WHETHER you’re taking to the streets, the track, or the trail, finding the right shoe is essential — helping you avoid injury, boosting your performance, and keeping your feet in shape. While most running shoes feel great when you’re in the sports store, it can be a different story after a few miles on the road. When it comes to finding the right running shoe, forget about the logo on the side, it’s all about your individual foot shape and running style.
What kind of runner are you?
Today’s running shoe options are diverse, with styles designed specifically for different types of sport. Before you head out to the sports store, think about the type of surface you’ll be running on most. If it’s the hard surface of the inner city, road running shoes are designed for you.
They’re specially engineered to cope with the solid surfaces of pavements and roads. Protecting your feet against the shocks incurred by repetitive strides on hard, even surfaces, their light, flexible design will equip you for the occasional run off-road too.
If you’re primarily going to be running off-road, trail running shoes will give you the added protection you need. They’re a toughened-up version of the road running shoe, featuring a sturdy outsole and added traction. Trail running shoes offer the enhanced stability your feet need to cope with rocky, slippery and pot hole-ridden off-road surfaces.
Your individual foot shape
Shoe sizes and widths can vary by shoe model and manufacturer, so even if you know your shoe size, it’s a good idea to get your feet measured first at a sports footwear store like JD Sports. One foot can often be slightly larger, or wider, than the other too, so it’s essential to try before you buy. Your shoe should feel snug around the heel, but not tight, with no constriction or irritation whatsoever — any discomfort you feel while in the store is only going to be amplified once you hit the streets.
Understanding your arch shape is key to understanding the way that you run, and which running shoe is going to provide you with the comfort and stability you need. As your foot hits the ground, it naturally rolls inwards, with the arch of your foot flattening out to cushion the impact. Different heights of arch therefore affect your running style. The easiest way to determine your arch height is to take a look at your footprint the next time you get out of the bath or shower.
- Flat foot: the straighter your footprint appears, and the wider the mid-section, the lower your arch is. This arch shape leads to overpronation, and motion control or stability running shoes will give you the extra support you need.
- Low/normal arch: if your footprint lies between a flat foot and high arch, you’ll see a definite arch print, not too wide and not too narrow. Those with a low arch tend to be neutral runners, and stability running shoes are ideal for this common arch height.
- Medium to high arch: if you have a very narrow arch print, or the heel and ball of your footprint are not connected at all, then you have a high arch height. This means that you’ll typically be affected by underpronation. A curved rather than straight shoe will fit you best, with a cushioning running shoe giving the added support you need to stabilise your stride.