Running is an activity that requires you to master every aspect of the lower anatomy of your body along with a good grasp overusing your running gear to your advantage. The same holds true for running shoes.
Reaping its benefits is quite difficult without proper knowledge about the different parts and their functions in your running shoe.
Many brands offer running shoes with different technical features. With so many offerings at the same price and each shoe seeming to outdo the other in terms of stability, cushioning, motion control, etc., the selection process is tougher than ever.
Regardless of any scenario, you must have come across this thought at least once: Why should I even invest in these so-called specialty shoes? Aren’t my good old daily wear sneakers sufficient for my strolls?
The answer is: Well, yes, but no. (unless you are okay with injuries and strain on your joints).
In this guide, we will uncover all the shoe basics and also share some quality insights to make the whole process a tad bit easier for you.
Interesting, right? So, let’s get started!
Advantages of Running Shoes
We all are aware of the benefits of running, such as regulated blood pressure, reduced body weight, and an increase in lung capacity.
Now let us look at how our running shoes make our lives easier for us :
This factor not only helps those with orthopedic issues but also reduces the amount of stress on one’s ankle, heels and toes. This facilitates safer and more comfortable running and improves body mechanics, thus reducing the chances of hip injuries and back pain.
As per a study, runners who wore specialized gear that complimented their natural foot stance and provided proper support were 30% less likely to contract an injury such as tendinitis, stress fractures, etc., than those who ran without running shoes.
These carefully engineered shoes can help people who suffer from a weak joint (less effective shock-absorption) or over/under-pronation. They cushion your feet and raise the heels, thus realigning your foot for extra stability and comfort.
This is especially effective for people with flat feet. Whether you take part in a particular exercise routine or simply go jogging every weekend, having proper support and a higher arch may prove to be beneficial in the long run.
Running shoes are specially designed to compress better and return more energy to the runner after impact. This, in turn, increases the energetic efficiency. A better grip with the ground can help provide more momentum and improved speed to the runner.
Furthermore, running shoes are considerably lighter than ordinary daywear shoes, which add extra weight and slow you down in longer marathons.
Types of Running Shoes
Your shoe should be perfectly calibrated for your body. You can’t just randomly pick any type of shoe. Before walking in a store, ask yourself questions like – Will I require foot stability for my running style? Do I need a lot of cushioning, or do I do better with hard surfaces? A light shoe or something on the heavy side?
The running form and the body type of the runner also have a significant role to play. Based on these characteristics, each show focuses on a certain aspect slightly more than the others. Some of them are discussed below :
1. Motion Control
These are a group of stiff shoes that improve your running footprint and support of feet while you run. Depending on where your foot falls as it lands on the surface, your gait may differ significantly.
Our feet tend to roll slightly inward or outward based on the landing pattern; this is known as pronation. Motion-control shoes help you to align your feet accordingly. The height of your arch is also a crucial factor in determining the degree of pronation.
Here’s how you can determine this on your current pair. Just flip them over and notice the tread of your shoe.
- If the amount of wear on the heels and toes is even, then you are normal pronation with a neutral arch.
- If the wear hinges towards the inner side, then you are an overpronator with a low arch.
- Underpronators are those who have wear on the outer coverings of their sole caused by a high arch, which is also referred to as supination.
Unless you notice a severe degree of pronation, you have got nothing to worry about. Else, you can switch to orthotic gear for better protection.
Any strain on your lower ligaments goes all the way up to your back, forming a chain of issues for your body. This can especially become a nightmare for long-distance runners due to the increased movement and energy expenditure while running.
When your heels strike the ground on a continuous basis, without any soft barrier, you may become prone to pain and common running injuries over time.
Seniors who suffer from joint pain may also benefit a lot from this shoe. You must choose the level of cushioning based on the length of your runs as they add some extra mass to your footwear. Light runners usually go for less cushioned options, while heavy runners require more.
Get yourself a good quality shoe with ample cushioning and say hello to worry-free running cycles.
3. Highly Stable
This shoe offers an ideal balance between stability and motion control. Stability shoes are best for those whose feet aren’t pronated to a large extent.
All you require is an amalgamation of rigid materials and good arch support. Some stability shoe stores even prepare a 3D CAD model of your shoe to design the lower part as per the anatomy of your foot.
This ensures that each groove fits perfectly and lets you land easily, even on uneven surfaces.
These shoes are for fast-paced runners. Lightweight shoes are often made of carbon-infused materials to provide high tensile tense while keeping the weight low, focusing primarily on agility and flexibility.
They lower fatigue and soreness and often come with a breathable mesh for good ventilation. The design of these shoes is not so flashy, but the functionality is what makes them worth it.
There’s a shoe out there geared towards every specific activity. You may choose a running show based on the trail, distance, and running speed.
1. Daily Trainers
For day-to-day use, you require a shoe that can easily take a good amount of all-terrain usage while also having a well-cushioned inner sole. To differentiate these from trail running shoes, many people also dub them as road running shoes.
They are ideal for a slow-to-moderate pace. The materials used on them are usually very sturdy due to their frequent usage. A medium cushioned pad and a comfortable lining are also provided to ensure a good amount of comfort.
2. Trail Runners
If you want to go off-roading, hiking, or simply get started with trail running, these are the kind of shoes that hold up well with rough surfaces.
Be it loose rocks, soft earth, or uneven roots – they can easily withstand whatever you throw at them.
This type of shoe usually has raised treads underneath it to provide maximum grip and a rigid hold. As you trek, the large lugs create traction and encompass small gravel pieces underneath them for a smooth ride.
3. Lightweight Trainers
These shoes are geared towards people who are into fast-paced short-running activities and require something lightweight, which reinforces agility.
Unlike racing flats, these shoes help you build foot strength and allow for a wide range of foot motion with excellent moisture-wicking qualities.
At first, we advise that you walk in them to loosen the mesh and then gradually move on to intervals, sprints, and speed workouts.
4. Spiked Shoes
These shoes are strictly made for track races and solely focus on aerodynamics and weight distribution. They are very stiff and have polycarbonate spikes embedded in them for superior traction. In fact, you can even have a stronghold on a wet track if you are wearing spikes.
When every millisecond matters to you, their light build is what saves the day. Spiked shoes also come with metal needles and cross country spikes for enhanced versatility.
5. Racing Flats
These shoes are built to provide speed but can also double as long-distance running shoes. They come with minimum foam and cushioning.
Experts recommend only using them for up to 25-30 races as they aren’t really ideal for extended use.
To sum up, whether you need a shoe for fast-paced races, or one that can handle abrupt turns, or even a shoe with orthopedic benefits, there’s a perfect pick out there for everyone.
Furthermore, we have also enlisted some of our favorite picks to help you choose the right shoe.
Shoe Anatomy 101
This part refers to the area above the sole. A tight seam and reinforced stitching hold the knitted elements and mesh in place. These uppers contain various layers of knitted fabric, which sit in multiple stages to provide flexibility and support.
Look for an upper which isn’t binding or chafing but is instead shaped like your foot.
This refers to the small hollow curve at the end of your shoe heel. The thickness of the padding depends on the type of shoe. When you slip in the shoes, make sure that the backside of your ankle is not touching the ankle collar, else the curve may end up irritating your Achilles tendon.
The heel counter is cradled and strengthened by a semi-rigid cup laminated underneath the rear foot.
Several shoes feature an exterior heel wrapping that fulfills a similar purpose, but minimalist sneakers do not have a heel counter, allowing for complete freedom of movement.
Heel counters do not give motion control, but they do center the heel for rough landings.
This part is responsible for holding the front part of the eyelets and laces.
These units also come with toe bumpers to hold the laces in place and protect you from stubbing. Look for a toe box that isn’t cramped and stays out of the way. It should allow enough room for wider feet without bending your toes.
The saddle covers the instep and the arch of an individual’s feet. It also holds the laces in place and allows you to secure your foot inside comfortably. You should preferably go for one that doesn’t deteriorate the natural shape of your feet and also holds them tightly in place.
One of the most crucial parts of performance-oriented shoes, outsoles come in all shapes and sizes depending on the terrain and use case.
Companies have come up with a variety of foam compounds for their construction which increases their wear life and also provides traction. Go for a footprint shape that is identical to yours and also provides good stability when standing straight.
Toe Spring and Flex Grooves
In case you bend on your knee or sit before a race to adjust your shoe, you might have noticed that the front part of your shoe bends quite a bit.
Toe springs and grooves facilitate these kinds of movements and are fitted in the midsole to allow your foot to roll easily as it moves.
This refers to the foamy material which is sandwiched between the upper and the outsole.
It usually takes up all the impact and comes with a cushioned lining to provide additional comfort to runners. Ideally, the thickness of the midsole should be quite thin for runners and shouldn’t be either too soft or too firm.
This safeguards the inner structure of the shoe from any impacts and contains energy return materials that give runners a push, allowing them to gain momentum and propel their feet forwards.
This is a material that is geared towards reducing the impact after your heel strikes the ground. Go for a heel with a good mix of stability, ground feel, and cushioning.
This refers to the height difference between the ball of your foot and the heel. A significant drop distributes the force in various areas of the foot and minimizes the chances of injury.
As the name suggests, this portion provides initial step-in comfort as you put your shoes on. It also has a removable pad to contour the bottom of the shoe.
Aside from the fundamentals, every shoe also has a special feature to make it stand apart. Designers incorporate various technologies to present a blend of performance and sleek aesthetics.
Some of these features are:
- Dual density foams
- Medial posts
- Guide rails
- Pronation correction
Tips to Become A Better Runner
- Getting an MOT would be a good idea before getting started with your running journey. This will help you draw out flaws and techniques which are wrong with your running pattern to lower the chance of injuries.
Many stores also offer a Gait analysis service. This process makes use of thermal and motion sensors to track your foot plant and find the best shoe shape for you.
- To further enhance your technique and get access to exclusive discounts, many people also join a running club. This also helps you stay motivated and lets you get in touch with people with common interests.
- Surely with all the sturdy materials, your shoe can withstand some rough usage, but you should still avoid using them for your daily strolls. Also, keep in mind that you have to replace them every 700-800 kilometers.
- Tweak your technique whenever necessary and make use of methods like interval training to get quicker and improve performance. Faster training sessions promote the lactic acid build-up in our bodies which in turn increases running speed.
- Many pro athletes also incorporate hill runs into their routine to strengthen their glutes and up the heart rate. This is then reflected in the form of endurance gains later when you are in a marathon.
- Getting some info about scientifically advanced running techniques and imitating those of pro runners can also help. Here are some great reads if you want to dive in.
- Lastly, when your body takes a toll due to heavy amounts of physical activity, having access to good nutrition is highly imperative.
Experts recommend running in a fastened state to allow your body to tap into its energy sources more efficiently. Greens and carbs are also something that you should keep in check.
As for the outer body strength gains, administering some simple bodyweight workouts goes a long way.
Once you are finished with your run, always ensure to follow up with a warm-down routine and prevent your body from falling into a state of constant fatigue. Take your rest days seriously and understand the importance of some quality sleep after your workout sessions.
Common Buying Mistakes
Buying A Shoe Just Based on the Looks
Everyone runs for a purpose, but making a fashion statement is definitely not one of them. Instead of going for a cooler-looking model with poor arch support and fit, invest in something that compliments your running style instead.
Sure, you can enjoy the good looks for a couple of days, but are you really prepared for the detrimental impacts the shoe can have on your joints and performance?
Missing Out on Deals
Starting with online stores, look out for weekly deals or prime day discounts before purchasing a pair. Retailers often have discounts that are valid for selected banks as well. When purchasing from a local store, never hesitate to ask for any discounts before checking out.
Frequent buyers also suggest that you buy your shoes in the morning. Our feet start to swell in the morning and may increase by up to half a size by 4 pm. Hence, to ensure the best fit, always walk in the stores around 5-7 pm and try your shoes on.
Picking The Wrong Size
A pair that is too tight may lead to blisters and cuffed toenails. To know that you got the right size, move your fingers when you try your shoe and see if there is enough room for all of your fingers to wiggle a bit.
Also, make sure that the back of your feet is not tightly in touch with the bank staff.
Furthermore, if you are shopping for dailies, always go for one size figure for extra comfort. Running shoes, on the other hand, should be more tightly integrated and small. See if you can easily slip in your shoes without having to loosen the laces too much.
Many people also assume their sizes and skip the part where they get to measure their feet. This ends up in discomfort as every shoe is made differently, and the shape of the upper and the stitching pattern varies greatly.
Is It Okay to Walk In Running Shoes?
Yes, it is fine to walk in these kinds of shoes. Not only do they provide more cushioning, but you also receive more support compared to some walking shoes.
Walking is the ideal way to ease yourself into running. As soon as you feel comfortable with your walking regime, then you can start to include some short runs.
Remember that any walking or running you do when wearing your running shoes will count against wear and tear. So after you’ve completed 300 to 500 miles in your shoes, they will need replacing.
What Are the Three Types of Running Shoes?
There are three main types of shoes. These are classed as stability, neutral, and cushioned.
However, there are some subgroups of each. A more extreme type of stability running shoe is referred to as a motion control shoe. Then there is another form of neutral shoe, which is known as the barefoot running shoe.
But when you first start running, it is best to stick with the three main types before thinking about going for something a little different.
What Is the Difference Between Trail Running Shoes and Road Running Shoes?
When it comes to running shoes that you wear on the trail, they come with outsoles that have softer and bigger lugs, providing you with better traction when running over loose surfaces.
As for road running shoes, these often have soles that are more durable, flatter, and smoother, allowing you to run on pavement easily.
Do I Need Road Running Shoes?
If you intend to do most of your running on roads and pavement, you need these running shoes. As your feet hit the pavement’s hard surface, the force of impact on the muscles in your feet and legs is much greater than compared to what you will feel when running on a trail.
These shoes contain more cushioning, which helps absorb more of the shock and bounce that occurs as you run.
Can I Use My Road Running Shoes On a Treadmill?
You will find that it is okay to wear any running shoes on a treadmill as long as they feel comfortable.
How Many Miles Are a Pair Of Running Shoes for Roads Good For?
A good pair of road running shoes should last between 300 and 500 miles. It is important that you track the number of miles you cover to know when to replace them.
If you run 20 miles weekly, yours should last for around four to six months. However, if you start noticing that you feel more of the impact as you run on the road, you may want to consider replacing them sooner.
In the digital age, it is highly likely for users to order a pair online. However, it may result in a somewhat underwhelming feeling due to issues like poor fit or snug inner materials.
Most of the online retails, though, often have a return policy. So always keep in mind to go through the details.
Try out your shoes while still keeping the content of the box intact in case you want to return them later on. With everyone hopping on the stay-fit trend, it is easy to get startled by the achievements of others, but it is also imperative to remember that each individual learns at their own pace and has different health goals.
Start with an easy-going mind coupled with punctuality, and you will be on top of your fitness goals in no time.