Choosing the perfect running trainer can feel like a minefield if approached blindly. There are so many options from so many brands all competing for the customer’s attention. And with the rise of the athleisure trend, there is the added pressure of whether your trainers will look as cute with skinny jeans as they do with leggings.
So, what makes the perfect shoe? I enlisted Psycle rider and freelance physiotherapist, Laura Harman, to give us the lowdown on the best running shoe for you. The one thing Laura emphasized again and again is that choosing a running shoe is an individual process. There is no one step-by-step process that will lead you to the perfect shoe. And on that note, comfort is key. It can be so easy to read a ton of reviews online and ‘decide’ which shoe is right for you — I know I’ve done it — but if when you put that shoe on, it just isn’t comfortable, this should be an automatic no go.
A good starting point is to figure out what shape your foot is. Laura explains that feet fall into one of three categories, flat (pronation), neutral or high arches (supination). And easy way to find out which category you’re in is the wet foot test. Simply wet your foot and have a look at the shape of your footprint. Having this information is important but, remember, this is only the first step in choosing the right shoe.
The next step is to have a dynamic assessment where a trained professional analyses both your foot and the rest of your body for idiosyncrasies as you run. If you want to really be sure you are choosing the right shoe, a biometrics assessment by a physiotherapist is useful. All in all, choosing the correct shoe is a complex process and the more professional help you can enlist the better.
Another thing to consider is your terrain. Are you a treadmill runner or do you prefer to pound the pavement? The short of it is that generally you can wear any shoe for either but, if you want to get into the nitty gritty, you can get away with a lighter shoe on a treadmill due to the shock absorbing effect and softer landing. Similarly, sprints and HIIT exercises benefit from a lighter, more flexible shoe whereas, for longer distance running, it’s best to have a more heavily cushioned, structured shoe. Laura recommends steering away from having two drastically different shoes as this could potentially cause injury due to an inconsistent load on the soft tissues. However, some specialists recommend using different shoes to prevent overuse injuries.
It is worth looking into the adverse effects of consistent treadmill running. According to Laura, treadmills can create muscle imbalances, overwork the hip flexors and cause weakness in the hamstrings and gluteal muscles, all of which may leave you tight and prone to injury. Luckily, spring is finally here so getting outside should get a little easier from here on out.
Laura Harman, BSc (Hons) Physiotherapy, is a freelance physiotherapist and Pilates instructor. To find out more about her physiotherapy practice head to www.boostphysio.com. You can also get in touch with Laura by email or follow her on Instagram. Big thanks to Laura from the INSPIRE team for her insight into this topic!