With a reported two million runners here in the UK and an additional 10 million in the US, the popularity of the sport is undeniable. There’s a lengthy list of reasons why this could be. Running can be enjoyed alone, in almost any environment and to your own schedule — it certainly fits well into our busy modern lives. There’s also no need for equipment such as nets, bats or hoops — all you need is a pair of shoes and the road.
However, choosing the right running shoes is easier said than done. The difficulty is that there are no hard and fast rules that will universally prevent injuries. Dr Peter Thomson, Consultant in Sport and Exercise Medicine at Wimbledon Clinics and a keen runner himself, shares his top five expert tips for choosing a pair of running shoes, to help start you off on the right foot…
1. Turn to the professionals
Head to a professional running shoe shop for the best advice when making your purchase, rather than trying to keep up with the trends. Your perfect pair of shoes will depend on a number of factors, such as the biomechanics of your gait — factors that are unique to you. For example, in recent years, a lighter, minimalist design of running shoe with less stiffness in the heel has moved into the limelight. However, whether this kind of shoe works best for you may depend on whether you strike the ground with your forefoot, midfoot or heel. Fortunately, many shops offer a basic gait analysis to work out where you might need the most support. The right shoe will work with your gait, not against it.
2. Take terrain and distance into account
When it comes to shoes, there’s a big difference between the needs of a recreational runner and those of a long distance athlete. Serious marathon runners are likely to need more cushioning in a shoe, particularly if they are running on roads, while cross country runners need shoes with off-road features such as studs on the sole to prevent potentially disastrous slips and slides. Talk to other runners in the same field — particularly those with a similar build and gait to you. You may well find they have some good advice on finding a brand that works for you.
3. Price doesn’t matter as much as you think it does
While you certainly don’t want to go running in the cheapest shoes you can find, you don’t have to buy the most expensive on the market either — aim to spend a minimum of £55 on a decent pair. If you do have a specific shoe in mind but find yourself flinching a little at the price-point, it’s worth checking to see if last year’s model features the same technology. If the updated model just has a few small tweaks, such as colour, choosing last year’s style could be much kinder on the bank account.
4. Accept you may have some trial and error
While you can usually have a run on a treadmill or up and down the street when trying on a pair of running shoes in a professional shop, there’s only so much you can tell about their suitability before you buy. You’ll be able to get a feel for the cushioning and whether or not they are a good fit, but it’s important to accept there could be some trial and error when seeking your perfect pair. If you experience any soft tissue discomfort after going for a lengthier run, you will need to review your decision.
5. When you find a brand you like, stick with it
It may be tempting to chop, change and keep up with the latest technology, but once you’ve found a brand or style that works for you and keeps you running in comfort, stick with it. You’ll enjoy your sport a whole lot more.
If you’re suffering from common running injuries such as shin splints, hamstring pain or medial ankle or knee issues, it’s always best to seek advice from a professional to get to the root of the problem. Contact the team at Wimbledon Clinics on 02089440665 or email [email protected] today to find out how we can help.