Finding the "Perfect" running shoes
If you did not already know, running is en vogue right now!
Just take a look on early mornings around Klang Valley at all the running hot spots….plenty of early birds up to get their morning runs in. Besides that, another proof of this would be the number of running races (both on road and on trail) of various distances being held almost every single weekend around the country (minus for the month of Ramadhan….but that does not stop a lot of people from running after breaking fast).
The appeal of running is simple….for the fact that it is simple to do and all you need is a pair of running shoes.
And many people are becoming more and more health conscious these days.
Thus it is not difficult to see why running is experiencing a boom in popularity of late.
Speaking of all you need to start of with in this sport is a pair of running shoes, a beginner in running may experience choice paralysis when it comes to buying a good pair (or the right pair).
Right now there are many brands to choose from with some promising that you will transform from zero to hero with just that right pair of shoes. But with prices of some of these shoes being rather mind boggling, the question most beginners ask is this: How do I find a decent pair of running shoes that is suitable for me?
Let’s try to answer this question in today’s article. (this may be use as a guideline to buying a pair of running shoes but if whatever shoes you are wearing right now work for you despite recommendations, I highly urge you to continue running in those!)
1. Your budget – Let’s be realistic here. You are most likely not aiming to beat Usain Bolt (but if this is your aim, I applaud you and encourage you to keep trying). And running is likely a leisure activity, a form of exercise and a method for de-stressing. You might join a running race here and there but this isn’t your career. Stick to what you can afford. As long as it has some form of cushioning and is comfortable, then it will suffice.
2. Brand loyalty – Let me just get over the awkward recommendation here. Despite everything that I will recommend subsequently after this point, for some people it will still come down to the matter of “what brand am I wearing”. I have known many who will ONLY wear Nikes or Asics and swear that only those brand of shoes will fit their feet (despite never ever transitioning to or trying other brands). So if this is you, hey…no judgement. You do you. But even within each brand they have types of shoes for different runners so……continue on reading.
3. Foot Type – Traditionally, there are 3 foot types: (a) flat foot, (b) neutral arch, and (c) high arch. Most people fall in between (somewhere between flat and neutral arch, or neutral and high arch) and only very few have the typical flat foot (where the foot arch is collapse) or the very high arch. Flat foot and high arch runners commonly exhibit certain types of injuries (at least in textbooks and old literatures - and I have a suspicion that they were written by someone who does not even run!) and it has been theorised that different types of shoes can “correct” these foot types and thus reduce the occurrence of certain types of injuries.
Traditionally the theory goes like this: flat foot causes higher incidence of over pronation leading to more internal rotation of the tibia (shin bone) and this ultimately causes one to have the dreaded “Runner’s knee”. Or another will be: high arch doesn’t absorb “shock” well and that will lead to increase risk of ankle sprains/stress fractures/metatarsalgias (aches and pains in the base of the toes). However like I have mentioned, many people fall into the “in between” foot types and many a times, these Runner’s knees, ITB syndromes, stress fractures (and many more ailments you most likely will encounter as you run further and more frequent) are issues that arise due to poor LOAD MANAGEMENT and unwise training methods (I wrote another article on Load Management for another knee problem but the idea is still the same. You can read that HERE).
So….if you like the “tradition” of buying running shoes based on your foot type, then Flat Foot should go for Motion-control shoes with a firmer arch, High Arch should go for super cushioning shoes and Neutral Arch should go for stability shoes (or any shoes for that matter cause apparently they hit the “Foot-Type-Jackpot”!).
However these days many are debunking that concept thus the general advice is to make sure there is adequate space in the toe box (to prevent black toes), learn to lace your shoes properly to adjust for this toe box space (or lack of it) and adequate width in your forefoot for general comfort.
4. Style of running – Some people over pronate when they run meaning that their foot rolls inwards when they land. Although this is common in people who have flatter foots but it can also be a normal occurrence for some with other foot types.
Some people run and land on forefoot….some land on midfoot…..while others demonstrate heel strike. It has been argued that the thicker the midsole/heel of the shoes, the more incline you will be to land on your heels.
However do consider this…if you consistently heel strike during your runs regardless of the type of shoes you wear, I would advice for more cushioning type of shoes (and my advice would extend to trying to change over to mid/forefoot landing). If you typically land mid or forefoot, with decent run cadence and have no issues with metatarsalgia (toe and forefoot pains) then you can get away with less cushioning.
However if your forefoot and toes tend to hurt after a long-ish run, I suggest for more cushioning at the forefoot area of the shoes (and make sure your shoe width is adequate).
* Btw, it would be good to find out your running style by getting it assessed at some of the specialty running stores (such as The Running Lab).
5. Body weight – Even though running may be the method of choice used to lose weight, taking into account your body weight when you start running influences the type of shoes you should purchase. The heavier you are, the more load your foot, ankle, knee and hip joints will bear with each step you run. Therefore if your Body Mass Index (BMI) is above 25, you may want to consider a more cushioning pair of shoes. The more cushioning the midsole is, the longer it can withstand the load before wearing out and needing you to change a new pair (and saving you money!). The lighter you are, the less important this additional cushioning is (but if you generally just like cushioning shoes, then by all means).
6. Running surfaces – Some people like running on the road, some like the trails and some like to go hamster-ing at the local track. The type of surface you run most often on should also contribute to the type of shoes you buy. Running in trails (especially the more technical types) will most likely need you to have shoes with traction soles for better grip when you run. However if the trails are the well-manicured types, then you may make do with your regular running shoes. Track running for regular folks can also make do with their usual running shoes however if you speed-train frequently and spend most of your time on the track, perhaps consider getting track spikes or racing shoes that are very thin-soled.
I know the above are not your regular run-of-the-mill advice for buying running shoes but these advices are from a practical standpoint and from my experience treating runners with common running problems (and yes….some are also from my own personal experience considering the fact that I still run, albeit not as fervently as before).
So in conclusion…go with:
- What you can afford and what brand you like
- What you find comfortable (toe box space and forefoot width)
- Whether you are currently dealing with any running-related ailments
- What kind/type of runner you are
To be frank, sometimes you just need to experience a few types of shoes to get a feel for what works BEST for you.
There is no PERFECT shoes for a foot type…just the RIGHT pair that works for YOU (and trust me when I tell you I have spent many years during my early running “career” searching for the perfect shoes that honestly, does not exist).
Hope you find the above info valuable.
If not, consider them ‘fun’ reading!