With so many different types of running shoes available on the market now and with so many different opinions on what the 'best' running shoe is, it is understandable that often it can be daunting choosing your next pair of running trainers.
Fashion vs. Function
In terms of running shoes, function always wins. The key to finding the most appropriate running shoe for you is often as simple as this... are they comfortable?
Yes there are other factors which you may wish to consider; but ultimately the shoe has to be comfortable in order for you to train well. There really is no brand superior to another, but with so much investment in expensive marketing campaigns for large sportswear and trainer outlets, we can be easily led towards one pair over another by the power of advertising.
Other important factors besides comfort?
The other key things to consider when choosing your running shoes are:
- Your running technique
- Your training load
- Injury profile
Your Running technique
Some people will select a type of shoe depending on the way that they run, for instance if they are a heel striker they may opt for a shoe with a higher heel drop where as if they are a forefoot runner, a shoe with a low heel drop may suit them better (heel drop refers to the height difference between the ball of the foot and the heel). However if there is no current injury or history of injury, it is not necessary to change your footwear according to these trends, as comfort is the main factor.
If you prefer to run on trails or more uneven surfaces, opting for a trail running shoe will suit you better as they have more grip on mud, grass and tracks than a standard pair of trainers. Trail shoes tend to also have a more cushioned sole for increased shock absorbance on uneven and rough terrain.
If you are a road runner, shock absorbance is key to reduce load placed on the feet and lower limbs and therefore a lighter shoe with a good sole would be preferable.
If you run on treadmills, a more minimalist shoe can work better as they are lighter and you haven't got to worry so much about shock absorbance as treadmills tend to exhibit less impact.
Your training load
You can also choose the style of running shoe for you, based on the volume of training and type of training you are doing; the style of shoe for someone who wishes to perform short distance sprint training will differ from a runner who is training to run a marathon, for instance.
Short distance runners or sprinters tend to opt for a more minimalist design, which are lighter weight and have a flatter form, designed for optimal speed.
Longer distance runners tend to opt for a more supportive shoe which may have greater cushioning in the sole or a greater heel drop. Marathon distance runners should also consider the width of the shoe; shoes designed for distance running tend to have a wider toe box to allow space for the feet to expand.
The number one most asked question around running footwear is 'do I need pronation support?'
Pronation is an essential part of the gait cycle and is necessary to enable smooth transition of load from the lateral to the medial side of the heel at heel strike and through to the midfoot. As weight is transferred through the midfoot towards the forefoot in preparation for toe off, ideally weight should travel more towards the lateral part of the midfoot and it is here that people can 'overpronate'. So do you need to correct this? Overpronation can increase load on the inside of the knee and cause pain at the ankle, knee, hip or lower back.
In something as repetitive as running, altered biomechanics can increase the runners injury risk or affect an injury from resolving effectively if not identified and managed. However, it is rarely the case that a running shoe is the sole influential factor in someones injury risk.
Certain injuries may influence runners choices when it comes to selecting a running shoe. For instance, a shoe with a higher heel drop may lend itself to helping manage achilles tendon pain as it take the tendon off of a stretch by placing the foot in a slightly more plantarflexed position. If you have suffered with posterior ankle impingement however, a lower heel drop/zero drop option may be more comfortable for you.
We know that calf and achilles issues are more prevalent in forefoot runners, and heel strikers may be more prone to anterior knee pain due to the way the structures in the lower limb are loaded with different mechanics of running and therefore we may select a shoe which encourages a certain running style to minimize this risk.
In essence, it is important to remember the your choice of running shoe is never the sole influencing factor of injury risk; running injuries are multi-factorial; you must also consider your training load and strength and conditioning.
At Oxford Performance Clinic we offer a comprehensive running assessment during which we can recommend what to look for when purchasing your next pair of running shoes. We will also identify any biomechanical factors which may influence your injury risk using video analysis; and provide an individualised training programme to address any muscle imbalances identified during your assessment. For further information please visit: https://www.oxfordperformanceclinic.co.uk/running-assessment