The right footwear is essential for bikers and runners alike. All runners – from beginner to elite athlete – will require comfortable, well-fitting shoes that suit their biomechanical characteristics, running style and chose discipline.
The right running shoe is as essential for the newcomer to the sport as it is for elite athletes. A comfortable and correctly fitting running shoe is the basic requirement, but you will also need shoes to suit your foot type, gait, personal running style and running discipline (track, cross-country, trail etc).
Modern running shoes are made with light, breathable uppers to keep your feet dry and comfortable with cushioned soles for support. The type and amount of material used in each (sole and upper) will be dependent on the shoe type and intended use – minimalist and lightweight for racing shoes, tough and weatherproof for trail running shoes and a balance of both for ‘all-rounder’ training shoes.
When buying your first pair of ‘proper’ running shoes it is often an idea to have a professional gait analysis carried out, which will establish your level of pronation (how your foot rolls when you walk or run – a ‘neutral’ runner will display little or no pronation while an ‘over-pronator’ will find their foot rolling towards the inside and will require a shoe that compensates).
Read on to find out more about the different types of shoes that are available and to help you pick one to suit.
Pronation describes the inward rolling motion of the foot just after it lands on the ground, which has a significant effect on how your bodyweight is distributed as you run, and how efficient your running gait is (severe under- or over-pronators will also be more exposed to injury without stablising shoes to compensate). Knowing your pronation pattern is essential in picking the riht running shoes.
• Neutral pronation: A neutral or normal pronator will strike the ground in a relatively straight line from the heel to the front of the foot and can run in a wide variety of shoes, but specialised neutral running shoes offering cushioning and support are most suitable.
• Under pronation: Underpronation is when the foot doesn’t pronate much, with the outer side of the heel hitting the ground at an increased angle. This increases shock through the lower leg and affects running efficiency.
• Over-pronation: Is where the foot rolls inwards (pronates) too much, transferring excess weight to the inner or medial side of the foot. This destabilises the foot and results in an inefficient gait.
Shoe length and width
It’s important to remember that your foot will expand as you run so your shoe fit needs to reflect this – you may need a longer and/or wider running shoe with more room than your typical street shoe. Again, a professional fit will help you determine the ideal running shoe size for you.
For keen runners and racers a lightweight, minimalist shoe is regarded as essential. Meanwhile for newcomers to the sport who may be carrying a little extra weight themselves, extra cushioning and support may be required.
• Cushion: These are running shoes designed with extra cushioning in the soles for larger athletes or beginners.
• Minimalist: Lightweight shoes using the bare minimum of sole cushioning and materials to reflect the ‘barefoot’ or natural preference of some runners.
• Neutral: Shoes designed for ‘normal’ pronators who do not require additional stability to compensate for over- or under-pronation.
• Race: Lightweight shoes made using hi-tech materials for competitive athletes.
• Stability: These shoes are designed to help with gait efficiency in runners who over- or under-pronate.
• Trail: Featuring tough, breathable and water-resistant uppers and grippy soles for the extra demand of running off-road in tough conditions and on broken surfaces. These are however heavier than track/road racing shoes.