To new runners in particular, entering a running store can be akin to a backslidden vegetarian walking into a butcher’s. Where do you start? What should you buy? What questions do you ask? What questions don’t you ask?
Here are a few tips for venturing you into your local running store for a new pair of kicks:
This is the main scientific word you’ll hear bandied about in a running store. It’s the natural inward rolling of the ankle that happens as we move through the drive phase when running or walking. Although a little pronation is normal and natural, excessive pronation is thought to lead to injury. And some running shoes are designed to fix this.
As a result, running shoes fall into three main categories (from no over-pronation protection to a lot): neutral/cushioning, supportive/stabilising, and motion control. The research is still a little shaky as to whether or not motion-controlling shoes do prevent running injuries, but you may as well try them out in-store and see what works for you.
More on the Humble Running Shoe
Beyond motion control, running shoes can be on-road or trail (the latter are typically more supportive with heavy grip-only get these if you’re running on very hilly/mountainous trails);minimalist (from lightweight racing shoes ideal for racing 5k to five-finger style foot covers that are like running barefoot but without the scratches), spikes (extremely lightweight shoes with small spikes for track and cross country running), and gym or cross training shoes (ideal if you’re only running up to 20 minutes a couple of times per week at the gym).
Finally, consider owning several pairs of shoes for different occasions. I usually own at least five: two normal road shoes (that I interchange in order to give my feet variety), one pair of racing flats (for road races and speed sessions), a pair of spikes (for cross country and track), and trails shoes (for when I venture into rugged terrain).
Fit vs Look
I think Nike shoes look amazing. But they typically don’t fit my feet, so I don’t wear them. Enter the running store blind to colours and styles in order to try on as many models and brands as possible, looking primarily for fit.
Take your regular running socks with you (these don’t need to be anything special, although moisture wicking fabric helps) in order to get the fit right. Use the one-finger-space rule for size (behind the heel), take note of any excessive wiggle in the toe or heel area, and mentally scan your entire foot for any points of pressure (any small pressure points are guaranteed to turn into blisters when running).
Once you’ve found several shoes that fit, test them out using the store’s video analysis when running. Be sure to set the treadmill to your normal running speed. This will help narrow your shoe choice down before deciding purely on looks and price. You may also like to use the store’s pressure pad technology to further detect any imbalances or strange motion.
Finally, it’s cheaper to buy shoes online, but I never do it because I want to be absolutely sure of the fit before buying and even if I’ve worn them in the past, new versions of the same model can have slight variations in fit. So I think it’s always best to start off by seeing your local running store first.
This article is an entry by Hayden Shearman on his training blog at Stuff.co.nz (published 29 January 2014).