If you visit a reputable running shop you’ll be often overwhelmed by the sheer number and range of different brands and types of shoe. But don’t despair! It may look like you need a sports degree to understand it all, but a bit of preparation and using the knowledge of the shop and you should be fine. And more likely than not you will find a shoe that suits your running style.

There are good reasons why there are so many types of shoes on the market. And when you consider it, it is easy to see why. We are all different: different sizes, weights and running styles. Running without injury depends in part on the alignment and operation of muscles, ligaments, joints and bones. Our biomechanics are determined to an extent by our genes but also by our lifestyles. Quite simply the correct running shoe for you will be the one that matches your biomechanic profile best.

You will often see numerous terminologies displayed on the shoes or at the point of sale. It helps for you to have a basic knowledge of what these mean.

Motion Control: As the heel strikes the ground the foot naturally rolls inwards. It’s called pronation and is a natural and desirable part of the running action as it absorbs the impact. Although pronation is desirable, many runners overpronate meaning that their feet roll inwards too much which can cause stresses and strains in a number of areas such as the ankle, shin, achilles, knees and upwards into the hamstings, hip and back.

Just before take-off the foot rolls back towards the outside. This again is natural and is termed supination. Just as in pronation some people oversupinate which again can cause injury.  But this is far less common than overpronation.

You may also notice that the shoes described at slip or broad lasted. The last is the part of the shoe where the nylon upper meets the outer midsole.If the upper is stuck directly to the midsole without any overlay it is described as slip lasted. Where a brown coloured board overlays it, it is described as broad lasted which increases the ability of the shoe to resist pronation.

In addition to shoes being slip or board lasted they are either curved or straight. This describes the shape of the shoe when viewed from below if a line is drawn from the centre of the heel to the toe. If the shape either side is the same it’s a straight last and if bowed like a banana it’s curved. A curved last will help restrict movement associated with pronation.

Some shoes may offer additional arch support which may help with ankle pronation. If you don’t overpronate or oversupinate, your running pattern will be described as neutral. 

Purchasing the correct shoes will assist in addressing imbalance problems in the body although you may want to seek help in identifying and correcting those imbalances at source. However, if the pronation is extreme custom made orthortics which will fit inside the shoe may offer a solution.

Cushioning: Every step creates a force several time bodyweight. Multiply this by many thousands of times on a long run and you will begin to understand the impact that the body has to cope with. Good cushioning is therefore important in reducing the shock transmitted through the body from the foot up towards the back. It is also more comfortable and gives a feeling of smoothness. Good cushioning is especially important in heavier runners, those doing longer mileage and those who do most or all running on hard road surfaces. The cushioning will make the shoe heavier and may impact on your running performance, but this is only likely to be a tiny amount. Different brands will have different technologies to provide cushioning including air and other gels or spongy plastics. No brand is better than the other. Try the shoes and get the ones that work most effectively for you.

So in conclusion 10 top tips when buying running shoes;

  1. If your shoes are between 300-500 miles old think about replacing them. Don’t rely on the tread, it’s the cushioning will deteriorate.
  2. Keep a running log, that way you will know when your shoes need changing.
  3. Visit a reputable specialist running shop where you should good advice. Many will offer a gait (running style) analysis to help choose the correct shoe for you. Shoes maybe cheaper on the internet – but do you know what you are buying?
  4. Take your time. Try on a range of shoes and try them out to see how they feel. Remember feet swell when hot.
  5. Take in your old shoes as they can show signs of wear that may suggest overpronation or oversupination.
  6. Give details of any injuries to the store assistant. Even blisters and black toe nails can be signs that the shoe is ill-fitting. Buying the same shoe will just make things worse!
  7. Don’t be put off by the colourways of the shoe. This is a small price to pay if they are the right shoe for you.
  8. More expensive isn’t necessarily better – it’s the shoe that works for you.
  9. If you find a shoe that works for you buy another pair. You never know when they will be updated or discontinued.
  10. Don’t forget your club membership card. You might get a discount!

Technical Clothing

Runners can usually get away with almost any type of sports or leisure clothing. However, to feel comfortable in hot and indeed wet or cold conditions the runner will benefit from the correct running attire. Many technical running fabrics will wick away sweat and moisture leaving the runner feeling relatively dry, whilst cotton will absorb the sweat leaving the runner feeling uncomfortable. Many of these fabrics are breathable keeping the warm air in but letting the colder air out. Eye protection and sunscreen may be useful in summer months along with a drinks bottle. In winter gloves, hats and longer training tights will help the runner and their muscles stay warm which could avoid muscle tears. Runners should try and be visible at all times. Many companies produce light or fluorescent coloured garments for this purpose. A waterproof jacket and or a sleeveless gillet is also a good investment for wet weather.

Hot/cold /wet weather

Falling temperatures and fewer daylight hours don’t mean that your outdoor running routine has to go into hibernation for the winter. Running through the cold weather can help shake those winter blues, improve your energy level, and guarantee that you’ll be in better shape once bathing suit season rolls around. Follow these tips to run safely and comfortably through wintry weather:  

Pay Attention to Temperature and Wind Chill

If the wind is strong, it penetrates your clothes and removes the insulating layer of warm air around you. Your movement also creates wind chill because it increases air movement past your body. If the temperature dips below zero or the wind chill is below minus 20, hit the treadmill instead. 

Protect Your Hands and Feet

As much as 30% of your body heat escapes through your hands and feet. On mild days, wear gloves that wick moisture away. Mittens are a better choice on colder days because your fingers will share their body heat. You can also tuck disposable heat packets into your mittens. Add a wicking sock liner under a warm polar fleece or wool sock, but make sure you have enough room in your running shoes to accommodate these thicker socks.

Dress in Layers

Start with a thin layer of synthetic material such as polypropylene, which wicks sweat from your body. Stay away from cotton because it holds the moisture and will keep you wet. An outer, breathable layer of nylon or Gore-Tex will help protect you against wind and precipitation, while still letting out heat and moisture to prevent overheating and chilling. If it’s really cold out, you’ll need a middle layer, such as polar fleece, for added insulation.

Check With Your MD

Cold air can trigger chest pain or asthma attacks in some people. Before braving the elements, talk to your doctor if you have any medical conditions or concerns about exercising outdoors.

Avoid Overdressing

You’re going to warm up once you get moving, so you should feel a little bit chilly when you start your run. A good rule of thumb: Dress as if it’s 20 degrees warmer outside than it really is.

Don’t Forget Your Head

About 40% of your body heat is lost through your head. Wearing a hat will help prevent heat loss, so your circulatory system will have more heat to distribute to the rest of the body. When it’s really cold, wear a face mask or a scarf over your mouth to warm the air you breathe and protect your face.

Don’t Stay in Wet Clothes

If you get wet from rain, snow, or sweat in cold temperatures, you’re at an increased risk for hypothermia, a lowering of your body temperature. If you’re wet, change your clothes and get to warm shelter as quickly as possible. If you suspect hypothermia — characterized by intense shivering, loss of coordination, slurred speech, and fatigue — get emergency treatment immediately.

Stay Hydrated

Despite the cold weather, you’ll still heat up and lose fluids through sweat. Cold air also has a drying effect, which can increase the risk of dehydration. Make sure you drink water or a sports drink before, during, and after your run. 

Get Some Shades

The glare from snow can cause snow blindness, so wear sunglasses (polarized lenses are best) to avoid this problem 

Watch for Frostbite

On really cold days, make sure you monitor your fingers, toes, ears, and nose. They may feel numb at first, but they should warm up a few minutes into your run. If you notice a patch of hard, pale, cold skin, you may have frostbite. Get out of the cold immediately and slowly warm the affected area. If numbness continues, seek emergency care.

Other equipment, watches, Garmins, HR monitors, e.t.c.

Other essential items of equipment will be phone, loose change and a map or compass depending on how well the route is known. It’s always a good idea to carry a watch so that you can keep track of time. Some form of identification (on a key fob or bracelet) may also be helpful in cases of emergency.