How to Choose
Welcome to our 'How to choose' section. We aim to address the most common questions a runner has when attempting to choose new shoes and running gear.
If there's anything missing from this set of articles that you'd like to see on the site, we love to hear from you! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions.
- Do I need new running shoes?
- Top tips when shopping for running shoes
- Types of shoe
- Trail shoes
- Running Socks
- Sports Bras
Do I need new running shoes?
Generally you should replace a pair after 500 to 600 miles. For someone who runs 5 miles 3 times per week, this would equate to a new pair of shoes every 8 to 10 months.
We generally use the tried and true, scientifically proven, kitchen bench inspection method - If you can make the shoe rock with one finger on the heel counter, or you can see that the midsole has compressed, that is usually a sign that it's time to get a new pair. If the shoe sole is noticeably worn more in one part than another don't wait until you get injured.
To avoid risk of injury close to an event make sure that, if you need new shoes, you have replaced them at least four weeks before a race.
Top tips when shopping for running shoes
Trying to find the pair of running shoes that are exactly right for your training can be a daunting task. There are so many models of running shoe out there that it may seem tempting to go for the safest, cheapest option. However, a good pair of running shoes can seriously boost your running training so it's important not to cut corners when buying running shoes.
This guide lists the 'do's and don'ts' to follow when you're looking for a new pair of shoes
- Select 'fit for purpose'
- Consider where you're actually going to be running and buy shoes that will be suitable for the terrain. If most of your training is off-road, then road shoes with built-up heels are unsuitable because you will be more unstable and could potentially turn an ankle. Similarly, a pair of out-and-out fell shoes with deeply studded outsoles will be very uncomfortable on tarmac, as the studs will press into the soles of your feet.
- Wear your running socks
- You should always wear the socks that you intend to run in when you go for a shoe fitting. The thickness of your sock can make a big difference to the fit and feel of your shoe, particularly as your feet expand in the heat.
- Consider gait analysis
- We offer a free gait analysis service at every single Runners Need store. You're videoed whilst running on a treadmill for a couple of minutes and the resultant footage is then played back (in freeze-frame if necessary) to accurately assess your foot plant, stride and running pattern. This information can then be used to find the best shoe for you.
- Ask for a trial run
- It's important to remember that buying your running shoes is a big investment - and so you should always test any shoes properly before buying them. Padding around on a carpet in the shop certainly won't replicate how the shoes will feel when you're running in them! Instead, you should 'road test' them on our in-store treadmills.
- Buy in the morning
- If possible, save your shoe shopping until the afternoon. After lunch your feet will have expanded, which can make a significant difference to your foot size. When you run, your feet heat up and swell - particularly on hot days - so if you buy a snug fit in the morning, you could easily find that your shoes become too tight during your runs, which may cause discomfort and blisters.
- Target designer labels
- Your running shoes are not fashion items; they're functional pieces of equipment designed to protect your feet and legs from injury. Try to avoid being swayed by aggressive marketing campaigns for particular brands or simply choosing a shoe because it sports this season's colours. Choose only according to comfort, fit and functionality, as this way you'll get hundreds of miles of trouble-free running out of your shoes.
- Attempt to over-extend your shoe life
- Your running shoes will take a great deal of pounding across a wide range of surfaces and in all weathers, so they will need to be replaced typically every 500 miles or so. How often you need to buy new shoes will depend on your weight, running style and choice of terrain, but you should always avoid trying to squeeze a few extra weeks out of shoes that are evidently worn out, because the shoes won't afford the protection you need and will increase the chances of you getting injured.
- Assume that 'any old trainer will do'
- Running shoes are specifically designed for running and have evolved from basic 'plimsoll'-type items into sophisticated, supportive, injury-preventing pieces of fitness equipment. Everyone has an old pair of tennis shoes or similar lying around in the back of a cupboard but these are entirely unsuitable for coping with the demands of running. Running is a cheap activity, and the only real investment that you need to make is by purchasing good footwear.
Types of shoe
A good pair of running shoes should provide flexibility, durability, motion control and shock absorption. However, a runners' foot size, shape and movement combined with their biomechanics and specialty means that different people may have different requirements from their running shoes. Running shoes tend to sit within five main groups; motion control, cushioned, stability, lightweight and trail.
You can find more information about biomechanics and running styles in our Skills & Knowledge section.
- Motion control running shoes
- These shoes are for feet that roll inward too much, or overpronate. They are built to reduce or control the excess rolling action of the foot and act as shock absorbers too. They're the most rigid of shoes and are designed to slow overpronation. They also tend to be fairly heavy but durable and features include a polyurethane mid-sole and carbon rubber out-sole for durability. Most offer stability and a maximum medial support (also good for flat footed people).
- Cushioned running shoes
- Cushioning is very important for runners whose feet do not roll inward or outwards, as it is this rolling movement that helps absorb the shock that would otherwise be sent through the joints to the spine. The cushioning is designed to reduce the shock when the foot hits the ground. If you have rigid and immobile feet and tend to under-pronate then cushioned shoes have little medial support and soft mid-soles. They enable foot motion and are also ideal for high arch runners.
- Stability running shoes
- These types of shoes provide a cushioning, medial support and durability and offer a compromise between motion control and cushioned shoes. They tend to prevent excess motion and are ideal for runners who have normal arches and who prefer some medial support and good durability.
- Lightweight running shoes
- These shoes are lighter and more responsive than standard trainers and may have varying degrees of cushioning and/or stability, but they are too lightweight to be classed as motion control shoes. These are ideal for fast-paced training or racing.
- Trail running shoes
- These shoes tend to have a special set of features to help you run on all kinds of rugged terrain, including Gore-Tex liners, midfoot wraps and lugged outer soles.
Trail Running Shoes
The main quality to look for in a trail shoe is the level of grip the shoe offers. This will differ from shoe to shoe and depend on the type of off road running the shoe is designed for, for example hard pack, soft pack, fell, mix of both etc. and will be reflected in the aggressiveness of the outsole. The outsole of a trail shoe will have deeper tread to provide traction and stability on slippery and uneven surfaces.
The second aspect is the uppers. Trail shoes are generally harder wearing, with more durable uppers. They generally offer more protection for the foot. I.e. a stone shield in the forefoot of the shoe to prevent sharp objects puncturing through. The uppers can either be water resistant/ waterproof (ie. GORE-TEX) to prevent your feet getting wet in damp conditions but if you plan on running through water you might be better off choosing a shoe that allows the water to escape when it gets in.
Trail shoes also tend to have a lower profile for stability as it helps the wearer to respond quicker to the changing terrain.
Most trail shoes have a neutral level of support due to the nature of running off road, (the foot is more mobile over uneven ground), although some shoes do have support similar to that of their road cousins. However, as with all running shoes it depends on the individual and the type of trail running/racing that you are doing. A lightweight, neutral trail shoe like an Adidas Kanadia may be great for a short, quick event, but not that suitable for an off road Marathon for example. It's about finding the right balance between traction, responsiveness, weight and cushioning.
Bear in mind also that most off road shoes are stiffer and require a longer breaking in period than road shoes, so be wary of this when buying for a race. It's also worth bearing in mind that most trail shoes offer less cushioning than their road counterparts, so should not be used for long distances on road.
Visit our trail running shoes department.
Although runners consider running shoes as their main equipment piece, a well fitted running shoe can be really uncomfortable if not worn with the appropriate socks. A good technical running sock is an important contributing factor to experiencing comfortable feet in a pair of running shoes.
Runners should consider using running-specific socks as they have extra padding across the ball of the foot, toes and the heel area. This extra padding cuts down on shock and protects important areas that can blister. There's also usually padding or a tighter area through the arch to allow the shoe to fit more closely and add better arch support.
We would recommend not using cotton socks for running. Cotton retains moisture and moisture + heat + friction in a running shoe = blisters, calluses and hot spots. Cotton also gets more abrasive when wet.
- Your socks will most likely wear out first in the heels and the balls of the feet. When you start noticing little friction blisters in these areas, it's time to get new socks!
- No matter how minimalist you are about your socks, make sure that they come up higher than the top of the back of your running shoes. Otherwise, they'll slip down during your run and cause friction hot spots on the back of your heel.
- Wash your socks inside out - all the dead flakes of skin will be in the inside! Eugh!
Visit our running sock department.
For the ladies, a quality sports bra is just as essential as the right footwear and should be replaced just as often.
It's estimated that when left unsupported, breasts bounce up to 9cm during exercise and can lead to irreversible damage and soreness during exercise.
Running is a high impact activity, so it demands a high level of support an average bra cannot provide. A quality sports bra designed for high impact activity like running will reduce movement by up to 74%, alleviating discomfort and leaving you free to enjoy your run.
Visit our sports bra department.
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