I’ve been running for pleasure (an oxymoron if ever I’ve heard one) for more than 12 years.
When I started out, I didn’t put any thought into my footwear. I simply rocked up to the nearest out-of-town sports shop and chose a shoe from a well-known brand that looked the part.
A few years later I finally got the message that not all running trainers are the same – it’s important to spend some time choosing a shoe that matches your foot shape, running style and the environment you’ll be running in.
For example, do you have wide or narrow feet? Do you land on your toes or heel when you stride? Are you going to be running on roads, on a treadmill, cross-country on trails or an athletics track?
You need to take all this into account – and more – when buying your shoes.
If you don’t, running will be more of a struggle than it should be. You’ll also be risk of more injuries, from the occasionally blister to long-term joint problems, if you wear the wrong shoe.
Getting fitted by the experts
Choosing the perfect running shoe sounds like hard work. Luckily you can can expert advice for free at the many specialist running shops that are dotted around the country.
One chain of these shops is Runners Need. I’ve been going to its Port Solent outlet in the Snow + Rock shop for the last couple of years for my running shoes. I’ve also had good experiences in the past with Alton Sports in Eastleigh.
I returned to Runners Need last week recently to replace my Brooks shoes, which were starting to look a bit ragged.
Here’s how you can choose the perfect pair or running shoes with the help of a running shop’s experts.
Identifying your needs
First, they’ll want to know where you plan to do most of your running. This is because different trainers are suited to different surfaces – there’s no point buying a pair of lightweight trail shoes if you plan to do most of your running on roads.
There are even nuances between the same category of shoe. Some makes or styles may be more suitable for treadmill running, for instance.
They’ll ask you about your current shoes too, to find out if they cause you any issues. I always bring my old pair along so they can see them first hand. Occasionally, they’ll be able to spot uneven wear, which can be a sign that your shoes are inappropriate for the way your natural running style.
Getting a gait analysis
Next they’ll want to watch you running (technically called a “gait analysis”).
At Runner’s Need, they do this by taking a video recording of you running on a treadmill while you’re wearing your old trainers or a pair of the store’s new shoes.
Identifying your pronation
They then watch the recording back in slow motion to determine your “pronation” – this measures how much your feet roll inwards or outwards after they touch the ground as you run (and walk).
Underpronation is when your feet roll inward, while overpronation is when your feet roll outward. A neutral pronation is when your feet neither roll outwards or inwards as your feet land when you run.
I used to overpronate. Nowadays I have neutral pronation, which shows how important it is to get a gait analysis each time you buy a new pair of trainers.
It doesn’t matter how you much your feet pronate as there are shoes available that suit all types.
The shop’s experts will also look at whether you land on your heels or toes as you run – some shoes are more suited to “heel strikers” and vice versa.
Making your choice
Following your gait analysis they’ll recommend suitable shoes for you to try based on your running style, foot shape and budget.
It’s best to try them out on a hard surface if you can. At Runner’s Need, you can use the treadmill again to give them a test drive.
Once you’ve found some trainers that suit you, you need to make sure you get the correct size. The shop’s expert can give you specific advice and let you know if you have enough “wiggle room” for your toes.
Generally, the longer distances you run the more you feet will expand. So it’s important to bear that in mind when you’re deciding which size to get.
Wearing your new shoes in
Once you’ve bought your new shoes, it’s best to wear them in gradually, even if you’ve bought the same ones you had before.
Firstly, I wear my shoes around the house so I can be doubly sure I made the right choice.
I’ll then wear them on short walks. Finally, I’ll start wearing them on shorter runs.
I find it usually takes a few weeks until I’m confident to wear them on a longer run. Make sure you give yourself enough time to wear in your new shoes if you’re buying them for a race or event!
Further tips for buying the perfect pair of running shoes
- Try shoes on later in the day because your feet swell as the day goes on.
- Don’t buy for fashion purposes – there’s no use having shoes that look good if they’re causing you issues or affecting your performance.
- Replace your running trainers every 500-600 miles – that’s once a year if you run 10 miles a week.
Over to you…
What are your top tips for buying the perfect pair of running shoes? What shops do you recommend? Is there anything else I should consider?
Info: Runner’s Need, Port Solent is in the Snow+Rock shop at The Boardwalk (near the cinema) at Port Solent, Portsmouth, PO6 4TP. Phone 02392 205388.