Choosing a running shoe can be a daunting experience, there are just so many options, so it’s no surprise that it’s something a lot of people get wrong the first time.
The wrong shoe can cause serious injuries as well as costing you a lot of money. The cost or brand of shoe should not be the main consideration – it’s getting the right type of shoe for your running style that is important.
How to assess your foot pronation
Running shoes are designed to work with your running style and provide cushioning where you need it. Ideally, runners would naturally strike the ground with the outside of the heel first and then roll slightly onto the ball of the foot, with weight distributed equally across the ball. This is a neutral running style, often termed ‘Neutral Pronation‘.
Over Pronation occurs where there is too much roll and the runner ends up on the inside of the foot.
Under Pronation is where there is not enough roll so the contact with the ground is more on the outside.
There are two easy ways to assess your own running style. The first is to do the wet test. This involves checking your foot arch height. To do this simply wet the bottom of your feet and step normally onto a paper bag or a piece of paper, then step off. This will show you how much of your foot was in contact with the paper when stood normally.
Compare your results with the picture below:
- If you see an indented curve on the inside of your foot (on the side with your big toe) and the middle of your foot is about half the width of your heel and toe, you have a neutral pronation and you should look to buy a stability running shoe. (The image in the middle)
- If the middle of the foot is deeply cut away from the inside of the foot, you are an under pronator and you should buy a cushioned running shoe (The image on the right)
- If the imprint looks like almost your whole foot, then you are an over pronator and should buy a motion control running shoe. (The image on the left)
Another way to assess your pronation is to take a look at the bottom of your shoes. This should show where you have been striking the floor with your heel and where you have rolled to on the front of the shoe.
- If the wear on the front of the shoe is even, then you are rolling into a neutral position and so you have neutral pronation, you should look at buying a stability running shoe.
- If the wear on the front of the shoe is mainly on the outside (little toe) then you have not rolled enough as you take steps – this is under pronation and you require a cushioned running shoe.
- If most of the wear on the front of the shoe is on the inside (big toe) then you have rolled too far when taking steps – this is over pronation and you require a motion control running shoe.
Another important aspect is getting your fit right. Make sure a shoe feels comfortable when you try it on. You do not want it to be too small (your feet are likely to heat up and swell slightly when running) but, equally you do not want the shoe to allow your foot movement within it as this will encourage blisters as well as other injuries.
Visiting a specialist running shop
Specialist running shops will often assess your pronation and running style for you and try to find you the best match of shoe. This is normally considered the easiest way to find a shoe that fits. I’m sure that this will work for most people, however, I did this for my first pair of running shoes, they recommended the most expensive shoe in the shop and they caused me a lot of issues with my knees. I’m a slight over pronator, but the shop recommended me a shoe which compensated for this far too much and I ended up under pronating. It took me a long time to figure this out.
How much to spend?
This is not an easy question to answer. I have bought shoes for over £100 which have been terrible for me and I have bought shoes for under £30 that have been brilliant. There is a lot of brand loyalty for runners and their shoes – mainly because once someone has found a good shoe for them, they stick with it.
I’m often told by runners that they would not risk spending less than £60 on a pair of shoes, but I don’t stick to such strict guidelines. I like to have at least two pairs of running shoes at a time so that I can alternate them when running two or more days in a row (the padding in shoes needs time to recover from a run so this is something you should consider too – especially if training for a marathon length run or longer). Now that I know what suits my running style I tend to buy shoes from Amazon or another well known online store simply because they seem to have the best choice and prices.
What type of running will you be doing?
It may go without saying, but many guides miss this out – if you are planning to run off-road and on trails then you are going to need a trail shoe. This will provide much more protection from the uneven surface than a light weight road shoe.