Running Shoe Choice and Maintenance

Judging your foot type

Feet are like fingerprints – every set is unique. Nevertheless they fall into three main categories, and these are matched by three categories of running shoes. The classic method of judging your foot type is the wet test. Next time you step out of the shower look at the outline of your wet foot.

o A flat foot (a solid footprint with no discernible arch) usually means your foot rolls inwards after it hits the ground and needs the added support of a motion control shoe.

o A high-arched foot (the footprint has a narrow band connecting the front and the heel) generally doesn’t roll inwards enough and needs a cushioned shoe which is also very flexible.

o A neutral foot (the footprint has a flare but shows the heel and forefoot firmly connected) should be matched with a stability shoe which has an equal blend of cushioning and stabilizing features. This is the most common category and applies to about 85 per cent of runners.

Shopping for shoes

Shopping at a specialist running retailer will make it far easier to determine your foot type and identify which shoes are best for you. These shops are staffed by runners who understand both the shoe market and the particular needs of beginners. They will measure and look at your feet, question you about the type of running you intend to do and will then recommend a selection of shoes for you to pick from.

Shop smart

Always shop in the afternoon when your feet have expanded to their largest size, and expect the process to take 20-30 minutes. Take along your old running shoes, if you have some – an experienced salesperson will be able to use them to assess what you need – as well as the socks you intend to run in. Try on both shoes and run around the shop in them, preferably for a few minutes. Don’t rush the purchase or respond to sales pressure; you are the best judge of the right shoes for you.

Fit is everything

A shoe that doesn’t fit you is the wrong shoe for you. A well-fitting running shoe will feel snug but not too tight, both in length and width. It should be sized to your bigger foot (if you have one) and have at least a thumbnail’s worth of room between the end of your toes and the front of the shoe. The rear of the shoe should hold your heel firmly in place so that your foot does not slide around.

Treasure your shoes

Running shoes are designed for running, not for football, tennis or weight training. Although it might be tempting to use them for other sports, don’t. Not only will you damage the structural integrity of your precious running shoes but you might also damage yourself as well. You can extend the life of your shoes with a little common sense when they are wet or dirty. When wet, put some scrunched-up newspaper inside and dry them slowly away from a direct heat source. When dirty, clean them with a brush and water, avoiding detergents, and never be tempted to put them in a washing machine.

Long life

There is no set lifespan for a pair of running shoes: it all depends on your weight, how your foot strikes the ground, whether you are running on or off roads, and also how well you care for the shoes themselves. Unlike your day shoes, the durability of running shoes is often dictated by the life of their midsole foam – not by the outsole rubber or the upper. Midsole wear can be very hard to judge, although heavy creasing of the foam under the heel, the feeling that your foot is sinking into the shoe or permanent flattening of the foam are all indicators that the time has come for some new shoes. You can reasonably expect your shoes to last between 300-500 miles, although some runners regularly manage twice as long.

Don’t expect miracles

If you are expecting your shoes to make you a better and faster runner, you are deluding yourself. The shoes will not run the miles for you, but they can ensure that you run those miles comfortably and, hopefully, free of injury. Shoes that you never think about again until it’s time to change them are the perfect ones for you.