There is no single “best running shoe” – everyone has different needs and requires different variations within their shoes to be able to perform to the fullest potential.
An improperly fitted running shoe can lead to all sorts of problems that are much more serious than blisters. From back pain to tendinitis – it’s important to get footwear that conforms to your foot while offering support that you will undoubtedly need.
One person’s ideal shoe can be another person’s nightmare! It all depends on your biometrics, your weight, the surfaces you run on and of course the shape of your feet. While it may seem they’re so many things that are to be considered, it doesn’t mean that you need to have personally tailored trainers just to go running in.
The first step to finding the perfect pair of running shoes is to know what type of running style – what pronation tendencies you have.
Pronation is part of the natural movement of the human body and refers to the way your foot rolls inward for impact distribution upon landing.
Understanding your pronation type can help you find a comfortable running shoe. Pronation is a normal component of the gait cycle, and ranges into 3 different pronation tendencies. The easiest way to do this is to look at an old pair of and running shoes and see the way they’ve worn out. Looking at the way they have worn out will assist you in understanding your pronation, which is key to finding your best fit running shoes.
If you do not have an old pair of running shoes, then you can take the wet test (see instructions below) to see how your feet arch as this gives an indication to what your pronation tendencies may be.
Neutral Pronation (neutral gait)
A neutral pronation means you’re a lucky runner indeed. Due to your body moving this way, it absorbs most impact and stress that may occur on the joints and knees. A neutral pronator will have worn soles pretty equally across.
If the inner side of the sole of your shoe is more worn than the outer side, then you are an over pronator. This means that your foot rolls farther inwards than it should when you’re out running. While overpronation is a pretty common problem among runners, if unaddressed you may find yourself in some pretty serious knee pain which over time may put a timely end to your running days.
A basic understanding of this is the opposite of overpronation. If the outer side of your soles are worn on your old running shoes then this is the indication you’re an under pronator. Underpronation means you tend to roll your foot outwards as you run. This can put a lot of stress onto your feet as you run and can lead to a number of unpleasant conditions such as iliotibial band syndrome.
Your pronation tendencies determine what style of trainers you should wear. In general, a pair of running shoes should last between 400 to 500 miles of running that equates to about 3 or 4 months for regular runners. Take a look at your shoes and check if the midsoles and outsoles are compressed or worn. If they are, it may be time for a new pair. A neutral pronator will have worn soles pretty equally across, while an over pronator will have the inner part of their soles worn down and a underpronator will have the outers of the sole worn down.
CATEGORIES OF RUNNING SHOES
Running shoes can be divided into three main categories – stability, minimalist and neutral. Below you will see the difference between each category and which pronation type is best suited to each type of running shoe.
A stability running shoe is designed to offer a degree of additional stability to the foot for those with low to normal archers.
Stability models are designed to help prevent overpronation, which occurs when the foot rolls inward during the transition from heel to toe. Pronation itself is a normal occurrence, but overpronation is when the foot pronates too much and too quickly, this combination places extra stress on the lower leg and foot muscles.
The stability that is offered with these types of running shoes means they can help to prevent injury through aligning the body correctly as a complement to your natural running style. The way that the shoe is actually classified as a “stability running shoe” is because it has has denser (not as soft/squishy) foam along the inner sole of the shoes (this is called the post). The more stable that the shoe is designed to be, the longer the post will be.
The idea behind a truly stable running shoe is that the harder surface of the dense foam will slow the acceleration of the inward rolling providing additional stability when running, for people with overpronation tendencies. Below are some stability running shoes.
Scientifically speaking the definition of a minimalist running shoe, quoted by the journal of foot and ankle research is as follows.
“Footwear providing minimal interference with the natural movement of the foot due to its high flexibility, low heel to toe drop, weight and stack height, and the absence of motion control and stability devices.”
Minimalist running shoes feature extremely lightweight construction, little to no arch support and a heel drop of about 4–8mm to encourage a natural running motion and a midfoot strike and still offer cushioning and flex for those with neutral pronation tendencies. Some minimalist styles may offer stability aiming to help you as a runner to transition to a barefoot running motion.
Barefoot running is the practise of running without shoes. Due to obvious reasons such as injuries, many runners opt for shoes with thinner soles that simply mimic the barefoot experience. Barefoot running has become very popular in recent months due to arguments that it reduces the risk of chronic injuries (notably repetitive stress injuries) caused by heel striking in padded running shoes. Below are examples of minimalist running shoes.
Neutral cushioned shoes
A neutral cushioned shoe is potentially suitable for runners whose feet and ‘gait’ cycle indicate little or no requirement for any additional stability in their footwear. Recommended for runners who need maximum midsole cushioning and minimum medial support. Neutral running shoes are best for runners who have underpronation tendencies and midfoot or forefoot strikers with high or normal arches. These types of shoes provide some shock absorption and some medial (arch-side) support. Neutral shoes do not have stability features to correct overpronation, this is why they work best for the runner who underpronates. Sample
Now if you’re new to running you may be thinking how can I see what type of runner I am to know which style of shoes I need if I don’t have a pair of trainers that i have previously ran in? Although this is the most accurate way of testing at home (we recommend checking your soles when buying your second pair) there is another fuss free way to check.
The Wet Test
If you are still confused at this stage and still not sure of which shoe that suits you, then you might consider doing a wet test.
The wet test works on the basis that the shape of your wet footprint on a dry floor or piece of paper roughly correlates with the amount of stability you might need in your shoe. It will show you what features you should look for and equip you with the basic knowledge you need to make the next step in your search. To ensure that you find a running shoe with the required cushioning and stability needed to keep you comfortable and safe while out running.
The Flat Foot
This has a low arch and leaves a print which looks like the whole sole of the foot. It usually indicates an overpronated foot – one that strikes on the outside of the heel and rolls inwards (pronates) excessively. Over time, this can cause different types of overuse injuries. It’s important to get good stability when running with these types of feet. The flat foot means that you likely have over pronation tendencies.
Best Shoe: Stability
The Normal Foot
Normal feet have a normal-sized arch and will leave a wet footprint that has a flare, but shows the forefoot and heel connected by a broad band. A normal foot lands on the outside of the heel and rolls inwards slightly to absorb shock. It’s the foot of a runner who is biomechanically efficient and therefore doesn’t need a motion control shoe. This means that you will have a neutral gait (pronation).
Best Shoe: Minimalist
The High-Arched Foot
This leaves a print showing a very narrow band or no band at all between the forefoot and the heel. A curved, highly arched foot is generally supinated or underpronated. Because it doesn’t pronate enough, it’s not usually an effective shock absorber.
Best Shoe: Neutral cushioned