Shoe Advice - Choosing the Right Running Shoes
Choosing the correct running shoe for your personal running style is very important - the right shoe will improve your running experience, help to prevent injury and ensure your feet will be comfortable mile after mile. On this page you’ll find an overview of the different types of running shoes and advice on which type of running shoe might be best suited for you.
You can find out more about our instore +runlab running analysis service here. This service is available in all Run4It shops, no appointment needed, but please note it tends to get busy at lunchtimes and on Saturdays.
There are two types of road running shoe - neutral and stability. Which type suits you best depends on your individual foot structure and running gait.
Neutral Running Shoes
A neutral running shoe is potentially suitable for runners whose feet and gait cycle have little to no requirement for any additional stability in their footwear. We categorise our neutral shoes in Levels 1 and 2. Generally, these levels denote differences in the cushioning offered by the shoes, with Level 1 shoes offering a greater amount of cushioning than Level 2, particularly in the in the midfoot and forefoot regions.
There are many neutral options available so runners can choose how they want their shoes to feel underneath their feet. Many runners will prefer a softer feel for longer, slower runs and a firmer more responsive feel for shorter, faster runs. Certain shoes will feel different at different speeds and will be suitable for either slower or faster training runs.
Stability Running Shoes
A stability running shoe is designed to offer a degree of additional stability to the foot through the running gait cycle. Stability shoes offer a good blend of cushioning, medial support (to limit excessive inward rolling of the foot) and durability. To provide stability they often have a medial post, guide rail, or dual-density midsole - these features provide a firmer density under the inner edge of your foot.
The stability offered by these shoes can help prevent injury by aligning your body correctly as a complement to your natural running style. We categorise our stability shoes in Levels 3 to 7, with Level 3 offering the least additional stability, through to Level 7 which offers the most additional stability.
Our unique grading system is shown on the product page of each neutral and stability shoe. It helps you to determine at a glance the level of cushioning and/or stability offered by each shoe.
Off-Road / Trail
A trail categorisation is for a shoe that is designed for terrain that is undulating and has a range of surfaces from road to mud, grass and hard packed ground. They provide more grip with stickier rubbers and more aggressive soles while still offering a significant amount of protection for the foot so they can be used on sections of road. Some will offer more cushioning than others within this category so some are better suited to more road running mixed with other surfaces. They usually have a rock plate added to them to protect your feet from trail hazards such as stones and tree roots.
Due to trail running being on mostly uneven surfaces, trail shoes are more flexible so that your foot can adapt to the terrain. The majority of trail shoes will be neutral shoes, offering support but no added structure.
Off-Road / Hill
Hill or fell shoes are designed for running on rugged, extreme terrain which usually involves some steep uphill and downhill running. They have very aggressive soles that afford far greater traction and grip. The rubber on the sole is usually sticky for running on mud and wet rocks. Most hill shoes offer protection to the foot through lightweight rock plates but are more minimal and flexible than trail shoes so that the feet can adapt to constantly changing surfaces.
They tend to have thinner soles to increase the stability of the runner’s feet on steep terrain. If a runner is more aware of how their feet are moving on uneven terrain, they should be less likely to go over their ankle.
These types of shoes are also very well suited to obstacle course races where the event organisers purposefully alter the terrain and underfoot conditions.
Spikes / Track Shoes
Track or Cross Country Spikes are suitable for competition and faster training. Track spikes are generally much less flexible than cross country spikes and use design features which promote efficiency and speed. Cross country spikes need to be more flexible over uneven ground.
Lightweight / Race Shoes
Lightweight or Race shoes are suitable for competition and faster training on road and tracks. Generally these shoes have a lighter weight construction as the name suggests; they generally have little stitching to reduce weight. They are also firmer than other types of running shoes which makes them better for running faster as the shoe is more responsive and less force is lost through cushioning; ideal for racing and speed sessions. Racing shoes are lower to the ground than road shoes; this is so the runner is closer to the ground and allows the shoes to be even more responsive.
They use lighter rubbers on the sole of the shoe to save weight but this does reduce the durability of them and they will normally last about 200 miles less than a higher cushioned shoe which is designed to last for approximately 500 miles. It is important to note that a lightweight/racing shoes will not feel good to run slowly in as they do not have significant crash pads. More stress will go through the muscles running slowly in them as the rate of pronation will not be slowed in the same way as it will be in a more cushioned shoe. They work best when someone is running fast and their foot contact time with the ground is low.
Users of these shoe types are used to the ‘flatter’ racing design which can promote a more efficient running style. They do not offer the same degree of cushioning as normal road shoes catagorised in the neutral or stability categories. Lightweight shoes will feel firmer or more responsive than normal road shoes which will help deliver a spring like affect when running fast.