It’s not always about size! It’s not just about size or brand.
Choosing the perfect running shoe
is dependent on loads of other factors too. It starts with the shape of your foot and ends with your individual style of running. Sometimes we’re talking about more than just the shoes themselves...
Unfortunately, there are a lot of runners who don’t know that they’re wearing an unsuitable shoe. This is mainly due to their lack of knowledge of the selection criteria on offer, but is that the only thing to blame? We’ll explain, so that in the future you’ll be able to avoid aches and pains, as well as run more comfortably, effectively and enjoy it more!
Your feet: the anatomical basis
Foot shape is an anatomical reality, around which you will inevitably have to orientate you choice of running shoe. Knowing about your foot shape and the consequent rolling is crucial when buying a pair of running shoes.
Have you ever heard of a flat, splay or skewed foot?
- Hindfoot: The heel bone can tilt inwards or outwards, where a pronation or overpronation (supination), respectively, can occur.
- Midfoot: The curvature of the midfoot determines how much contact your foot/shoe gets with the floor.
- Forefoot: The bigger the foot, the wider it gets. That has an effect on running style (more on that later).
These kind of feet deformities can cause injuries when wearing unsuitable running shoes (twisted ankles and knees etc.). Regular training helps against this, as it strengthens your muscles and improves your performance in general, but it does take time. Time, in which you can support your feet with stable and sufficiently cushioned running shoes
Incidentally, women tend to, as a result of the higher concentration of the oestrogen hormone, have more frequent ligament injuries. As a result, the tension of ligaments and tendons is reduced, which in turn leads to fluctuating heights of foot arches.
The different styles of running
Just like foot shape, running style naturally has a massive impact on choosing a suitable running shoe. There’s usually a distinction between forefoot, midfoot and backfoot running.
is based on the walking motion and is relatively easy to adopt. This technique is particularly good for beginners. However, all runners should be aware of the disadvantages:
- Not suitable for quick runs, as the foot touches the ground well behind the body‘s centre of gravity and therefore slows down
- High shock load on each step
- High eccentric load on the shin muscles, which can lead to shin splints
- Stronger knee flexion for shock absorption, which can lead to a “runner’s knee”
- Loss of tension in the Achilles heel and calf, which can lead to an inflamation of the Achilles
can fully utilise bodily cushioning systems and equally distribute pressure. Since the foot strikes the floor not far from the centre of gravity, the slowing effect is much less than with backfoot running. However, this movement has to be learned from new in most cases.
is definitely the quickest, as the foot hits the floor below the centre of gravity and a retraction movement of the lower leg (especially over short distances) is possible for an active run. At the same time, overpronation is prevented with this kind of running thanks to the pretension of muscles on landing. Examples of disadvantages are:
- Higher pressure on the forefoot, sole, calf muscles and Achilles heel (likewise increasing the risk of inflammation)
- Running on your tiptoes can lead to heel spurs
Through a combination of different running styles you’ll be able to avoid one side of your body being overused and therefore reduce the risk of injury. By changing, you’ll be able to optimally train the different muscle groups.
Knowing about the different techniques and their risks helps to identify problems and work on a solution. Running styles combined with unsuitable shoes often lead to pain.
The heel-to-toe drop
One feature of running shoes that can be a problem is the heel-to-toe drop
. The heel-to-toe drop
is the difference in the thickness of the sole between the forefoot and the heel. The bigger it is, the higher the heel. Asics defines the effects as:
“A low heel-to-toe drop only encourages a faster motion at high speeds, for example during interval training or competitions. On the other hand, the movement amplitude is magnified in the area of calf muscles/Achilles heel. This makes a dynamic step possible and leads to faster speeds.”
Additional (technical and technological) selection criteria for running shoes are cushioning and support.
The necessary support
Every running style is unique, which also goes for the phase of ground contact too. Shoe support targets this specific moment with its mix of material and technology and is dependent on a few factors:
- Length/Distance: You need greater support on longer runs, because muscles lose power after a certain amount of time.
- Body weight: In general, the heavier a runner is, the greater their shoe support should be.
- Pronation: A pronounced pronation can be regulated by a higher level of support.
Adequate cushioning of running shoes
The mechanics of the cushioning is similar to a spring. It converts the impact energy into heat and therefore reduces the forces acting on your body. And that can be (depending on body weight, speed and route length (i.e. time)) two or three times your own body weight!
The cushioning therefore provides not only comfort, but also protects our joints. In this case the sole material also has an influence, since the more resilient it is, the greater the spring effect is. A prime example for cushioned shoes is the Adidas Boost.
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Apart from that, the type of cushioning is dependent on the type of running you do (and also definitely on the surface, more on that later):
- Fast runs: lightweight cushioning
- Effective “running to the limit”: moderate cushioning
- Long and steady runs: extensive cushioning
- For a particularly soft feeling: maximum cushioning
And with this you also determine additional requirements of your running shoes, just depending on their primary purpose. That includes bearing in mind the typical type of ground you run on, since these also set different requirements for the running shoe:
- Track running: Shoes targeted specifically for synthetic grounds
- Road: Shoes which guarantee reliable safety on hard ground
- Uneven ground: Shoes with good traction
- Trail running: Non-slip shoes (even on damp ground)
Tip: Special trail shoes have further features which are adapted to the respective environment, for example a sole construction which is optimized for running up and down hills or a shoe with waterproof GoreTex material.
But even the most innovative technologies do not fulfill their purpose if the shoe does not fit well. It influences the flexibility of the foot. A wide fit means greater freedom of movement and a more comfortable feel, a tighter fit means more control.
Downhill running for example requires good grip for more control and security, while running uphill requires high stability for an effective impression.
Tip: Thanks to various lacing technologies, specific foot types and problem zones can be addressed. Make sure you stretch your toes upwards and push your heel back while doing up your shoelaces.
And so we come to the question which we should always ask ourselves first when buying shoes: What shoe size do I need?
The short answer to that is to measure your foot, since a centimeter is the same independent of UK, US or European sizes. Alternatively we can use a tool which allows you to compare with our existing shoes. You can estimate fairly well based on your experience if the new shoes will fit in the size you’ve chosen or not. In the 3D model you can also play with the sizes and you can look at the fit precisely.
With your new knowledge, hopefully buying your next pair of running shoes will be a lot easier. In case you still have any unanswered questions, send them over and we will be more than happy to answer them. Simply comment underneath this post!