How to Choose the Best Running Shoes

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Author: Paul Larkins

Here’s some great advice on what to look for when buying your running shoes. With such a huge range on offer it can be a bit of a minefield. Cushioning, overpronation, under pronation and drop are just a few concepts you’ll need to get comfortable with. Which is where we come in! Start with this and you won’t go far wrong: when it comes to choosing the best shoes think about where you are going to run. If it’s road, well then a nice cushioned shoe is good; off-road and you’ll want something with a little grip. From there, the world is your oyster. To get you going why not take a look at the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 35; the number refers to how many years it’s been around, so it’s safe to say it’s a well-established favourite. It gets on with everything you want in an unfussy sort of way – exactly what the best shoes do. The Asics Kayano does a similar job, only this time it provides a bit more support, but at the same time is great in terms of weight and general feel – you have permission to run fast and far in these!

Cushioning 

Consider your surfaces; do you mix road with trail or is it all out mud? 

Grip 

Choose aggressive lugs for thick muddy off-roading in the mountains, but remember these can be unforgiving and slippy on harder surfaces like paths, trails and tracks.

Weight

Light is not always best; longer training runs, and slow easy days can often feel better in more supportive, cushioned and therefore heavier shoes.

Drop

This is the difference between the heel and toe; a zero (0mm) drop whatever the amount of cushioning is currently classed as the most natural option, however if you’re not used to this these will make your calves ache. A 6-8mm is a great mid-way option for trails, while traditional road shoes use a 12mm drop. 

Lacing

Some shoes use traditional laces and some have a ‘quick-release’ system, they can both work equally well so it’s just a case of which fits you best and what you prefer. However, note that it is less easy to replace/repair quick-release laces if they brake.

Fit and comfort

Arguably the most important factor in enabling you to run faster according to the latest research. Look for a narrower fit for racing shoes and for ultras consider a half size bigger to allow for foot swell over the long distance.

Uppers

Breathable is best for summer trail shoes; complete waterproofing can work on cold, dry, windy runs but in deep puddles, mud and on wet outings that can mean they fill up with water and hang on to it, resulting in a heavier shoe.

Rock Plate

For trail shoes look for this technology under the forefoot to protect from unwanted stone bruising. It needs to be flexible and responsive but allow protection.

Toe Guard

Road shoes don’t offer this, but given hidden rocks and bits of wood can be a real danger on the trail, this piece of technology is hugely important in a trail shoe.

Waterproofing

Some love it, some don’t. The best options allow for drainage so that when you run through the river any excess water will run away. You can check out our selection of the Best Waterproof Running Shoes here

Support

Training shoes offer varying levels of support. Most of us overpronate a little meaning a slightly harder inner section on the midsole stops your knee from collapsing inwards as you run. For some this can be severe, requiring a more solid base, others don’t need any – a neutral shoe.

Gemma Keepin