Are you planing to buy a pair of running shoes sometime in the near future?
Whether you are buying it to add on to your collection of underutilized footwear or it is your first pair in several decades; choosing a pair of shoes today can be more difficult than reading the technical specs of the space shuttle. Many would simply walk into a Nike or adidas ‘concept’ store and pick an appealing looking pair from their selection of running shoes. If the store clerk slept through the morning briefing, he will just point you to every sport shoes in the store that aren’t soccer shoes and hope that you pick the latest arrivals of cool-looking-trendy shoes. Seriously. Picking out a pair of running shoes is not that simple. You will need to consider several things as you pick your shoes from the line-up.
Why Running Shoes?
This is a question I have been asked many times. There are shoes, and then there are SHOES. I have noticed a difference in the way a runner pick a pair of shoes as compared to non-runners. A runner would first scrutinize the sole of the shoe. This is because it will tell him or her how this shoe will perform and if it there are added benefits. Non-runners, on the other hand look at colours and design first. They almost never bother to look underneath.
Running shoes are designed to help you run more efficiently. A any good pair of running shoes will reduce impact, adjust stride, provide necessary grip and gives you that needed lift-off in each step. More importantly though, running shoes reduces the chances of injuries in the process of running.
Type of Running Shoe
The first thing you need to decide on is what type of running you are planning to do. Are you planning to on roads or trails? Regular running shoes have lower traction as compare to trail running or hiking shoes. It is not unusual for a runner to have both as they work different muscles. My Reebok Hosscat has a little more grip than my Brooks Adrenaline. As such I prefer to use the Brooks when I run on tarmac but the Reebok gives me more stability on pavements especially after a little rain.
What is your foot type?
There are three basic foot types and this is determined by how high you foot arc is. To find out, you just need to conduct the Wet Test. Get a small sheet of brown paper or a shopping paper bag. You can also use piece of plain coloured cloth, preferably the type that turns darker when wet. You will need a small shallow pan or tray that you foot can fit into. Pour enough water into the tray to wet the bottom of your foot. Place the tray and the paper in a walking line two steps apart. Now walk forward and step into the tray of water, that same foot will then land on the paper and leave a footprint. Take a picture of that foot print. Your footprint should correspond to one of these images; that will be your foot type.
Some shoes are designed to support the high arches, others support the low arches and then you have neutral shoes. A professional will be able to tell you which type of shoes will suit your feet for this instance.
Pronation refers to the rotation of your foot from when your feet strike the ground until it pushes off. Look at an old pair of running shoes (if you have one); notice where the soles wore off the most and that would be a good indicator of what your running motion is like. A similar method is to observe the wear patterns on your socks. An Underpronator’s foot rolls on the outer sides of the shoes and pushes off with the smaller toes. An overpronator spends most of the time rolling inwards and as such will push off with their larger toes. Normal pronation is when your foot rolls in only slightly and pushes off almost evenly on your toes. The curves and patterns on the soles corrects your pronation so that you have a lower chance of injury. A professional running store will get you on a treadmill and analyse your motion mechanics.
If you have been scouting around, you might have come across the Vibram Five Fingers. These shoes wear like gloves on your feet and has no cushioning. They may look cool and many will vouch for the benefits that it provides. If you have not run or worse off, not exercised for a great many years; you may want to get a pair of shoes that has a decent amount of cushion, however more cushion is not necessarily better. How your foot strikes the ground will determine how much cushioning you might need. Generally, someone with a larger sized body would also need more cushioning. It depends on how you strike the ground when you run. If you land hard on your heels, you will need a pair of shoes with a lot of cushioning on the rear sole such as the Asic GEL-Nimbus series or the New Balance 890. If you generally land more midfoot then then cushions won’t be such a big deal. Try a few and you will understand what I’m talking about.
Comfort and Fit
I would say that comfort is one of the most important criteria in shoe selection. It is very important that you feel comfortable in the shoes you pick. Nice designs and colours won’t help you if you are running for an hour in those shoes. When trying out shoes, adjust the laces properly and don’t be shy to run around the store in them.
The shoes must not be tight nor should it have too much room. The general rule is to leave about a quarter of an inch space between your longest toe and the wall of the shoe. What I liked most about Brooks is that they also fit the width of your feet. Brooks not only come in the regular sizing, they also come in wide, medium and narrow shoe width.
There are so many brands to choose from and I know that most of you will be looking at adidas, Nikes, Pumas and the likes. Other running favourites are Asics, Brooks, Etonic, Mizuno, New Balance, Saucony, K-Swiss and Zoot. You may not find some of these at regular footwear stores or malls so you may have to scout sporting supply stores such as RSH or Sports Direct. I would highly recommend you visit a specialty running outlet. Two prominent running specialist in the Klang Valley are Athlete’s Circle at Jaya One and Running Lab at Tropicana City. These outlets can assist you in pick out a proper pair of running shoes.
This question was probably lingering at the tip of your lips from the beginning of this article. How much should you spend on a pair of running shoes. The top of the line shoes for any brand will set you back about RM500 (US$120). If you are patient, you could fetch a pretty great pair for around RM300 plus (I did). If you are on a budget, you can get an off-season model for about RM250. I have seen the 2010 asics Nimbus, asics GT-2160 and Brooks Summons drop under RM200 during sales. Whatever your budget, it wouldn’t hurt to ask the sales clerk to bring out your size for the top range shoes. Try anything with a RM500 or higher price tag on it. If you don’t already know, find out why anyone would pay that much for a pair of running shoes.
The last thing I have to say about choosing your running shoes is take your time. You are going to be wearing them a lot and for long periods of time (I hope), so make sure you really like the shoes before you rush to the counter. Alternatively, you could just buy a budget pair first while you spend time scouting around. Have fun scouting and keep you feet happy..