When it comes to finding good running shoes for new runners, the choice available is mind blowing.
Walk into any high street sports shop and you are presented with walls full of trainers all vying for your attention.
So which should you choose?
Which are going to be the best running shoes for you?
Well obviously I can’t go to the shops with you to help you choose, but what I can do is arm you with information you need.
Information that will at least give you a better understanding of what you are being presented with.
As they say, “knowledge is power”, and with the knowledge I provide here, you should have the power to go out and get the right shoes for you.
OK, with the preamble out of the way, it is time to get into the meat of the matter.
Like any ‘specialist activity’, running comes with its fair share of jargon.
So before we start exploring what you should be looking for in your new running shoes and why, it’s time for a running shoe glossary.
RUNNING SHOE GLOSSARY
This refers to the natural roll’ of your foot when you walk and run.
It is all part of natures shock absorber system for the body.
With the normal amount of pronation, as your foot comes down it will roll in by around 15%.
This is the optimal amount to absorb shock and keep all the elements of the leg correctly aligned.
This in turn will ensure you have the maximum chance of avoiding injury.
Underpronation or Supination
If your foot rolls outwards rather than inwards when it plants, this is known as Underpronation or Supination.
This usually affects runners with high arches and is a major cause of common ailments like achilles issues.
(I can testify to this particular issue!)
When the foot goes beyond the 15% inward roll, it is regarded as Overpronation.
As with the underpronation, this also can cause issues and a higher chance of injuries.
Overpronation is usually (but not always) experienced by runners with flat feet.
Understanding Your Level of Pronation
You can get these things tested out using ‘Gait Analysis’ which most good running shops will provide.
However as a quick rule of thumb, you can wet your bare feet and walk on a surface that will be marked by the water.
Individuals with a high arch (and therefore a tendency to underpronate), will leave a mark where the heel and ball of the foot touch the floor, but very little of the mid part of the foot.
On the other hand, someone with flat feet (and therefore the tendency to overpronate) will see most of the bottom of the foot printed on the surface being used.
Knowing how you pronate is useful when purchasing new running shoes, to make sure you get the right pair.
A ‘heel striker’ simply describes a runner who lands with their heel first when running.
It is fairly common, you only have to look at any photo of people running and the heel strikers will be easy to spot.
The action of landing heel first does increase the stresses on the body as you are in effect breaking every time your foot hits the ground.
The cause of heel striking is that people bring their foot down ahead of their body. Ideally you want to be landing mid-foot underneath your body.
If you want to know if you are a heel striker, the simplest way is to get someone to take a picture of you while you are running.
If you do heel strike, it is best to try to take smaller strides to amend your style.
However initially while you are amending your running style it may be worth focusing on running shoes with plenty of cushioning in the heel.
(See higher heel-toe drop below)
This is a an expression that refers specifically to the specifications of a shoe.
It refers to the difference in height between the heel and the sole of a pair of running shoes.
Higher Heel-Toe drops contain more cushioning under the heel to help absorb the impact of landing.
A more uniform heel-toe drop provides a more uniform thickness of sole underneath the whole foot. This, in turn encourages a more mid-foot landing of the foot when running.
Neutral & Stability Shoes
This takes us back to the aspect of pronation and how running shoes cater for these running styles.
In very simple terms Stability shoes are designed to stop the excessive roll found in runners with overpronation.
On the other hand, as the name suggests, neutral shoes don’t provide any corrective sort of features.
Currently about 80% of the shoes sold are Neutral.
It should be said evidence is mounting that the extra support provided by stability shoes actually causes more harm than good.
Due to this you will find that most supportive neutral running shoe is fine no matter what your running style.
In recent years there has been a big move away from excessive cushioning in shoes make popular by books like Chi Running (A particular favourite read of mine).
The idea is that the cushioning only hides the issues in our running style and therefore are not good in the long term.
Therefore the ‘barefoot’ running shoe has become popular.
This is a shoe with minimal to no cushioning or support, thus allowing you to run as if barefoot, but with some protection.
If you are just starting out on your running adventure, I wouldn’t recommend this type of shoe, until you have done a little more research.
Tips For Selecting the Right Pair of Running Shoes
Having covered some of the jargon here are a few tips to ensure you get the best running shoe for you…
You Get What You Pay For…Up To A Point
You will know if you have been looking for running shoes already that there is a wide range of prices.
From bargain basement supermarket shoes, right up to running shoes that almost require a small mortgage to buy.
It is true to say that, on the whole, the higher the price tag, the greater the technology used to make your run as comfortable as possible.
With the cheapest shoes, you can’t be sure they have been specifically designed for running. This lack of design could come back to bite you on the rear end in the form of injuries later down the road.
This is exacerbated the more running you do (or plan to do).
If you only expect to be running 2 or 3 miles once or twice a week, a cheap pair of running shoes may be good enough.
However, if you are running (or plan to run) longer and more frequently, the extra investment will be well worth it.
Much like most things in life, there does come a point of ‘diminishing returns’.
In other words, it takes more and more expense to create smaller and smaller benefits.
The sweet spot for running shoes that provide the features you need, but won’t break the bank is going to be somewhere around the £70-£150.
Obviously this is not a hard a fast rule, but a good rule of thumb to be getting on with to cover most of your running needs.
It’s Not A Fashion Contest!
As much as you might want to look as good as you can when out running, this is not a time to focus on the look of your shoes.
Dedicated running shoes are designed to not only withstand the rigours of running…
…they are also designed to help your body do the same.
They will have support and cushioning to create shock absorbency to help your body cope with the miles you are going to run.
Therefore when making your choice, make sure you go for a pair that are specifically designed as running shoes.
Horses For Courses
Aligned to the previous tip, you need to understand what sort of running you will want to do.
Do you plan to the majority of your running on the road, or off the beaten track?
Do you want the shoes for racing, or for plodding along with mates?
As I point out elsewhere, what running you plan to do is going to have a great bearing of what running shoes you should choose.
Fits Like a Glove
The fina tip is probably as one of, if not the, most important tip to take notice of.
You MUST focus on the fit of your shoe.
Get this wrong and your running becomes a whole lot more uncomfortable than it could have been.
As a personal example, I know I have a slightly wide foot, and therefore I will look for shoes with wide fittings.
As New Balance are a personal favourite of mine, I will look for their EE fit.
Be aware tend to spread and swell as you run, so it is a good idea to make sure you have around a thumb’s width between the end of your toes and the end of the shoe.
Never be tempted to select a pair of running shoes that are slightly tight thinking they will ‘give’ once they are worn in. This is just a recipe for discomfort and blisters.
Giving advice on good running shoes for new runners can only ever be worth so much.
Ultimately, we will all have our own reasons for selecting a certain brand or make.
However, if I had to boil the advice down into a sentence, I would say go for a mid-price, neutral running shoe from a brand known for producing good running shoes.
…And to help you, I have listed men’s and women’s running shoes with very good feedback that match those criteria.
Just for completeness, I wanted to let you know I will make a small commission if you make a purchase via the links on this site.