It’s no secret that what you wear during your run can have an enormous impact on your motivation, performance and recovery. Assemble the right outfit and a PB could be around the corner. Make the wrong pick, however, and you could be pacing towards an injury. In short, it pays to pick the right kit and, most crucially, to make sure you’ve got the right running shoes to help you make bigger strides towards your goal.
Here, William Joyce BHSc Hons, Third Space’s Podiatric Medicine and running and biomechanics specialist, walks you through six things to consider before you invest in your next set of road running shoes.
Support and Cushioning
This is mostly up to personal preference. There’s little evidence to suggest cushioning and or support have much influence on injury. Although, if you have had an injury due to “over-pronation” such as ‘runner’s knee’, there is mounting evidence to suggest a support may help with this. But be careful as an individual’s biomechanics are complicated, so injuries are normally multifactorial in origin. Cushioning is needed especially when running on hard surfaces like a road and the amount of the cushioning hasn’t shown to have much effect on injury rate. A good rule of thumb is to wear something that is comfortable and a good fit but not too soft on the sole.
Fashion, or Function?
Obviously, you want to look good when you’re on the streets, but this can come with a warning. Running on roads has a high impact rate, which can be as high as 10x that of off-road or trail running. You can find plenty of shoes that look good, but won’t fit right. It’s important to take in consideration your running mechanics and injury history. Shoes such as Nikes and Adidas can be narrow and, if you have a wide foot, this is going to restrict your foot as a natural adaptor and shock absorber to the ground which could increase your chances of injury.
Covering Distances — How Long Should My Running Shoes Last?
Suggestions on a pair of running shoe’s lifespan range from 250-1000km. At 80km, the shoe has 75% shock absorption and at 400-480km it drops down to 60%. The hardness and quality of the shoe will determine how fast they deteriorate. I suggest patients look at the bottom of the shoe and, if there is wearing through the tread to the midsole, I would advise changing it. Also, look out for if parts of the EVA midsole have collapsed or changed shape as this would definitely be a sign to start introducing a new pair of running shoes.
Identify Your ‘Arch’
Arch height is normally categorised as high, normal or low. Looking at the mid part of the inside of the foot, you will see most feet will have a peak. A basic way to determine the shape is to wet your feet and walk over a paper towel on the ground. If you can see most of your foot has contacted the ground (especially in the arch area) then your foot has a low arch, a moderate amount a normal arch or if very little is touching then you are high arched.
Most shoes are made from EVA which has been around for years, although a few of the performance shoes are now using carbon plates, which are purported to help give a ‘propulsive sensation’ during a run. Waterproofing usually refers to a Gore-Tex lining which can help with splashes, but doesn’t actually fully waterproof the shoe. Having a shoe with a higher sole can help you reduce the splashing into your shoes.
So, How Much Should I Spend?
- Cheap, £45-70: These are made of cheaper materials and generally will wear down faster
- Moderate, £100-120: These are good quality and have good cushioning abilities.
- Expensive, £140+: Generally similar to the above but marketed as having more cushion and performance-enhancing qualities.
- Performance, £200+: these will be ‘racing’ shoes, such as the Nike Vaporfly range.