Running is a great way to stay in shape, lose weight, and challenge yourself on every level. However, as with all sports, it's important to prepare correctly before you head out on the road. Gear is one of the most important aspects of training, and running shoes are perhaps the most important piece of gear you'll purchase. That being said, there are a plethora of options available, and knowing what you need can be difficult. Here are six things you should consider when shopping for running shoes. By keeping these things in mind you can hit the road with confidence and help minimize injuries.
Trail or Road?
The first decision you have to make when purchasing running shoes is whether you need trail shoes or road shoes. If you're going to be running through the city pounding the pavement, running in standard races, and hitting the treadmill, road shoes are your best bet. On the other hand, if you're interested in running off-road, through mountains, on dirt paths, and over rocky terrain, you need to look for trail shoes. Determining where you'd like to run most often is the first step in finding the perfect shoe for you. Many runners have both kinds of shoes, but if you're just starting out you should probably stick with the roads for the time being.
How Do You Pronate?
Pronation is a major challenge for runners of all types. If this is all Greek to you, pronation is basically just how your foot turns. If you tend to run on the outsides of your feet, you're an underpronator. If you run favoring the inside of your feet towards the arch, you're an overpronator. Some people don't pronate at all, but the large majority of runners find that they do. However, the catch is that you probably won't notice that you pronate one way or the other until you start running. So how can you pick shoes?
A quick way to find out how you run is to rub ink or chalk on the bottom of your feet. Even water will work. Run naturally across a stretch of pavement. You can do this on your sidewalk, your driveway, or even on a long piece of paper indoors if you're using ink. After you're done running a few paces, look back and analyze your footprints. If most of the substance you coated your feet with is gathered towards the outside, congratulations, you're an underpronator. If most of the print shows up towards your arches, you are an overpronator.
You might be thinking this is all very fascinating but has nothing to do with picking running shoes. However, that's not the case. Almost every reputable running shoe company will tell you in the product description whether the shoes are best for underpronators, overpronators, flat feet, high arches, and just about any other foot condition you can think of. Knowing your foot is a good way to narrow down your options quickly and get right to the shoe that's going to work for you.
No, this isn't baseball, but strikes exist in running, as well. When runners talk about a "strike", though, they're usually talking about your heel strike, or how your foot lands on the ground when you run. Some people tend to strike on their toes, others towards the middle of their feet, and still others are guilty of the dreaded heel strike. The ideal foot strike for runners is to land on the balls of your feet. Think the way a child runs through the grass. That's how you want to run when you're training. Shoe product descriptions will usually tell you which foot strike type they're best for, so you can narrow your search even further. If you're not sure, you can record yourself running and watch it in slow motion. Alternatively, you can repeat the test you did to see how you pronate, this time paying attention to whether most of the print is towards the front, in the middle, or towards the back of your foot.
Laces can be your best friend or your worst enemy when you're out on the road or trail. It's important to consider what kinds of laces you want. Some people like the elastic laces because you don't have to tie them and they don't come undone during your race. However, elastic laces can also become too flexible and loose, meaning your shoes don't fit as snugly as you need them to. To combat this problem, many runners choose regular laces with lace clips. You can choose lace clips in any style, and there are even lace clips that have football team logos, unicorns, and whatever else you can imagine on them. It's a fun way to show off your personality while keeping those unruly laces in check.
What kind of support are you going to need from your shoe? If you have joint problems, for instance, you might want a shoe with more cushioning. If you have high arches, you're going to want to look for arch support. You may have discovered in the previous tip that you land hard on your heel when you run. In that case, you'll want a shoe that has more of a cushioned heel as opposed to a cushioned forefoot. Knowing your feet is important because that knowledge helps you choose a more fitting shoe for your running journey. Most running stores have technology that allows you to run on a machine. The machine will take diagnostics and give a readout of everything you ever wanted to know about your foot, and that information can help the store employee help you choose the perfect shoe. It's worth it if you're going to take running seriously because it will save you lots of time, money, and injury in the long run.
No matter what kind of running you're going to do, you need a shoe with ventilation. Your feet are going to get hot as you run, and all that heat builds up moisture, a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. To avoid athlete's foot, fungal infections, and other nasty bugs, make sure to choose a shoe that has an adequate amount of mesh and has words like "breathable mesh" or "breathable fabric" in the description. Not only will it help keep your feet cool but it will help you avoid a host of infections and bacteria.
There are other things to consider when shopping for running shoes, as well, but if you start by considering these six aspects of your running shoe you'll be off to a good start. It's also important to consider factors such as the climate you'll be running in. If you'll be running in the rain, look for waterproof or water-resistant material. The more you think about your run, your feet, and your personal needs, the easier it will be to weed out the shoes that won't work for you and find the one that will.
If you're training for a long race, it's also a good idea to buy two pairs once you find your perfect shoe. Use one pair for training, break the second pair in about a week before your race, and then use the new pair for your race. You'll break down the support of your shoe while you train, and you don't want to race on a broken down shoe. Most shoes are good for about 300 miles, so keep track of your mileage and get new shoes accordingly.