Running has become one of the most popular physical activities worldwide. It is estimated that around 15% of the global population use running or jogging as a part of their exercise routine. With this upshift in popularity, technology has also become much more specific. All sorts of equipment and accessories have developed and begun adapting to the specific needs of every runner.
Some of the biggest shifts in technology in recent times has been with the humble running shoe. Be mindful that your shoe will be with you for endless runs. It will be with you from the easy warm up, the fast middle distance races, the marathons, and the ultras. In this blog, we will set out a few key points that you should look for when choosing your most appropriate running shoes.
It must be mentioned that your running shoe is not designed to correct your technique. This means that you should still focus on your own abilities, skills, strengths and weaknesses. You should still check your form with an online triathlon coach, squad coach or running coach. You should also be sure to begin or continue with your strength and conditioning and yoga to help strengthen your muscles and reduce the risk of injury, especially if you are new to running or increasing your running load.
The perfect shoe is designed to help you enhance your own abilities while lowering the risk of injury by protecting your foot.
Depending on the experience and skill level, some athlete’s will prioritise comfort and protection of the foot while others will prioritise performance.
The first aspect that you should consider when buying your running shoes is comfort, especially if running is new for you. Your running shoes give you enough commodity to get the best experience when running. If you are a more experienced runner, then performance will have higher priority.
The three aspects of a running shoe
There are many aspects of a running shoe that need to be considered when thinking about buying your perfect pair, but for practical purposes, we will focus on three very valuable: Ankle collar, heel cushioning and drop.
Saddle: In very simple terms, this refers to the part of the shoe where the actual foot goes. Despite the fact that most shoes are meant to adapt to most feet, it is important to analyse the different elements that are built-in to give them that element of adaptability.
Cushioning: This refers to the material used to minimise the impact of running on the foot, and more specifically to the heel. Depending on the type of shoe, the material used will change from shoe to shoe. The cushioning can go from maximum cushioning, giving much more support on the impact, to minimum cushioning for those who prefer to understand their own natural gait without external support.
Drop: This is the difference in the height of the heel compared to the height of the midsole under the ball of the foot. Experts agree that depending on the drop, your body will adapt differently to the way each step is performed and ultimately this will change your stride and running mechanics.
The shoe must adapt to you, not you to the shoe:
Running shoes come in many variations, from those focused on athletes that need extra support, to those that aim to get the best out of high performance runners. To know which shoe you should choose, start by understanding your own body. Ask yourself a few simple questions to help yourself find the runner that suits your needs; How fast can you run? How often do you run? Do you over-pronate? Are you running trails or road? Understanding your speeds, distances and capabilities is crucial when looking for the best pair of runners to suit your needs. Remember, expensive does not mean better. Buying the most expensive shoes doesn’t necessarily mean that those are the ones that you should be wearing.
Carbon plated shoes. To use or not to use?
The term ‘carbon plate’ has become wildly popular in running circles over the last couple of years without it being fully understood by the general population. The main goal of a carbon plated shoe is to help increase running economy. This helps you recover extra energy on the foot strike, improving your aerobic performance. This is achieved by allowing your foot to sit still in the shoe without inefficient movement. Allowing the foot to stay in a better position improves the efficiency in the rolling motion of the ankle.
The effect of the carbon plate is more useful on faster runners. On slower runners, the effect might be the opposite. Without the pace required to flex the plate, you put a lot of stress on your foot to flex it as you transition through your stride.
Although there is no consensus about the definition of a ‘faster runner’ some experts have suggested it may be anything faster than 4:40 min/km or 7:30 min/mile.
How many running shoes should I use?
The short answer is two. One pair should be a training shoe, where comfort and commodity should be prioritised. The other pair should be for running specific races where performance is the focus.
If you want to be more specific in your training program, then the answer may be much higher. Interval training, tempo, long distance, recovery. Different shoes respond differently to the running mechanics expected according to the pace and volume of your training program.
Some athletes prefer to have specific shoes depending on which distance are they running that day.
How long do running shoes last?
It changes from shoe to shoe, but in general terms, between 300 and 600 kms. Performance based shoes tend to last less while more comfort focused running shoes will last longer. Ensure that you check them regularly to make sure that they are in good condition to provide you with support and balance you need. A worn-out shoe will increase your risk of injury.
Should I get a gait analysis?
If you can, then you should. If a running analysis is a possibility, it will give you clarity on what kind of shoes will best fit you. They will help you understand how much support you need around your specific pronation, foot size and balance.
What is the best running shoe?
There is no straight answer for this question. The best running shoe for one athlete may be completely different for someone else. It is best to see what works for you based on your knowledge and help of the experts. This also applies to brands. No brand better than another one, it is all down to which shoe fits your foot the best.
It is important to read reviews and check on other experiences, but ultimately, run with what works best for you.