WHY IT'S IMPORTANT TO GET FITTED FOR RUNNING SHOES and not just buy the ones that are least ugly part 2: TECHNICAL
As a runner you’re putting a lot of faith in that layer of rubber between your body and the ground, so as temping as it is to just deck yourself out in the flashest looking kicks there are some important technical elements to consider when choosing running shoes and everyone has different needs. Here are the factors to think about before you even try anything on:
TLDR? Get fitted. In store. With a human who can see you running.
1. FOOT MORPHOLOGY aka the design of your foot
· Petite feet or square toes?
This will dictate the width of the shoe. Your feet will expand as they heat up during your run, so you really do not want them too tight to begin with. Too loose is also an issue - slipping inside your shoes is no fun, and will cost you toenails. Not even joking.
· High, moderate or non-existent arch?
This affects the amount of arch support you need. Your arch is a built in shock absorber – it helps transfer energy through the foot. Somewhat counter intuitively, a high arch needs less support, a low arch needs more. To some extent you can strengthen the intrinsic foot muscles (the little’uns that work with the 26 bones and many, many ligaments of the foot) to provide better stability in your arch, but this takes time (and you’ll never turn a flat foot into a perfect point, so please, just cop the right amount of support).
2. FOOT FUNCTION aka how your foot works when you run
· Heel striker, toe striker or somewhere in between?
You hit the ground with your heel, the front or the middle of your foot when you land your stride, which affects where you want padding in your shoe. FYI – the consensus in the world of biomechanics is that, despite plenty of research, there is no ‘best’ way that everyone should be blindly converting to. The current trend is a ‘mid foot landing’, which is more like heel striking but with your foot under your body rather than out in front…bottom line: if your natural stride is working for you, stick with it. You're more likely to do yourself a mischief by trying to run in a unfamiliar pattern. If you feel that your stride is less than ideal see a physio, podiatrist or run coach for some gait analysis.
· Pronator, supinator or neutral runner?
(THIS IS IMPORTANT, listen up). This refers to how much side-to-side twist you get in your foot and ankle when you land. A neutral runner lands fairly straight, if you pronate you’re landing more on the inside edge of the foot, and supinating (less common) is landing more on the outside edge. This is where a lot of running problems stem from. If you don't support the right thing, or run in shoes designed to support or correct a thing that you don't actually do, you’ll throw out your movement pattern all the way up the leg, and sooner or later you're going to know about it. Don't set yourself up for injury. Find a shoe that optimises your landing pattern.
3. BODY TYPE, EXPERIENCE & CONTROL aka are you a delicate runner, or a bit of a clomper?
· Built like Kate Moss, or Kim K? Just starting out or hitting double digits kms? Do your legs and brain work together like hot days and cold beers or are you quite literally dropping the ball?
These factors combined dictate whether you can get away with just a minor bit of padding, or if you really seriously need some help with shock absorption and energy distribution. We’ve all seen the wiry old guy in the weird minimal shoes with the toes…we don’t all need to be that guy.
4. RUNNING ENVIRONMENT aka where are you headed?
· Bitumen? Grass? Mountain path? Track? Treadmill?
Different slip, different grip. You don't want to feel every bump in the road, but you don't want to feel nothing at all. This dictates sole structure and flexibility.
5. RUNNING VOLUME aka how far, how often, how fast?
· Three kms once a week or training for ultra marathon?
Not the same.
· Casual trots around the park of desperately trying to beat that PR/your mate/arch rival?
Also not the same. At the serious end of the spectrum the weight and heft of your shoes can make a difference. For newbies, less important.
So...simple, right? Who would've thought choosing what is meant to be an easy shoe would be so complicated.
Armed with this information you're ready to start getting your feet into some options - it's absolutely imperative to try before you buy to feel the difference between what's right and what isn't . Head to a multi-brand sports footwear store (or even better, a running specialist store) where staff can perform a shoe fit, assess what you need and suggest suitable options, because one brands 'stability' is another brands 'comfort' (and quite frankly, when everything is named Lunar-Echo-Wave-Nimbus-Boost-Pegasus-Cloudflyer it gets confusing pretty quickly). Run in them. Something will feel right.
Find some RYS recommendations here.