How to choose the right pair of running shoes, whether for road or trail running, can seem like a complex mission. In this article, we’ll tell you how to find the best pair of shoes for your feet… without doing your head in.
CHOOSE A RUNNING SHOE THAT SUITS YOUR NEEDS
When choosing a pair of running shoes the most important thing is to find shoes that are designed for the way you run. This includes your personal biomechanics (stride), the type of running you do (where you run, how far, how fast), and personal preferences like ‘feel’ for the terrain.
Think About the Type of Running You Do
There’s no need to go to a laboratory full of scientists to find out exactly how you run. And even if you did, you should know that your stride changes continually depending on how far you run, differences in terrain, and muscle fatigue.
To identify your foot strike, you need to find out which part of your foot hits the ground first: the heel, midfoot or forefoot. If you have any questions, simply film your running in slow motion using a smartphone.
Your natural stride is what’s best for you. If you’re not getting injured, don’t change a thing! But if you have pain that won’t go away, or repeated injuries then see a sports medicine specialist who can analyze your form [and your shoes] to suggest changes.
Knowing your foot strike is a great start towards finding shoes designed for your style of running, especially in terms of drop (the height difference between the heel and forefoot of your shoe). Don’t get all stressed about this now, because it’s explained in the article, but generally speaking, the more you run on your forefoot the lower drop you’ll want.
Pronation (the angle between your heel and tibia) is often presented as an important factor when choosing the right running shoe. But once again, in choosing the right running shoe pronation is not a bad thing and if you’re running injury free then there’s no reason to change anything. So whether you’re a pronator (foot falls inward on contact) or a supinator (foot rolls outward on contact) doesn’t matter in the least.
Determine Your Objectives
First of all, what kind of terrain are you running on? If you run on trails, look for shoes that are designed for trail running. Find more of our advice by reading this article. If you run on roads, be sure to get shoes designed specifically for running instead of tennis shoes or general sport shoes.
After that, think about your goals and expectations. Are you planning on going for long runs or on runs for less than an hour? What’s your level of intensity? Do you run just to stay in shape or are you training for a marathon? Are you going to be using these shoes for training, race day, or recovery? What level of performance are you looking for?
By asking yourself these questions you’ll be able to find a range of shoes that best fits your needs: fun runs, training or races. You’ll be able to narrow your choice even further based on whether your shoes are for long distances like a marathon or short distances under 10km.
LOOK FOR THESE FEATURES
Your goals, your preferences and your style of running should all be clearer to you after you’ve given them some careful consideration. If so, then here are the features to look for when deciding on the best pair of shoes for your needs.
Drop is the height difference between the heel and forefoot of the shoe.
A standard drop (greater than 7mm) is recommended for runners who strike the ground with their heel first.
A low drop (6mm or less) is similar to running barefoot and is best suited for runners who strike the ground with their midfoot or forefoot first.
Cushioning and Flexibility in Running Shoes
Cushioning is the ability of running shoes to absorb shock when a runner’s foot hits the ground.
Shoes designed for a heel strike focus more attention in the heel of the shoe to absorb shock in that area. However, too much cushioning can make the shoe feel less stable and less precise. It’s up to you to decide how you want your shoes to feel.
New technologies - like Salomon’s new [opti·vibe] are being developed that reduce the vibration of each foot strike without compromising the dynamism of the shoe.
Those who run with a forefoot strike may require less cushioning because their body absorbs the impact more actively.
Perhaps the best way to think about flexibility is the ability of a shoe to deform. A flexible shoe provides better feel for the terrain but requires strong feet to be most efficient. At the other end of the scale, a rigid shoe will generally be more dynamic and provide more support, especially for larger runners.
Here again, your personal habits and preferences should drive your decision.
Finding your ideal shoe size will depend on many things:
- The length of your foot – regardless of what kind of runner you are the first thing to consider is having enough space between your toes and the end of the shoe. The length of your foot is easy to measure by tracing your foot on a piece of paper. Most shoe manufacturers provide a size scale that indicates what size shoe you need according to the length of your foot.
- The width of your foot – this will point you in the direction of shoes that feature either a wide or narrow fit. Runners with wide feet might consider bumping up a size or look for shoes offered in wide width.
- Sensitivity - shoe size can also affect the overall experience of the shoe, a more precise/snug fit gives you more control of your foot strike. So to find the shoe that’s best for you be sure to choose your shoe size accordingly.
Keep in mind that during the course of a run your foot size can change depending on the length of your run and also the temperature. These changes are usually minimal and many times you can simply loosen the laces to provide extra space.
Weight of the Shoe
From a purely scientific point of view, the lighter a shoe is the less energy it should require to propel it through a complete stride.
However, shaving weight off a shoe reduce comfort, stability and protection.
That’s why we recommend choosing the lightest shoe possible that includes all the features and comfort you require.
To provide some reference, running shoes weighing less than 200 grams are generally designed for racing where performance is the key factor. However, the majority of running shoes usually weigh between 250 and 300 grams.
Waterproof and Breathable
As a rule, road runners generally look for breathability in a shoe, especially in locations that are hot and dry.
Shoes that provide protection against wet conditions by using, for example, a Gore-Tex membrane, are made primarily for trail running or for runners who like to get after it rain or shine!
Two types of lacing systems are available today:
- Traditional laces – like the same, simple knot you’ve used since you were a kid.
- Mechanical lacing – like Salomon’s Quicklace™ system, which provides constant tightness as well as quick and easy fine-tuning.
Both systems exist so feel free to choose whichever makes you happy.
Men's or Women's?
The differences between our men’s and women’s models are the result of designing shoes to meet the needs required by their specific anatomical differences. And because our men’s and women’s ranges now offer such wide variety there are fewer reasons for a woman to need a man’s model and vice versa.
Making thousands of pairs of shoes has an effect on the environment. Certain manufacturers are aware of their responsibility and are trying to reduce their ecological impact by offering quality products. More and more brands are adopting an ecological approach by taking into account the materials and production process, the longevity of the product, and the reprocessing of the shoes after they are no longer being worn. Keep this in mind when you are making your selection and consider buying from a brand that shares your own ethics and personal practices.
So to sum it all up, it’s important to find a pair of shoes that fits your natural running style and personal preferences, ultimately the most comfortable for you. As your experience grows and your goals change be sure that the requirements you have for each new pair of shoes reflects these changes. When it comes to running shoes your ultimate goal is to completely forget them when you are running, so take the time to make the best choice!