How to choose running shoes

How to choose running shoes

The choice of running shoes it is a fundamental moment for every runner.

Naturally the problem arises for those who have not yet identified their ideal model because the runner, in general, is quite faithful to the shoe with which he can run well.

The running shoe, in fact, greatly influences our way of running and wearing inappropriate shoes can lead to annoyances or problems of a different nature.

The market, at the moment, offers a great possibility of choice and finding one's way among the various models proposed is not always easy.

To begin with, we can divide the shoes according to the type of running we practice. Three broad categories can be:

  • Street shoes: suitable for those who run mainly on the road, on cycle paths, on the track and occasionally on light dirt roads with few irregularities. This type of shoe is designed to cushion the impact on fairly regular surfaces
  • Trail shoes: they are designed to run off-road, on highly irregular paths or surfaces on which we can find mud, water, slippery surfaces, gravel and rocks. The sole is very resistant and with a well marked tessellation.
  • Cross-training shoes: they are shoes designed for training mainly in the gym and are suitable for the various disciplines that can be practiced in the hall. They are used for running on the treadmill for short distances

In this article we will focus on the first type of shoes, street shoes, suitable for running outdoors.

Winter or summer shoes?

When choosing a pair of running shoes, one often wonders if it is necessary to buy a model for the summer and a different one for the winter, when the temperature is colder and you risk running even in the rain.

Let's dispel a myth: the choice of running shoe is independent of the season. The shoes that we use during the summer in the heat are great even during the winter.

Good quality shoes are made of synthetic materials which, in case of rain, dry very quickly. The soles also allow you to run in the wet while maintaining stability and a certain grip.

The trick to take during the winter is to start running slowly and warm up well before carrying out the actual training.

Support during the race

The support during the race varies considerably according to the speed. Those who run at 4'00 "per km lean their foot in a very different way from those who run at 6'50" per km.

In the first case, the forefoot tends to be supported, in the second case, however, the hindfoot tends to be supported, especially if the distances are quite long.

Generally, you don't have to think about it too much because these two movements are naturally managed by the body based on the running speed.

Resting the forefoot allows for better cushioning of the impact with the ground, so the body tends to protect itself better.

On the other hand, running with the hindfoot first allows you to do a little less effort and save energy.

In the latter case, if we consider an average speed around 5 'per km, when the back of the foot touches the ground, there is first a slight pronation movement (to dampen the impact with the ground) followed by a slight supination (to best exercise the thrust).

With pronation, therefore, the foot rotates inwards, with supination, instead, outwards and these two conditions are normal both during running and walking.

Problems arise when both are excessive. In this case we speak of overpronation or hypersupination and we are talking about real support defects.

The choice of running shoe based on support

As is well known, there are many shoes on the market that can compensate for incorrect support and it may seem obvious to opt for such a choice.

In reality this is not the case.

If you are pronator or supinator (let's say so, for simplicity) and have always run without having particular problems, it is absolutely not the case to choose shoes that correct the support. In these cases, the body has found its own balance and put in place mechanisms that allow you to run without too much difficulty.

If we changed the type of shoe, this subtle balance would be compromised and different types of pathologies could arise.

On the contrary, if there are problems that are certainly attributable to an incorrect and uncompensated support, it is necessary to choose suitable shoes.

Tests to choose the most suitable shoes

Many specialized shops allow you to take a test to evaluate the support and running dynamics.

The test generally consists of two phases

  • Static phase
  • Dynamic phase

During the static phase, the assistant evaluates the support during the loading phase.

With the dynamic test, however, the support is evaluated together with the running dynamics.

This test is carried out with the help of a treadmill to which a video camera and a computer are connected.

The attendant makes us get on the treadmill and starts it, bringing the speed close to that of comfort.

The entire running phase is filmed by a camera positioned so as to frame the lower part of the limbs.

The images are sent to a computer and a monitor in order to be evaluated through a more or less in-depth analysis.

The test is then repeated with different types of shoes to check how much and how the support has been correct.

This test is very useful and certainly new technologies can be of great help but, let me tell you, the sensitivity and experience of the person carrying out the test are irreplaceable.

An expert eye can evaluate the support and recommend the appropriate shoe by taking into account the data of the support test but basing its advice above all on experience and knowledge.

Other variables to be evaluated

  • Weight: it is essential in evaluating the type of shoe to buy. Heavier people can opt for very cushioned shoes to protect muscles and joints during repeated impact with the ground.
  • Speed: this must also be taken into consideration when choosing. The runner who is starting out or who in any case runs at a relaxed pace can opt for shoes that support and facilitate this type of running.

On the contrary, the advanced runner who runs at a fast pace can evaluate shoes with a reactive sole, which returns the support force during the push.

Remain brand loyal or change?

The balance on which the race is based is rather subtle. If you have found a brand and model of shoes that allow you to run without causing problems, I personally recommend that you continue to buy that brand and model.

But… don't preclude yourself from trying on other shoes too.

Keep in mind that having two pairs of shoes can be an excellent idea not only to alternate but also to be able to continue training if one of the two pairs is wet or unusable.

Which size to choose

As for the number to buy, you must always consider a number or a number and a half more than the shoes you wear in everyday life.

Between the first toe and the toe of the shoe there must always be some space.

This is essential when starting to run over slightly longer distances or on routes that are not flat. If a finger repeatedly hits the tip of the shoe, it is very likely that the nail will be affected, even turning black and falling off. Nothing serious, anyone who runs more or less long distances has had such problems. But it's a nuisance that can be avoided by choosing the right shoes.

I recommend that you always try on the shoes you are about to buy even if the make and model are the same as a pair you already have. Keep in mind that the various companies launch a new model of the same shoe with a certain frequency and between the various models there are always small differences.

Orthotics yes or insoles no

In general, the insoles of running shoes are of good quality but you can consider replacing them with others that improve comfort or increase the ability to cushion.

Another possibility is to use heel pads, which are placed under the original footbed of the shoe. In general, the heel pads are made of gel and allow to attenuate the impact on the heel.

In the case of pronator shoes, there are insoles that improve the correction of support by assisting the action of the shoe.

How much do you need to spend on a running shoe?

The price of running shoes is very variable. The advice is not to buy too cheap models because the shoe is really essential in running and a low quality shoe can cause discomfort or pain in a short time.

Personally I think that the amount to spend could be 80-120 €. Of course there are much more expensive shoes because they are of much better quality.

The shoes that cost more than 120 € are made with the highest quality materials and have a very accurate design and drawing work behind them.

If there is the possibility of orienting towards the latter, it is certainly worth it.

Where to buy running shoes, small shop or large chain?

The answer to this question is also not unique.

In my experience, the small shop (specializing in running shoes !!) generally offers greater expertise and greater attention. Clearly the situation varies according to the staff but, generally, the clerk of the small shop follows the customer more carefully, listens to him and recommends the most suitable shoes. With the passage of time we get to know each other and the advice becomes more accurate.

The large chains, such as DF Sport Specialist or Maxi Sport to be clear, have the advantage of offering a wide choice of models able to truly satisfy all needs.

Personally, I prefer small shops for the quality of the advice, for the attention they give me and for the relationship that is created with the shopkeeper. This clearly does not exclude the big chains where I bought shoes when I wanted to try a little different models or when there were very affordable offers.

Another option is the online purchase which can sometimes allow you to save on the price but does not allow you to try on your new shoes. Up for example there are dozens of good shoes on offer. However, our advice is to buy online only if you already know the model and its number because you are already using it or because you have had the opportunity to try it in the store.

What to do once you buy new shoes?

You've finally made up your mind and bought your new pair of shoes.

Are you satisfied, you bring them home and… are you going to run there? No!!!

Before doing a workout with the shoes you just bought, it is best to keep them on your feet for a day and walk on them so that they adapt a little to your foot.

Remember to pull the strings well. In the part closest to the tip, they are often a bit soft and need to be put in place.

For the first workout it is best to do a few kilometers to get familiar with the shoe and feel how it reacts to your running style.

And finally, if they are your shoes, if you have been running with them for a while and you feel them well, if they give you satisfaction and above all they do not cause pain of any kind, consider buying another pair as well. As I said, the various companies offer new models of the same shoe in a fairly short time and it is not certain that the new model will then go as well as the previous one you had bought with great satisfaction.

Chicca Ferrari and Lelio Lassandro

Team Runsmile a.s.d.

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