How to Buy the Perfect Pair of Running Shoes

Often underestimated is the importance of a good pair of running shoes.  Responsible for absorbing the impact of every single foot-strike, a good pair of runners can be the key to injury prevention.  On the flip side, an old, worn out pair of shoes can be exactly what is causing your niggling knee pain.  Furthermore, when you’re spending upwards of $200 on a pair of shoes it is simply good-sense to do a little research before you hand over your hard-earned cash.

Style of Shoe:  These days there are shoes tailored to meet the needs of a myriad of different sports, the main categories to look out for are:

  • Running shoes: designed to cater for the needs of a runner, these shoes focus on providing support and cushioning for the impact involved in running.
  • Cross trainers: combines both a running shoe and a court shoe, often resulting in a heavier but more supportive shoe.
  • Sport-specific (i.e. netball, basketball) or court shoes: these shoes will usually have more grip in the soles to help with agility and more support for the ankle.

Here we will just focus on running shoes.

The next thing to think about is what kind of foot you have and thus how much support you need or want in your running shoe.  Most running shoes fall into the following categories:

  • Neutral: Suitable for people with biomechanically efficient feet; minimal pronation, high or normal arches and a mid or fore-foot strike.  These shoes have maximal mid-sole cushioning with minimal support.
  • Stability: These shoes suit people who are ‘flat-footed’; pronation with low-arches.  These people generally need a combination of good support and cushioning.
  • Minimalist: Also suitable for the biomechanically efficient runner, these shoes have minimal support and a stripped down sole which provides minimal cushioning and maximal responsiveness to the ground surface.

Once you’ve worked out what type of running shoe you’re after, there are a few other features to think about to help you make your final decision.

Comfort: The inside of your running shoe should be free of any ridges or seams which might rub and cause blisters or discomfort.  The fit should be snug but not tight.  Look for a padded tongue for extra comfort.
Durability:  Look for a shoe that will go the distance with thick rubber compounds on the sole.  Often there is an inverse relationship between weight and durability so you might have to decide which is more important to you.
Looks:  Fashion has extended to encompass the humble running shoe with shoes coming in a diverse range of colours from black to fluro pink.  I’m not suggesting that the colour of the shoe should play a large role in the shoe selection process but sometimes looking good in your workout gear can be that little extra bit of motivation needed to get you out the door.
Other shoes to think about are trail shoes if you do most of your running off-road and performance or racing shoes if you are doing speed sessions or lots of racing.  Trail shoes are highly supportive with extra-durable soles to protect your ankles and feet whilst out on uneven and rocky terrain.  Performance or racing shoes are super-lightweight but with minimal support and little durability they’re not designed for everyday use.  Instead, save them for race day so you feel extra light and efficient when you’re on the start line.

The final thing to think about when purchasing your running shoe is how often you should replace them.  A rule of thumb is every 500-600km, so mark your calendar when you buy a new pair and keep a track of how many km’s you’ve run since.  Some people like to have two pairs of runners which they rotate between or buy a new pair about halfway through the life of their old pair so they can break them in and ensure a seamless transition from old to new.

If you need a little extra advice buying your running shoes, head into a specialist running store such as Running Fit in Melbourne.