Good running shoes are essential when it comes to creating a healthy routine. Finding a shoe that fits is very important but with so many different foot types and running styles, it’s difficult to know how to choose running shoes that will be right for you.
We talked to Ben Green, an accomplished runner and biomechanics consultant, to get to the bottom of a few of the most commonly asked running shoe questions, and to learn how to choose running shoes that will fit your needs.
1) Can the Correct Running Shoes Prevent Injuries?
Running shoes will not cause an injury. We should always look at potential training load errors first i.e. too much, too soon. However, you can reduce injury risk through introducing footwear variation.
A volume trainer (high cushioning, low flexibility) will load the knee joint more. Alternatively, a racing flat (low cushioning, high flexibility) will load the ankle joint more. Varying these types of footwear to suit the goal of your run is important. It will not only maximise training and racing performance, but will also introduce higher levels of loading variability.
Although different shoes won’t change the amount of load that enters your body, it will change where it goes. This will ensure you do not load the same tissues repeatedly throughout your run.
The table below shows training zones 1-5 and the recommended footwear associated with each one. This is a very useful starting point for determining how to choose running shoes that meet your goals.
2) How Important Is Cushioning In My Running Shoes?
What many runners may not realise, is that the cushioning effect is very real! You can achieve a 2-4% increase in run performance by running in shoes with cushioning properties that suit the individual’s needs.
The type of cushioning (e.g. a firmer or softer compound) that suits you, comes down to a few factors, but is overwhelmingly determined by how comfortable you find a shoe. The role of footwear is to complement the runner’s biomechanics and if it does, it will be comfortable!
What we also know is that old shoes will lose their cushioning properties and therefore their benefits to your running performance. Whilst the number of kilometres a shoe lasts for varies significantly across the running population, once you find a shoe has lost its spring and you begin to really feel the ground beneath your foot, it’s time to upgrade!
3) How Can I Determine My Running Style?
Running style can be determined by looking at how your muscles and joints function when running. The technical term for this is running biomechanics.
Studying a runner’s biomechanics can be done in several ways but one of the most accurate is via a 2D video analysis of your running stride.
Shoe fitters are then able to review the video and observe your foot-strike, cadence, and absorption/propulsion ratio’s. This allows them to identify which joints in the lower limb may be under or overworking.
When you combine this information with your running habits and goals, it is possible to select the ideal footwear solution for you.
4) How to Choose Running Shoes?
When choosing running shoes, it is best to visit a shoe fitting expert who can assess your individual running needs and offer advice on the best footwear for you. This will allow you to make an informed decision on what footwear to invest in.
The assessments included within the shoe fitting process vary between specialists. To get the most accurate analysis, a high quality shoe fitting service should have the following elements:
Running History and Goals Review
Determining your running history and goals allows your shoe fitter to select the right shoe category for you i.e. maximal, volume, lightweight, racing, or minimal.
The review will include the collection of information on current footwear, previous injures, upcoming events, and your training routine.
Static and Dynamic Assessments
Static assessments involve observing the static foot posture and assessing the functional needs of the rearfoot and forefoot.
A dynamic assessment involves evaluating foot posture and lower limb loading patters whilst a person is running.
When the results for both types of assessment are combined, it is possible to determine the required shoe classification.
Classifications include stability, support, or neutral.
Comfort should be the overall deciding factor when it comes to how to choose running shoes.
A good shoe fitting service should allow customers to test drive the shoes both indoors and outdoors.
BIOFIT Shoe Fitting Service
At The Running Centre (Perth, Australia), we offer a free BIOFIT shoe fitting service that includes all of the key assessments. As expert shoe fitters, we ensure we are matching your needs with an appropriate intervention (footwear) for what is actually happening when you are running.
Our Goal is to provide you with an expert individual assessment to achieve the most comfortable and functional footwear solution.
About Ben Green
Ben Green is the Coaching Manager at Front Runner Sports and acts as a biomechanics consultant for The Running Centre.
He loves running and has a special interest in the Biomechanics of running, having a received First Class Honours from the University of WA for his paper on Foot Strike Posture in Distance Runners.
Ben is also a Level 3 Coach qualified with the IAAF in Middle and Long Distance. He assists runners of all ages and abilities, from recreational runners through to World Junior representatives.
He currently coaches an elite squad in Perth, which has assisted four local runners receive full NCAA scholarships to US Colleges Eastern Kentucky, Villanova, Harvard & Penn State.
Ben Green; B.Sc Hons Exercise & Health, Level 3 Middle & Long Distance Coach
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