Finding the Perfect Running Shoe
Innovation is the name of the game in the running shoe industry, which means there’s never been a better time to find your perfect pair of running shoes. But how do you find the best option for you when there is such a massive array of makes, models and technologies on the market?
Our simple guide to finding the right shoe to take you all the way to the Start Line of your next marathon will help you to make smart choices next time you’re in the market for new running shoes. We’ve put together this checklist with the help of the experts at New Balance, the official clothing and footwear partner of The Big Half, to celebrate the first year of our partnership with the company.
We caught up with Liz Ellyard, Senior Merchandise Manager at New Balance, to get her 10 top tips for buying your next (or your first!) pair of trainers.
Her number-one piece of advice for any runner looking to update their footwear is to seek professional help. “It sounds obvious, but the best place to start is a specialist running shop,” says Ellyard. “Try on a variety of different makes and models to get a sense of what you like and don’t like, and don’t be afraid to ask for advice from the sales staff on the different types of shoes available.
“The key thing to consider when buying a new pair of running shoes is cushioning, which is what essentially leads to comfort.”
Does the shoe fit?
Start by asking yourself whether the shoe feels comfortable. Consider the following: heel, instep, width, length, flex and feel. There should be a thumb’s width at the end of the shoe, which might mean going up a size or half a size bigger than your everyday shoes.
“I’ve fitted hundreds of pairs of shoes and found that people usually wear their shoes too small,” says Ellyard. “Your feet expand when you run a long distance, so you need the extra length to accommodate that.”
You should also plan your shoe-shopping trip for late afternoon, when your feet have expanded to their largest size to ensure you buy the right size.
Style it out
As well as comfort and fit, your running style will dictate your choice of shoes.
The most common way for sales staff to assess this is by watching you run on a treadmill in store. By analysing your gait, they will be able to spot any biomechanical issues you might have and suggest the best shoes to accommodate this.
If your ankles roll in when your feet hit the ground, for example, you may need to run in stability shoes that help to prevent excessive inward rolling (or over pronation). Once the sales staff have assessed your gait, they will be able to recommend a variety of shoes for you to test for comfort and fit.
Two ways about it
At New Balance’s flagship store on London’s Oxford Street, the sales advisors offer a two-pronged approach to finding your perfect running shoe. They’ll start by filming you doing a few strides so they can assess your running style, then they’ll take a laser scan of your feet.
It takes just three seconds to build a 3D image of each foot, which you can view on an iPad, with its exact measurements – including the width, length and arch height. The sales staff will use this 3D image to give you advice about what type of running shoe you need.
The way forward
With so many running-shoe companies creating innovative new designs and technologies, you will always be able to find a running shoe to suit your style.
That said, there are broad trends that the majority of manufacturers tend to follow, so it’s a good idea to be aware of these when shoe shopping.
Several years ago, when ‘barefoot’ running was all the rage, running shoe companies met the demand by creating minimalist shoes. But while you might still see the odd person running in shoes that look more like gloves than footwear, the market is broadly moving towards more cushioning in shoes.
“A small percentage of people can run in a minimal – or no – product, but what’s happening now is a trend towards maximum cushioning,” says Ellyard.
On the money
So, you’ve found a shoe that’s a great fit and perfect for your running style, but you’re not sure how much to spend. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for when it comes to running shoes.
“Budget shoes tend not to be as durable as more expensive models because of the manufacturing methods and materials that go into them,” explains Ellyard. “If you are running every day and putting in high-mileage weeks, you’ll need certain materials in your shoes to give them durability and cushioning over a longer period.
“From a UK perspective, the price point for these shoes will be around RRP £85. You can run in cheaper shoes, but for the best experience I’d recommend performance running shoes.”
Time for a change
Once your new shoes are out of the box, try to track the number of miles you run in them by making a note in your training log. It’s also a good idea to rotate your shoes if possible, so you’re not always wearing the same pair. The minor differences between pairs will encourage your body to adapt and become stronger.
Ellyard suggests replacing shoes after you’ve run 400 to 600 miles – an industry standard – as the shoes will lose their cushioning after that. Look out for signs of wear, such as creases on the sole, holes in the mesh upper and worn insoles and replace shoes if you spot any of these tell-tale signs.
Ask the internet
If you can’t get to a specialist running store, or you want to do some research before new you set off on your next shoe-shopping trip, the internet offers a variety of resources you can tap into. Runner’s World magazine produces a shoe buyer’s guide twice a year with its November and April issues, or check out the shoe reviews online at runnersworld.co.uk. You can also take a look at running-shoe manufacturers’ sites to find out more about the shoes they offer. And if you’d like advice from runners who have already tried the shoes you’re thinking of buying, head to a running shoe forum and get involved.
Shopping for new shoes may seem daunting at first but armed with this checklist on what to look for, where to buy and how much to spend, you’ll be able to make smart choices next time you invest in a new pair of trainers. And by learning from the experts at a specialist running shop, you’ll gain great insights into your running style and improve your chances of arriving on the Start Line of your next half marathon injury-free, fighting fit and ready to take on the challenge. Happy running!