How to choose the best running shoe for your needs

There are plenty of running shoes to choose from; a multitude of brands, styles and colours all vying for your attention. So which do you choose?

First you need to understand the type of foot and running style you have. Any imbalance in your posture, stance or walking style can be magnified when running.

The best way to learn about your running style is to have a gait assessment at a Sweatshop store with one of our highly trained members of staff. They will be able to assess your running style and advise you on which shoes are suitable. You will get the opportunity to try on different shoes and even have customised insoles made to get the best possible comfort and fit.

Most of our stores have video gait analysis, which allows you to watch slowed down footage of your running style in order to identify any strengths and weaknesses. See the store locator for more details.

Running shoes are designed with different levels of support and cushioning to account for the different running styles and foot types. There are three main areas to assess when deciding what type of running shoe you need:

Pronation

The natural motion of the foot when running is to pronate. Pronation refers to the 3-dimensional inward rotation of the foot—a shifting of bodyweight from the outer edge of the foot into the centre as the runner’s foot strikes the ground. Pronation disperses the high-impact forces that act on the foot during running.

Over-pronation is when the foot rotates beyond its natural motion and puts excessive force on the foot, ankle and knee. It is generally accepted that around 75% of people over-pronate to some degree, which means that most people should be running in a shoe designed to support the foot, ankle and knee during this motion.

Of the remaining 25% of runners, about 20% are neutral runners—they pronate “normally”, and 5% under-pronate or “supinate”.

Foot Stance

In addition to pronation, the next factor to take into consideration when decided on the correct pair of running shoes is foot stance. As a runner you can have an “over-pronated stance” or a “neutral stance”. You can determine what type of stance you have by doing the following:

Stand in a comfortable position with your feet shoulder-width apart and have someone look at your foot from behind. If your Achilles tendon is curved inward, if the inner side of your ankle bows out or if your toes are visible on the outside of your foot to someone who is standing directly behind it then your stance is over-pronated.

If, in this position, your Achilles tendon is straight, your ankle is not bowed out and your toes are directly in front of your ankle then your stance is neutral.

Foot Types

Broadly speaking, there are three common foot types: high arch, normal arch and flat foot.

People with high arched feet tend to also have under-pronating or rigid feet. If you have high arches it’s very important that you choose a shoe with a lot of cushioning in order to counteract the shock transmission through the lower legs when you run.

People with normal arches are also known as “neutral runners”. Since neutral runners pronate “correctly” and have normal arches, they are less likely to have any bio-mechanical problems to worry about than any other runner. These runners should look for shoes with either cushioning or mild stability.

People with flat feet tend to also have over-pronating or flexible feet. If you have flat feet it’s important that you choose a shoe with a lot of stability in order to keep your foot in the proper position whilst running.

When you know what type of running style you have, be that neutral, over-pronator or supinator, then you need to think about the type of running you will be doing:

High mileage?
All on roads?
Road and trail?
Mostly trail?
Faster paced training?
Racing?
Track running?
Cross county?

Someone running high mileage on trails will need a different shoe to someone doing lower mileage and faster running on roads. Having two or more pairs might be necessary! Over time, your training sessions and routes may change, so you should always be assessing whether your shoes are still suitable. It’s important that you wear shoes designed for your gait and the kind of training in order to enjoy the sport in the safest way possible. Click here for more information on the different types of running shoe. You should also replace your running shoes regularly.

Hutt Valley Marathon Clinic > FITNESS > Health > Shoes > How to choose the best running shoe for your needs