This is one of what is planned to be a series of posts giving answers to some of the most commonly asked questions and also giving advice and links that may be useful for any new runner. They will be accessible in future through the FAQ POSTS posting in the PINNED POSTS column.These posts are not expected to be definitive nor to answer all queries, so feel free to post a new question on the forum, but if you browse through this resource at your leisure, you may learn quite a considerable amount. If you spot any glaring errors or omissions, please send a personal message to the original poster, since these posts will eventually be locked and will not be able to be directly replied to.
While you can start C25K in any shoes, (one of our stalwarts started in walking boots!) there comes a time, probably no later than the end of Week 4, when you need to commit to this running thing and make sure that you are suitably shod…….and that is the point of this post, to give you pointers about buying running shoes, although it is not intended to be definitive and certainly won't tell you which brand of shoes to go and buy.
You might say “I’ve got some trainers, they will be fine.” Well they might be to start with, but leisure trainers are not running shoes and without proper support and cushioning you may well be at risk of injuring yourself and if your shoes are old, the cushioning may be vastly reduced, so that the impact of running is not absorbed. It is widely written that when you run, the forces exerted through your foot, with every footfall, are equivalent to two and a half times your body weight. Going downhill can increase this loading to up to seven times your body weight. Your joints, bones and muscles are structured to absorb this impact, but if you consider that for every mile you run you might strike the ground somewhere in the region of 1500 times, that is a lot of strain on your body, which, if you overdo it for your level of development, can lead directly to injured muscles or tendons and indeed stress fractures to the bone. Running shoes are designed to reduce the impact at the point of contact with the ground. Leisure trainers are designed to look cool.
So, if I have convinced you not to wear your flash fashion trainers, nor indeed, walking boots, for running, then you might well rush off to the internet, or to your local sports shop to buy some proper running shoes……..but which ones? You could ask your mate who has been running for years what he wears, or you could just sneak a peek at the brands that you see other runners wearing, or you could just go for those funky looking ones in your favourite colour. All that information is absolutely irrelevant. The best shoes for you, in my opinion, are the most comfortable ones, from the selection offered to you after you have had your gait analysed at a specialist running shop. Cheaper shoes may be available elsewhere, without gait analysis, but if they are sold by poorly trained staff, who may not even be runners, then you run the risk of buying a shoe that could actually cause you injury. Go to a specialist running shop, at least for your first pair. The price may seem exorbitant, but they are the best investment you can make in your physical fitness………..and much cheaper than a physiotherapist.
Gait analysis is explained here healthunlocked.com/couchto5.... Basically it should consist of a careful study of your running gait, normally achieved with the aid of a treadmill and a video camera, which will indicate how your foot moves during the gait cycle and whether it needs extra support or padding to work with minimal injury risk. This is carried out in many specialist running shops and also by some sports physios and podiatrists. If you do an internet search for gait analysis in your area, then you will see what options are open to you.
If you have a gait analysis, you will be asked questions about your running, any injury history and perhaps even your weight, although most tactful sales staff will assess this visually. Tell them if you are intending to up your mileage in the next few months….. a shoe sold for doing 5k three times per week, may not be up to a half marathon or marathon. All this information, along with the results of the gait analysis, will narrow down the pool of shoes that are suitable for you and this is further reduced by the stock and sizes held by the outlet.
What you are offered to try on and preferably run on the treadmill with, should be from the shortlist created by the salesperson. It may not include your favourite colour, any brand you have ever heard of, nor those shoes your mate wears. It should be shoes that are appropriate for you, your running gait, the surface you run on, the distances you run and your weight ………..we are all different. Do try to run in each pair of shoes you are offered, rather than just walk.
If you have read the post about gait analysis, linked to above, then you will be aware that not all of the running world agrees with gait analysis as a means of selecting shoes, nor in fact in padded and supportive shoes as a way of reducing injury. You will have to make your own mind up about this and you could go the way of barefoot running or the evolved route of “barefoot” or minimalist running shoes, now produced by many of the major manufacturers. This is a niche area of running which, if you are interested, I will leave you to research yourself.
If you don't want to do a gait analysis there is the wet foot test, described in this piece. runnersworld.com/running-sh... While this is a possible indicator of your gait, it is a totally static test and as a consequence, a poor second choice to dynamic gait analysis, in my opinion. Many manufacturers also have shoe finding pages on their sites, which of course will only recommend their own products. Having been very satisfied with my GTS15s, I recently tried the Brooks online shoe finder test, only to find that it suggested another shoe to the one I have……..I will stick with what I know.
The surface that you run on is crucial to your choice of shoe, whether track, road or trail. If you intend to run off road then trail shoes are advisable as they will have better grip. All but a handful of trail shoes on the market today are neutral shoes, meaning that the gait analysis is not necessary to aid the selection of these shoes, so comfort is your main aim. Trail shoes come in a vast range and again, the advice of experienced staff can be useful to point out which are most appropriate for the sort of off road running you intend to do. Some are better suited to wet muddy runs, while others will be designed for rocky tracks. Use of trail shoes on roads is not recommended, except for short sections of runs, as they offer less cushioning and will wear quickly. My default shoe for mixed surface runs is a road shoe, unless the offroad sections are very wet, steep or slippery. There are hybrid shoes available, but they are of necessity a compromise between full blown road and trail shoes.
Sizing of shoes needs careful consideration. Most people find that their feet spread when they run, so you may need to have either a half or full size larger than your normal shoe size. As someone who has spent their entire working life on his feet, I find that my feet do not spread significantly, but I always make sure I have about a thumb width clearance between my big toe and the front of the toe box.
Sizing and widths vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, which can make buying over the internet problematic. There may well be certain brands that you will never be able to wear, simply because the size and shape of their shoes do not match your feet. Some manufacturers make a range of widths. When trying on shoes always wear the socks that you use for running. Running socks are highly recommended as they can reduce friction by providing extra padding at contact points.
You are aiming for a comfortable fit, which doesn't allow too much opportunity for feet to slip around, but is not going to restrict blood flow if feet do swell. Always make sure your heel is pushed well into the back of the shoe before lacing up. Learning just how tight to lace your shoes comes with experience. Too tight can cause cramps and muscle aches. Too loose and movement of foot in shoe is liable to cause blisters. Advice from experienced sales staff is valuable, so do ask for their opinion. There are many pages on the internet devoted to different ways of lacing your shoes, which are worth looking at if you have aches or cramps or pressure runrepeat.com/top-10-runnin...
Once you have been through the process of gait analysis and found shoes that work for you, there is not necessarily any need to have it repeated, although it is known for gait to change as your muscles develop over time, so it might be worth having it done again in the future. This opens up the opportunity to purchase your next shoes without a fitting and possibly at a great saving, by buying in the sales or over the internet, although do remember that one manufacturer’s size that fits you perfectly may not be matched by another. Sticking to the same model and manufacturer is a safer bet.
I recently purchased a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS17s at half price, without gait analysis, being last year's model. These will eventually replace my ancient GTS15s, which have done well beyond the recommended 300-500 miles before being retired. The old ones are still comfortable, although the cushioning in the new ones highlight how much compression has taken place over the years. The GTS15s are not my only shoe. I have two pairs of trail shoes, which I alternate, generally for my local offroad 5k, twice a week, meaning I never have to put on wet shoes. The road shoes normally only get used once a week for my longer runs, which tend to involve a lot more road work. Now I have two pairs of road shoes, I will alternate them, which reduces pressure points and stresses caused by differing support in a new shoe, breaking in both my new shoes and my body gently. The older ones will probably only last a few months before they are relegated to non running use.
When you go to certain running shops they may try to sell you special insoles or orthotics, sometimes moulded to your foot. Having read many articles on these inserts, I have come to no firm conclusion about their use, nor have I had personal experience, so once again leave you to do your own research. While I have no doubt that orthotics created for you by a podiatrist or physio to correct asymmetry, or relieve an injury, can be useful, the necessity for general use seems dubious and can, if used inappropriately, be the cause of injury. runnersworld.com/running-ge...
How many miles your shoes will last is debatable and depends on the surface you run on and of course your weight and running style. Most manufacturers will say 300-500 miles and of course their only interest is your safety…..ahem…...others will say you can go considerably further. My latest desire to buy some new road shoes was driven by mild aching in my knees over recent months and the hope that new shoes, for the longer and harder surfaced runs, might alleviate this……..it could be old age. well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013... Many of the run tracking apps allow you to keep track of the distance your shoes have covered by selecting which shoe you are using for each run. If, like me, you don’t track every run and you rotate your shoes, then keeping tabs on their mileage becomes difficult, but once the spring has gone, or the wear is heavy, they are on their way out. If you buy shoes when you see a bargain, rather than when the old ones are totally kaput, you can practice shoe rotation, which can help avoid injury and the pain of being parted from such large amounts of money does not come around any more frequently.
The majority of manufacturers say that you should never wash running shoes in a washing machine, but I know many people who do this regularly, apparently with no ill effects. I have a large bucket and brush outside and if I come home with muddy shoes, I scrub them down, while still wearing them. The best way to dry wet shoes is to loosely stuff them with newspaper, which will wick out the moisture remarkably quickly, replacing it a couple of times. I did once make the mistake of taking the inner sole out of one pair, to dry more rapidly, but despite my best efforts and various glues, I could not get them to stay put and they used to creep while running...be warned. Do not use a heat source to dry your shoes, just leave them where the air can get round them.
The one issue regarding running shoes, which I have never seen explained, is where do the boulders come from, and when you take your shoes off to investigate, where do they go? Having scrupulously checked the insides of your shoes and the underside of your socks, for any foreign bodies, or minute pieces of grit, you put on and lace up your shoes, head out on a run and then suddenly, a large rock appears, normally right in the midfoot, threatening to cripple you for life. Upon shoe removal, nothing,except a speck of dust……...it is a mystery…….more research to be done……..
Keep running, keep smiling.