How to choose a running shoe

Choosing a running shoe should be straightforward right?

The problem currently is the market's obsession with pronation and the segmentation of shoes around this. We have support, neutral and cushion and a number of in-betweens eg structured cushioning (what does that even mean?).

Pronation describes a normal movement which is diagnosed by video to determine if it is excessive. The problem being, what is excessive? The focus needs to be on loading and strategies to manage this, rather than focussing on the movement.

The first question of relevance to me is one of experience. Are you new to running (5yrs or less), are you returning from an extended break from running (injury, work, family commitments etc.) This group in my experience is more likely to fatigue early in their run, with an increased likelihood of injury. This group may benefit more from a dual density midsole, based on level of experience rather than foot type. A recent study by Chris Bishop’s group in Adelaide, has shown dual density to have a role in protecting the wearer from fatigue, a useful strategy in reducing injury.

How often do you run? Many daily runners would benefit from rotating 2 different shoes, bit of a shoe stores dream, but this has been put forward as playing a fairly significant role in injury reduction strategy. The thought is that it creates continual variation in loading, but also many of today’s light midsole foams, compress during a run and require, adequate ‘ recovery’ between runs.

Heel pitch is another variable in footwear. This is the difference between the thickness at the forefoot and the heel. Normal heel pitch is around 10-12 mm. In the market currently you will find various heel pitches available, all the way down to 0. I tend to like standard heel pitches for calf and heel pain, and lower pitches for anterior knee and forefoot pain. I also like standard heel pitches in longer runs, filming of the elite runners in a marathon, shows increased heel contact with fatigue, this will occur much sooner in the inexperienced runner.

Comfort is king. It’s been suggested that we have an ‘inbuilt’ comfort filter, we will choose a shoe that feels right for us. This has been misinterpreted by the shoe companies to mean soft. Some people like firm others prefer soft, pick what feels right. Remember correct fit, length and width.

Use a technical shoe store they will have experience in fitting, good product on hand and will be aware of any changes to your favourite model. Many will give you a guarantee allowing you exchange footwear you are unhappy with, useful because shoe prescription is difficult to get right.