Shoe Advice - Choosing the Right Running Shoes
How Do You Want Your Running Shoes To Feel?
When choosing running shoes, it’s hugely important to focus on feel. We all want to get the best running experience possible on every run we do. So why would we even consider overlooking how our shoes (the most important running kit we own) actually feel when attached to the body parts which make every repeated, numerous contact with the ground (our feet)?
Consider what feeling or sensation you really want from your shoes and how they can help you to achieve your goals…
Road Running Shoes – Categories Explained
Helping you to pick up the pace. These shoes have a slightly firmer feel, helping to maximise energy return and put a spring in your step, particularly during quicker or shorter runs.
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Supporting you through the longer miles with lots of soft cushioning. The stability features in these shoes will help keep you on track no matter the distance.
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Giving you the support you need to push the pace. These shoes offer some additional stability and a firmer feel, maximising energy return, most noticeably during faster sessions or shorter runs.
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If you want to truly improve every run you do, it’s worth matching up shoes to complement the many and varied different types of runs or sessions you do. Shoes that are specifically designed for road racing, interval sessions, or tempo runs are placed in the appropriate Responsive category.
Neutral or Stability Running Shoes
In general terms, Neutral running shoes are suitable for runners whose feet and natural gait cycle have little or no need for additional stability.
Stability running shoes are designed to offer, where required, differing degrees of additional stability to the lower leg (controlling excessive rotation of the heel and shin) and should complement your natural running style rather than forcefully changing it. This can be done through the use of one or a combination of technologies built into stability shoes (different brands use different technologies, all of which can feel very different but are designed to do a similar job).
All Run4It stores offer a free analysis and shoe fitting service called +runlab. This service is currently available by appointment only. Book an appointment online: run4it.com/book
We’ll talk through your requirements, your running and injury history, figure out the running feel and experience you’re after, then get you on the treadmill to let us record and have a close look at what’s going on in your gait cycle (you may be surprised!). Based on the findings we’ll recommend and talk you through some shoes which may fit the bill, let you try them on the treadmill, and record you running in each of them to ensure they are suitable for your individual needs. Then, finally, we’ll discuss which pair feels best for you and ensure you leave happy in the knowledge that you’ve bought the very best shoe to enhance and improve your running experience!
Trail and Hill Running Shoes
Varied grip and traction features, keeping you running whatever the terrain or conditions.
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We do take a different approach when recommending trail and hill running shoes.
When running off-road, the focus isn’t so much on finding shoes which provide a stable platform to land on and push off from repeatedly (as it would be with road shoes). It’s more a case of finding shoes which adapt most suitably to the unpredictable terrain you’ll be running across and which most closely meet the requirements for grip, traction, cushioning and underfoot protection for that terrain. Most off-road shoes (trail or hill) are neutral and are designed to be highly flexible so that both your feet and the shoes can adapt to the terrain effectively. The levels of support provided by different models will vary according to upper and midsole construction.
It is also worth noting that varied or seasonal weather conditions can mean that the very same off-road running route can be a completely different proposition from one run to the next. Terrain that may be dry, firm and hard-packed one day, may soon become soaking wet and muddy following a period of wet weather, with your ideal shoe requirements changing accordingly. It is definitely worth having more than one pair in your shoe armoury!
Trail running shoes provide more aggressive grip than road running shoes and often use stickier rubber compounds for improved traction. Some models will offer more cushioning than others within this category so may be better suited when some road running is mixed with running on off-road surfaces. In other models where the emphasis is more on levels of grip rather than cushioning, softer rubber compounds may be used and these shoes won’t lend themselves as readily to sections of road or hard-packed trail.
Trail shoes will often include some sort of additional underfoot protection in the form of a rock plate or similar to help ensure that trail hazards such as sharp rocks or tree roots don’t damage your feet.Hill Running Shoes
Hill running shoes are primarily designed for moving on varied, steep and rugged terrain which is often wet and muddy. Aggressive sole designs with widely-spaced lugs are the order of the day here to ensure high levels of grip and quick mud release. The rubber compounds used on hill shoes are usually soft and tacky, providing great grip in mud and on wet rock. They’ll often be a bit narrower too, as the last thing you want when traversing steep ground is for your feet to be moving sideways inside your shoes! The soles of hill shoes also tend to be thinner and more flexible than those on road or trail shoes, increasing the amount they allow your feet to adapt to constantly changing underfoot terrain. This is hugely important on fast, steep descents where precise, accurate foot placement is vital in avoiding injury.
Spikes are often used for racing, faster-paced training or a combination of both. The design of different types of spikes varies depending on the distance and terrain being covered.
Track spikes incorporate features designed to promote speed and running efficiency on the track, such as more rigid spike plates (the section at the front of the shoe into which the actual spike pins are screwed). In general terms, the shorter the distances over which the spikes will be worn, the more rigid the spike plate. At the opposite end of the scale, spikes designed for longer distances will be more flexible and may have some cushioning in the heel. These features will add an element of comfort which won’t necessarily be needed over shorter, sprint distances.
Cross country spikes, which are designed for varied terrain and longer distances have a more flexible construction and will often have a slightly softer spike plate which (like trail and hill shoes) allows more adaptation to uneven ground.