelming to know what shoe is right for you particularly with buzz words like pronation, neutral, stability, motion control, drop height, stack height and phrases like midsole technologies and carbon fibre plates all being thrown at you.
You’re at the mercy of the assistant who may or may not measure up your feet, take a look at your foot posture and gait, and ask what activities you’re currently doing before they guide you through their range. There’s a plethora of variables that go into a shoe that will both lure and confuse you.
Here’s a few points you may not have considered:
- Recommendations: Your friends, colleagues, various store footwear assistants, runners and gym goers will probably have a significant influence on what you think you want. What is often forgotten is that when we do this, we assume we all walk, run, move in exactly same way. The truth is, we are all unique individuals with our own foot and lower limb posture, foot landing patterns, body weight, strength, control and running abilities.
- Activities you’ll be expecting the shoe to handle: Short runs, longer runs, very long runs, track, trail, gym, all-rounder, race day, work, business, casual.
- Stack heights, drop heights: Stack heights refers to the amount of material between your foot and the ground, including the sole and innersole. Drop height is the difference in stack height from the heel to the toe. Some shoes may have quite a large drop height, while some shoes are neutral and, therefore, completely flat.
- Shoe design and colour: Do you prefer bulky, chunky, bold or streamlined and fresh?
- Design: Last year’s model might be completely different to this year’s model.
- Sizing: This can vary between brands as well as within standard sizing of Euro, US, UK and cm
- Widths: Some brands suit a narrow fit, others a wider fit, some a bit of both – 2a, B, C, D 2E, 4E
- Midsoles: Each brand and model will pride themselves on their technology which offers a unique response under foot – EVAs, TPUs, nylon, nitriles, foams, gel, carbon fibre plates, wave plates – the list goes on…
- Type of shoes: Do you need stability (guiderails and torsion bars), neutral, or just protection (barefoot-style shoes)?
- Toe springs and rocker platforms: These are designed to guide and propel you forwards.
- Ankle collar: Depending on the brand, the shoes will suit a wide heel, average heel or narrow heel.
- Toe box: If this is too roomy or too tight, it can lead to all kinds of nail traumas, forefoot pain and even reduce stability leading to musculoskeletal issues.
- Lacing patterns: There are so many ways to tie up your laces depending on your type of foot and the way you run.
- Upper material: Support, flexibility and breathability are all achieved through materials like eva, nylon, nitrile, flexweave mesh, leather, synthetic leather, etc.
- Tread: Pattern, size, function and longevity – non-slip, grass, road, trail and singular function or multi-surface function.
- Heel counters: Flexible, semi flexible, rigid – what do you need?
- Flex points: Does the shoe allow your foot to move too much, too little or is it just right for you?
- Curved last, semi curved last, straight last: The last of the shoe essentially refers to its shape in relation to the human foot. Take a look at your shoe from the bottom – if the inside is curved like a banana, your shoe has a curved last; if it is straight up and down like a snowboard, your shoe has a straight last. What you will need depends on your foot type.
All of these factors will influence your perception of what a good comfortable shoe is as well as play a role in your running performance and injury risk.
You will start to see that choosing the right shoe goes far beyond the fit! Shoes aren’t made like they were made before, nor do they last for the same length of time. The footwear industry is rapidly changing and what you thought you knew yesterday is likely going to be different today.
At footinjuryclinic (located in Bondi Junction, St Ives & Barangaroo), we are always keeping up to date with new breakthroughs in shoe design and development. We work closely with Athletes Foot and there knowledgeable staff to provide the best footwear recommendations. We want to share our knowledge with you over a four-part series where we will break down and explain what these variables mean for you.
*Look out for PART 1 of our 4-Part Series – coming soon!*
At the end of the series, we will provide a free e-book and checklist to arm you with the shoe/s you need to match the whole you.
Feel free at any time to contact us or book an appointment online with Andrew, Russel or Trevor at footinjuryclinic for individualised assessments for all things footwear, biomechanics, running and more.