Runners are known for their impressive ability to maintain consistent movement over long periods. Their endurance, agility, and determination are something to be admired.
While we can certainly appreciate their hard work and determination, it’s also relevant and helpful to note that runners perform their best when they are using the proper equipment. The most crucial component of a runner’s repertoire of equipment is their shoes.
Running shoes may sound simple and straightforward, but there are several different types and styles specific to each runner, and these small differences are significant. Let’s learn more about running shoes and the various types there are.
Why Are Running Shoes Important?
The right running shoes can have a massive impact on your performance, while the wrong kind can significantly hinder it. It’s vital that you not only pay attention to what your body is telling you but that you have the proper footwear to provide enough support and prevent injury.
There are many running shoes for specific purposes. For example, tennis shoes are very different from running shoes. They typically have thicker rubber soles with a better grip to support the foot and offer grip during quick movements on the court.
When a tennis player wears running shoes during a match rather than proper tennis shoes, they run the risk of not only injuring themselves but hindering important things like lateral movements – which is what tennis shoes are designed to support.
In the same way that shoes vary from sport to sport, they also differ from person to person.
Everybody is built differently. Some individuals have extremely high arches, while others are entirely flat-footed. Because of these variances between two people, there are different needs in terms of support in their shoes.
Wearing the wrong type of running shoe is overall bad for your body and can lead to pain and a higher risk of injury. So how do you know which shoe is best for you?
Common Issues Runners May Face
When you push your body to its limits and continually train, the odds will tell you that you’re bound to sustain an injury at some point. It happens to the best of athletes who are in tip-top shape. Sometimes, things happen.
If you know a little bit more about the issues that a runner can face, you can better determine the best way to prevent them. You can start by ensuring you’re wearing the right running shoe and go from there.
Sprained ankles are super common not only among runners but all athletes. They can even sometimes occur when you’re not doing anything athletic at all, like cleaning your house.
A sprained ankle happens when you roll your ankle either inward or outward. Doing this at a quick motion, such as during a run, can overstretch the ligament and cause pain. This can happen if you trip on something, step in a hole, or simply take a misstep.
Many times, getting yourself a sprained ankle has to do with stability. So, unless you had a freak accident where you stepped in a large pothole or hit a tree branch, there’s a good chance that your running shoes didn’t offer enough support for your balance.
You can try getting a new pair of running shoes, but you should also practice some balance exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding your ankles. Sprained ankles are super easy to treat with plenty of rest, ice, and elevation, but preventative measures are always a good idea for when you’re up and running again.
Plantar Fasciitis affects the bottoms of the foot where the plantar fascia is located. This tissue can tear and become inflamed or irritated, causing a sharp painful sensation at the bottom of the heel.
Depending on the severity of the tear and overall injury, some runners may find it annoying while others find it impossible to train on due to the pain. The most common cause of Plantar Fasciitis is overuse, overtraining, and – you guessed it – wearing the wrong type of running shoes.
All of these elements can contribute to the foot muscles becoming too weak and too tight, causing your heel to overcompensate for your training load. The best way to treat this condition is to rest up and get yourself some stability or orthotic shoes.
Runner’s knee is a prevalent injury that happens to runners. It occurs when the kneecap falls out of alignment due to worn-down cartilage. Because runners place so much impact on their knees every time they go for a run, over time, it can have severe effects on their bodies.
Runners who experience this type of injury are expected to feel pain around the kneecap, usually when running uphill or sitting with a bent knee for a while.
Experts advise runners dealing with runner’s knee to take it easy on intense training for a while and allow your body to rest and heal. It also helps if you maintain a balanced diet to keep your knees healthy and agile.
Achilles Tendinitis affects the Achilles’ tendon, which is the largest tendon attached from your calf to the back of your heel. The condition of Achilles Tendinitis causes the tendon to become stiff and painful, especially during times of activity like running.
There are various levels of pain and injury that you can cause to your Achilles’ tendon, so it’s essential to maintain proper treatment when something does come up. For example, while Achilles Tendinitis causes swelling and soreness, things like tendinosis can cause tiny tears throughout your tendon.
Finally, the most severe injury could be a ruptured tendon, which requires surgery and lots of rehabilitation.
To treat Achilles’ Tendinitis, you should give yourself lots of rest. Stretch your calf regularly and ice the affected area often. You can also try changing your footwear, as wearing the wrong kind of shoe with improper support may have been what caused the issue in the first place.
Shin Splints are something that no athlete ever wants to hear a doctor say, especially a runner. Shin Splints have the potential to be extremely painful, inhibiting you from running at all for a period of time.
Shin Splints happen when the muscles and the tendons surrounding the shin bones become inflamed. This inflammation can cause deep aching along with stabbing pain. Most instances of Shin Splints are mild or moderate and heel up within a few days or a week, but more severe cases can land you on crutches for a couple of weeks.
The best preventative action you can take is consistent stretching before and after running. If you find yourself dealing with Shin Splints anyway, ice your shins for 10 to 15 minutes and elevate them. Find yourself a quality pair of running shoes that offer reliable ankle support for the future.
Knowing Your Feet
The best way to select the right running shoe for yourself is to know your feet. Most runners are highly aware of what kind of feet they have, starting with their pronation.
Pronation is just a fancy way of referring to the arch in your foot. In the middle of the underside of your feet, you will notice – in most cases – that the curve of your foot goes up. That’s your arch, and it’s important to know yours because it will determine how your foot rolls during physical activity.
There are three main types of arches:
- Neutral Arch
- Low Arch
- High Arch
A neutral arch is the most common and healthy kind of arch. Those with a neutral arch see a curvature of their foot at a minimal level. With this type of arch, an individual has a healthy roll of the foot.
A low arch, also referred to as a flat arch, means that someone has less of an arch than they should. Many people will call this person “flat-footed,” as their feet lack a natural arch and sit almost entirely flat on the ground. A low arch can cause the foot to roll excessively inward.
Finally, a high arch means that a person’s arch curves too much upward. A high arch forces less surface area of your feet to touch the ground and can cause you to underpronate. Underpronate means your foot rolls only very slightly upon impact.
The best way to get a clear answer on your foot type is to see a doctor, but there is something you can do on your own to figure it out.
Take a pair of running shoes that you have used for a while and look at the bottom of them. By examining the wear and tear on the soles of your shoes, you can get a pretty good idea of your foot type and arch.
A neutral arch, or a normal pronator, will see even wear across the toes and heel of the shoe from side to side. Someone who overpronates, or has low arches, will likely see their shoes are worn down on the inner sole. And an individual who has a high arch will see the most wear on the outer soles of the shoes.
Tips for Trying on Running Shoes
There are a few main tips you can put into practice while tackling the sometimes overwhelming task of buying the perfect pair of running shoes. Keep these in mind as you start the process.
The first thing you should remember is to always go shoe shopping towards the end of the day. The later hours of the afternoon and evening are when your feet are at their largest. Because you have been on them all day, they have had the chance to warm up, expand, and maybe even swell a little. When you use this tip, you’ll never have to worry about squeezing into ill-fitting shoes.
You should also always wear any clothing or equipment that will impact the fit of your shoes. This includes socks, inserts, orthotics, and braces. Bring anything you would wear on your feet while running to the store to try shoes. That way, you can avoid coming home only to find out that your special arch support inserts make your shoes too tight on your feet.
Never purchase a pair of running shoes without standing up and walking around with them on for a few minutes. Too many times do people try on their shoes sitting down and think they fit great, only to walk around with them a week later and realize they kill their feet. Standing, walking, and especially running will be the real test of a perfect fit.
Finally, take your time. There’s no rule saying that when you walk into the shoe store, you can’t leave until you buy something. Finding the right fit is super important, so take the extra time to choose carefully.
As a bonus tip, remember that you should replace your running shoes every 400 to 600 miles. Most frequent runners track their runs, so it should be easy to determine when you need your next pair of running shoes.
5 Types of Running Shoes
Without hammering out the specific details too much, there are generally five types of running shoes for runners to choose from.
Lightweight running shoes are very common among runners because, as we all know, the less weight, the better. Quite literally, lightweight shoes keep off the excess weight that can cause drag and negatively impact times.
These shoes are also commonly referred to like cross country spikes or racing flats. If you plan on doing a lot of training involving speed and racing, then lightweight running shoes are an excellent choice.
However, because lightweight shoes tend to be very minimal to decrease weight, they usually do not offer the same level of cushion and shock absorption as other shoes. This could be a problem depending on the health of your feet, your arch type, and any injuries you may sustain.
Lightweight shoes are fantastic for things like competitive racing and meet, but they shouldn’t be used during training. In fact, it may be more beneficial to train in heavier shoes and save the lightweight shoes for race day to give yourself an extra boost.
Those who have a normal or neutral arch could significantly benefit from stability shoes. Stability running shoes have a healthy mix of midsole cushioning and quality support that can help promote healthy running habits and form.
Stability shoes can also be helpful for someone with a low arch who may overpronate. Their extra cushioning and support can reduce the effects of overpronation, helping a wearer improve their gait cycle.
Trail shoes are very appropriately named, as they are made to run on and maneuver off-road surfaces like dirt, rocks, and mud. Because these shoes take a greater hit than shoes worn on pavement or a track, they are super stable and offer the best protection for your feet.
A great way to describe a trail shoe is that it is a healthy mix of a sneaker and a hiking shoe. Trail running shoes deliver sound protection to your feet and your ankle, not only giving support but keeping things like roots and rocks away.
They also have awesome grip and traction, giving runners better control on uneven and unsteady surfaces. They use a stickier rubber and have thick, solid soles.
Cushioned shoes tend to be very popular because they provide a built-in cushioned lining to the inside of the sole, making them extra comfortable and plush. Because of this cushion, runners feel less shock on their feet, preventing pain in regions like the heel or forefoot.
Cushioned shoes do a great job of dispersing shock, making them an excellent choice for runners with little to no pronation – on someone who has high arches. Though there is extra cushioning in these shoes, they really offer little to no corrective or supportive elements, which is why they are so great for those with high arches.
Motion Control Shoes
A little bit of pronation is standard in everyone, so we’re all expected to have some sort of level of movement when we walk or run. It’s when we over or under pronate that it becomes an issue.
Motion control running shoes are made for those who overpronate or people who have low arches. These types of running shoes help to control overpronation by offering a more durable and rigid shoe with a wide sole. This construction limits excessive movements through the gait cycle and lessens the amount of overpronating.
Of course, because these shoes are so dense and durable, they are also well-suited for runners who have a heavier weight. They offer awesome support and will last a long time.
While you may not know which shoes in the store offer which of the above elements, the employees working there should have no problem helping you out; simply ask someone for what you’re looking for and start trying on some running shoes.
Additionally, you can also do some internet searching to find some of the best rated and most popular shoes in the category you fall under. There are tons of brands and styles on the market designed to fit your physical needs as well as your personality.
Remember the tips that we talked about and never downplay the importance of an excellent running shoe. If you’re looking for a solid exercise with little to no pain and injury, you can count on a quality shoe to help get you there.