Shoe advice: How to choose the right running shoes?
At Run4It, we believe running is all about the experience. We’ve been matching shoes to runners since 2004, so know first hand that everyone is different. Furthermore, each runner is looking for their own experience and likes their running shoes to feel a certain way. This means there isn’t a best running shoe - and what works for one runner, may not work so well for another.
Running brands are always innovating and developing new materials and technologies - in a bid to help more runners achieve their goals. This has led to some very exciting advancements and progressions in running shoes, particularly with regards to cushioning materials. At the same time, it can be difficult to understand all the technical descriptions and work out what’s right for you.
To help you narrow down what’s best for you, we split our men’s and women’s road running shoes into three experience categories. You can simply pick how you’d like your running shoes to feel, and find the running shoes that most closely match your aspirations.
Road Running Shoes – Experience Categories Explained
The Float Experience
Running shoes in The Float Experience category feel soft and plush underfoot. We can’t promise that you’ll be floating, but these shoes are the closest you’ll get to it.Why would you want to run in soft running shoes?
Soft running shoes are very effective at slowing down pronation, reducing joint flexion and minimising internal leg rotation. All of which helps improve your comfort during runs and lowers the likelihood of your feet and legs feeling sore after runs.
They feel best at slower to steady paces, as your feet are on the ground for longer periods of time, compared to when you’re moving faster. This makes soft running shoes a great option for longer runs.
The Enhanced Energy Experience
Running shoes in The Enhanced Energy Experience category feel highly-protective and spring-like underfoot. They feature special foams and/or structures that should help improve your running economy. To explain further, you’ll likely expend less energy running at a given speed in these running shoes in comparison to models in other categories.
Are all the running shoes in this category the same?
No, they’re not. Some of the models in this category are best suited to slower to steady paced runs. While others are best suited to fast-paced training and racing. The running shoes that feature special foams and don’t have carbon fibre plates, typically feel best on lower intensity efforts. But, move you along with less effort. Running shoes with carbon fibre plates and special foams, do feel amazing at slower speeds, but work best at faster efforts.
We recommend saving a superfoam carbon fibre plated running shoe for specific sessions and races. This is a great way of making them last longer and may result in you feeling a more noticeable benefit when you put them on. You can’t discount the psychological benefits of putting on a running shoe that feels fast.
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The Connected Experience
Running shoes in The Connected Experience category feel firmer and responsive underfoot, which creates an energetic sensation. If you’re putting some extra energy into your runs, these shoes will give you it back.
Why would you want to run responsive running shoes?
Responsive running shoes are great at transferring energy back to you. To explain further, these shoes usually feature structures that store energy, and then return it as you take-off. You’ll also lose less energy through the firm midsole, in comparison to a softer cushioned shoe.
This is beneficial when you’re running at steadier paces, because you’ll feel more propulsion. Some responsive running shoes may even help reduce your ground contact time. Ultimately helping you move more efficiently.
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Neutral or Stability Road Running Shoes
Please read our guide on neutral and stability running shoes. If you’re choosing your running shoes on run4it.com, we recommend you pick your experience category first, and then select a suitable level of support. If you’re in Scotland, please head into your local Run4It shop and try our free +runlab service.
With nearly 20 years of experience in matching running shoes to runners, we’ve learnt what matters most. We put this knowledge into practice with our unique +runlab service. The free 8 step process, which involves video analysis, is designed to help anyone who’s looking for new running shoes.
We’ll talk through your running goals and aspirations, your running history and then invite you to run on the treadmill in order to see how your feet move. From here, we’ll make recommendations with regards to which models will best suit your needs - both from a cushioning and stability standpoint. You’ll be encouraged to try each option on the treadmill. Meaning you can feel the differences and we can advise on which models are working best with your biomechanics.
Our +runlab service is available as a walk-in service. However, if it’s more convenient, you can book an appointment online at run4it.com/book. Every team member in each Run4It shop is trained to help you find the best running shoes for you.
Trail Running Shoes – Cushioning Explained
We have a large selection of trail running shoes that have varying levels of cushioning. This means you can match the right level of cushioning to the terrain you’re running on.
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Hybrid Running Shoes:
Hybrid running shoes are named so because they’re very similar to road running shoes, but have some trail shoe features. The key similarity to road running shoes is that they feature high levels of cushioning in the midsole. Which helps reduce the impact and load of running on hard surfaces. Extra grippy outsoles provide enhanced traction on slippery surfaces. Hybrid running shoes are perfect for running on a mixture of road and trail.
Trail Running Shoes:
Trail running shoes are typically made with less cushioning than a lot of road running shoes. Why would you want less cushioning? Well running on trails usually means running on uneven surfaces. Thickly cushioned running shoes may feel less stable and could increase the chances of going over your ankle. In order to help you feel more stable, trail running shoes are normally made with thinner and more flexible midsoles. This helps your feet adapt to the terrain and run with greater confidence.
Trail running shoes are often made with structures called rock plates. While this may create a firm underfoot feel, a rock plate enhances underfoot protection on trails. Landing on a tree route or sharp object, such as a rock, can be very uncomfortable without the protection of the rock plate. What feels comfortable for road running, can feel very different to what’s comfortable for off-road running.
Some trail running shoes are made with very high levels of cushioning. These options are best suited to long distance trail runs, such as ultra distance events.
Hill Running Shoes:
Hill running shoes are normally made with thinner midsoles that are very flexible. This is the best way to improve stability, confidence and grip on steep slopes. It also improves the ability to traverse steep ground, as the foot is closer to the ground and not moving over the top of a thicker midsole.
How to choose your grip?
As a general rule, as the ground gets softer or steeper, the need for trail running shoes with more pronounced lugs increases. You’ll normally find that the most cushioned trail running shoes have the shallowest outsole lugs, and the least cushioned trail running shoes have the deepest ones. Meaning you can match the right level of cushioning and grip to the terrain you’re running on.
It’s worth noting that weather conditions can make a significant difference to terrain. Wet weather can completely change the nature of a surface and make it much more difficult to run on. Hence why a lot of trail runners have more than one pair of trail running shoes.
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.