10 Things to Look for When Choosing a Running Shoe
Overwhelming is a word commonly used to describe the feeling of entering a running shoe shop for the first time. With hundreds of brands, materials, and technology that come into play with running shoes, we thought it important to help you with some things to consider.
As always, bringing your current shoes in to a Physiotherapist or Podiatrist with an interest in running is a great way to get some specific advice.
A running shoe must be comfortable. Doing a short run on a treadmill after buying the shoe is a handy way to keep the shoes clean so they can be returned, while also learning that they are the right fit for you. Check for excessive fatigue, rubbing marks or points of discomfort and trial a few different ones to find what’s right for you.
Enough width at the toe box (front of the shoe) is crucial to allow the front of the foot to spread out when it hits the pavement – a natural shock absorption mechanism of the foot. Inadequate width through the middle of the shoe may also irritate the foot, especially if the shoe has a sunken bed. Some people do love a snug fit but should be wary of forefoot or midfoot pain developing.
Shoe weight has a direct effect on how much energy you need to exert during your run. It might be suitable for the you to have a heavier shoe for everyday training and a lighter one for race day, however be careful with transitioning to lighter shoes as they commonly have less supportive features.
Trail, track and road have completely different shoe designs. A common mistake that beginner runners make is having the wrong shoe for the job. Trail shoes usually have a firm outsole to prevent rocks from piercing the shoe and this may affect the forces when used with road running and lead to injury.
5. Heel Pitch
The heel pitch is the difference in height between the heel and the metatarsal heads. It varies from zero drop all the way up to 14-16mm. The pitch can influence how load is distributed through your legs, especially your shins, ankles, and feet, with higher pitches often putting more load on the front of the shin and foot and lower pitches putting more load through the achilles and calf muscles.
6. Stack Height
This is the height between where the foot lies in the shoe and the road. They have become a lot higher as of late, and may pose a risk factor to ankle sprains, making them unsuitable for some runners. Although, they do offer better cushioning, so can be excellent for things like heel pain and shin splints due to their shock absorption abilities.
7. The comparison to your old running shoe
It is important to not sway too far from your current shoe, you can look up the specifications of the old shoe on runrepeat.com to compare them as it offers info such as weight, stack height, heel pitch, midsole tech and a whole lot more.
8. Midsole foam
Reactive, lightweight, shock absorbing or a mixture? Different midsole foams may be utilised for different types of runs. For example, speed sessions may utilise a reactive foam, giving the runner more energy return hopefully less fatigue (Eg. NB Fuelcell, Nike React, Adidas Boost), and longer or recovery sessions may utilise a softer foam (Eg. NB Freshfoam, Brooks DNA Loft, Asics Flytefoam).
9. Midsole Tech
Some running shoes have midsole components that may change how the foot interacts with the ground. This may come in the form of medial posting (being stiffer through the inside of the shoe), torsion control systems (Mizuno waveplate, Adidas TCS), guiderails (Brooks specific), sunken foot beds (Hoka) and/or forefoot stiffness (Carbon plates, Hoka extended post). These must all be considered if you are using customised foot orthoses in the shoe.
10. The Upper
The upper is crucial to ensure the foot can move adequately and needs to have some give in it to allow movement of the foot through the running gait cycle. Especially for pronation and function of the big toe through propulsion. Commonly, uppers are breathable and entwined with elastane for a better feel, but waterproof options are also available.
Like most top 10 lists, there is a lot left out. Personal fit and wear patterns, sustainability and shoe rotation are all good examples and a great reason to consult your Physiotherapist and/or Podiatrist on what shoe could suit you. All you have to do is remember to bring in the ones you want assessed!
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