Whether you are preparing for a marathon or working out to keep yourself healthy, your pair of running shoes plays a major role. Unless you have a quality pair of running shoes, no matter how good you are at running, your performance is going to suffer. There are a lot of factors to watch out for in order to buy the best-quality running shoes that can enhance your performance and last for years. The following is a complete buying guide on all those factors that you need to know to understand running shoes better and compare minutely before buying.
1. Type of Running Shoes:
There are mainly three types of running shoes available in the market. They are listed below.
- Cross-Training Shoes – They are specifically for gym enthusiasts and not for outdoor surfaces. Therefore, you cannot do jogging and running with them on uneven surfaces. It is designed in such a way that you get proper contact with the ground all the time which is required for CrossFit workouts.
- Road-Running Shoes – These shoes are tailor-made for jogging and running on pavements and solid and hard surfaces with very little irregularities. They are light in weight and generally quite flexible. There is enough cushioning provided to keep your feet comfortable and stable. However, they are not suitable for uneven surfaces.
- Trail-Running Shoes – These shoes are designed specifically to run on off-road conditions and surfaces. This means you can run on mud, over the rocks and ground plants and various such uneven surfaces with ease. The bottom surface has more traction to offer your feet more stability support as well as protection.
2. Sole and Arch Type:
We mainly have four types of running activities, and this can be identified by the wear pattern on the soles and also the arc type. The sole pattern is determined by the gait type.
Sole Wear Pattern:
- Basic pronation shows impact concentrating on the ball of the foot and heel. It is a common pattern among efficient runners.
- Overpronation shows impact concentration on the edges of the shoes and more so on the foot’s inward roll. It is common among the majority of runners, and there is a risk of severe knee pain and injuries happening unless the right kind of shoes is chosen. The shoes need to provide more stability and motion control.
- Supination shows impact concentration on the outer edges of the shoes, and there is a need for proper cushioning and flexibility in the shoes they wear.
- Barefoot pattern shows the mid-foot or the forefoot striking the ground first as opposed to the traditional feet hitting the ground heel.
Based on these four types of running and wearing patterns, there are different types of running shoes available.
- Neutral Cushioned Shoes – These are suitable for basic pronators as well as for supinator. Make sure they have superior cushioning to absorb shock and provide medial support.
- Motion Control Shoes – These are suitable for those showing severe overpronation. These shoes offer stiffer heels and hence, combating with overpronation perfectly.
- Stability Shoes – These are suitable for those who are moderately overpronators. There is enough cushioning of the arch sides in the midsole region to counter overpronation efficiently.
- Barefoot Shoes – These shoes have minimal protection design, and there is almost no cushion which is why mid-foot and fore-foot strike can better. It is needless to say that they are tailor-made for those who exhibit a barefoot pattern.
- Minimalist Shoes – They are extremely light in weight and have almost no arch support. There is medium-level cushioning, and it is for better midfoot strike and natural running motion. They offer great stability and flexibility.
3. Arc Type
You should have an idea about your arch type and the type of shoes that your feet need to perform at their best.
- Arch Type – To find your arch type, you have to wet the bottom your foot and step on a paper towel. The foot imprint will say whether your arch type is flat, medium, or high. Depending on that, the wearing pattern will be matching, and you have to buy shoes that are designed for your arch type.
- Flat – If you have flat arch feet, your imprint will have very low arches. The imprint will be whole, and the entire sole of the foot will be visible. Such a type of arch is very flexible and prone to overpronate.
- Medium – If you have medium arch feet, the imprint will have prominent heel and forefoot part, and the midsole part will sow heavy arches. It is the most common type, and such a type of arch is semi-flexible.
- High – If you have high arch feet, the portion of the forefeet and the heel will be narrower than that in medium arch feet. The midsole will be almost invisible. Such a feet type tends to be quite rigid, and they are less prone to pronation. Such a feet type needs shoes with high cushioning.
4. Other Different Parts And Features
Here are some small parts and features related to a running shoe that you should know before your purchase.
- Upper – Everything above the sole falls under the upper part. There are many layers starting from synthetic leather and nylon mesh to TPU overlay and waterproof layer. The use of a synthetic layer makes the upper part light in weight and quick to dry. The mesh makes the shoes breathable, and the TPU layer makes it abrasion resistant and enhances stability.
While buying, you have to make sure that the shape of the upper part matches with the shape of your foot. It should be just touching and not be binding for a comfortable run for a long time.
- Midsole – The foam between the upper and the outsole that absorbs the impact is the midsole. The midsole needs to be lightweight so that the overall shoe becomes lighter! The thickness can vary, but it should not be too soft or too firm. There are various parts with which a midsole is composed of. They are the posts which are the firmer foam part, the plates which are the flexible foam parts, and the shanks which are the parts to protect the heel and arch. Some midsoles have additional TPU layer for better stability.
- Outsole – This is the bottom part of the shoe that meets the road surface. It is generally made of rubber so that there is less wear, more flexible, better traction and even good bounce. The outsole material, as well as the design, is important as it could determine the smoothness of your performance. It should not be too stiff or too soft. The design should be perfect for producing optimal friction so that it prevents slipping but enhances the acceleration and smoothness of running wild.
- Toebox – Everything of the upper from the eyelets to the end of the shoe falls under toebox. The toebox should allow you to flex your feet comfortable and it should spread out automatically in all direction so that you toes are not rubbing or binding to the shoes which could otherwise bring down your performance.
- Toe Spring – The toe spring is responsible for making your shoe flexible. It is the one that lets the shoe bend as your foot bends. These are basically grooves, and their location and angle can change the mechanics and dynamics of the shoe completely. Therefore, you will find some shoes offering speed, some offering stability and likewise. Depending on the suitability of the shoes on certain surfaces of the road, the tope springs are designed accordingly. It should have a natural dome during your stride.
- Saddle – Saddle is the part around the instep and it is responsible for the perfect fitting of the shoe. This is where you tie the laces and make sure it is breathable and there is slight padding as the binding of laces tightly should not affect your performance and cause discomfort.
- Cushioning – There are two types of cushioning a running shoe provides. One is the heel cushioning while the other is forefoot cushioning. The main purpose of cushioning is not just making the shoes comfortable. It provides stability, prevents inner slipping, flexibility to the feet, absorbs shock and impact, propels feet for easy bouncing and much more. It is needless to say that the cushioning has to be top-notch and highly responsive and durable.
- Ankle Collar – This is the most neglected part that buyers often forget to check. It is the part at the top of the shoes’ opening which is responsible for holding your heel in its proper place. Most of the running shoes have thick padding on the ankle collar to prevent any friction with the bone of your ankle. The padding should not be firm or too less to cause a blister and irritate Achilles tendon.
- Heel Counter – The rigid structure around the heel is the heel counter. Its main job is to do motion control, and sometimes, it comes with a heel wedge for additional support. It is a must for those having trouble with Achilles tendonitis. You can have stable landings and comfortable ankle motion.
- Heel-To-Toe Drop – It is the portion between the heel and the ball of your foot. It is responsible for distributing the force when your foot strikes the ground. The running shoes with low to medium heel-to-toe drop offer forefoot or mid-foot strike and those with high drop offer heel striking. It is a personal preference of the users.
- Medial Post – This part of the shoe is located on the sides of the shoes and is responsible for preventing excessive motion that could lead to over-pronation or supination. It offers better control and stability when you are running fast. This is an optimal part, and depending on your arch type, you should opt for a shoe tailor-made for your feet condition.
- Sockliner – It is the removable pad inside the running shoes. It is used to provide cushioning along the contours of the bottom of your feet. In short, it offers arch support, and the cushioning should not be too soft or too hard.
Common Mistakes To Avoid While Buying Running Shoes:
When you are buying running shoes online, you are not getting the real touch and feel experience. Therefore, you have to be extra careful while buying and avoid the common pitfalls uninformed buyers generally fall into.
- Getting Carried Away By Looks –
The design of the running shoes you are choosing to buy is important for sure. But the looks can never be more important than the quality of the product. Most of the people buy running shoes from online based on looks without caring about the features and specification to the necessary extent. Hence, they end up with low durable products and understand their mistake when it is too late to return or replace. Therefore, while buying, the quality,construction, and fitting should get the priority over design and looks.
- Getting Carried Away By Brand Name –
Most of the people are willing to pay a premium price as long as the shoes belong to a premium brand. It is true that premium brands do produce quality shoes more often than not. But there are a lot of exceptions as they bring out different types and models of running shoes, some of which may look great but fail miserably in quality and performance.
Therefore, you will come across a lot of running shoes from top brands which have low sales figures and reviews. You are quite right to run after a quality brand for shoes, but you should use your own judgment and weigh out all the parameters before shortlisting and buying. Just because a pair of running shoes is expensive, it does not ensure quality automatically.
- Not Concentrating On Fitting –
The fitting of the running shoes is equally important as the quality of the product. You should devote enough time to make sure that you are getting the right size for your feet. Most of the people assume the size of their feet or use the same size number which they use for buying offline. However, the size chart may not always match, and you may end up buying and short or long pair of shoes. Therefore, it is essential for you to check the size chart and measure your feet to determine which shoe size will be perfect for you. There is no need to opt for tight-fitting shoes as blisters and black toenails will be common. At the same time, spacious fitting can lead to disruption in proper performance.
Understand the different parts of the shoes and what you should be looking for in those parts. Be clear about your feet type and the shoe type that it should fit perfectly and avoid the common mistakes to land the best pair of running shoes for your activity.
Frequently Asked Questions?
For any new runner, the very first thing to identify would be the foot type. The shoes need to be purchased in order to be comfortable on the feet, while serving the purpose; which brings us to our second point of concern, what is the goal of the user. For regular fitness goals, we would recommend you go for cushioned shoes, which protect the feet, while providing ideal comfort and shock absorbing. We feel these are perfect for beginners.
Buying more than one pair of shoes at a point of time will be a bit of a strain on the pocket. But as it turns out, it is a good decision if you can bear the initial brunt of a large spend. The advantage of having two pairs is that after a run, the sole gets more than enough time to recover from the previous run. If you buy two different models, it is useful as they help adapt your feet to different types of models and terrains.
Most people get very attached to their shoes, as they develop a bond. The look and feel of the shoes become familiar. But we would recommend changing shoes when the outer signs of wear and tear become very apparent. For example, if you see the sole coming off, or if the laces are frayed, or if it looks like the shoes will come apart after a run, we recommend you change them as soon as you can.
The type of feet is normally described by the type of arching it is performing, and the three basic types of arches are normal, flat and high. Now, to find out the type of arching one has, a footprint must be observed. High arches show mostly foot and ball, flat arch shows full feet, while normal arches show only the half of an arch. According to this, one can figure out what type of foot one has and can come to a conclusion as to what type of shoes to buy.
The most common pain well known by all runners is that of the plantar fascia tendon, which runs along the bottom of the foot. This is usually caused by excessive running, which causes the tendon to be over worked, causing sharp pains. Stress fractures can also be a major cause of regular pain, as the various bones in the leg tend to get overworked. Sometimes, the use of the incorrect types of shoes.
More often than not, this is the case. For example, running regularly on roads will wear shoes out more than running on trails. But other factors too affect the wearing down of shoes, such as weight or running style.
For a stable grip and proper hold, it is recommended that laces are tied tight, as failure to do this might result in slipping or other injury. The only thing to keep in mind it to not tie them too tight in order to avoid other issues!