Standing in your favourite shoe shop or surfing an online shoe website, your mind runs through a series of questions while you’re facing 20 different shoes in 10 different colours and sizes. Troubled, confused, and uncertain you pick up the pair you think might fit the best, only to later regret that decision because you did not carry out enough research.
How to select the perfect running shoes for yourself
Running shoes contribute to a greater part of your muscles’s and body’s well-being. Hence, the perfect shoe actually depends on the shape of your foot and the style of your running. A number of factors need to be considered before buying a new pair of running shoes.
To help you narrow down your selection, here are some basic factors that need to be taken care of:
- Analyse the shape of your foot, the arch size in particular,
- Determine your running style,
- Keeping in mind the route you choose for running can prove to be a helpful as well,
- Study the features, shape and internal surface of the shoe with great detail.
To begin with, a runner needs to know their feet. This does not only mean the size, but the length of the arch, the size of their toes, and the structure that determines whether they are flat feet or not.
More importantly, it is of great significance to analyse your running track. Whether it’s the smooth track of DDA Sports complex in Sirifort, the curvy path of the Lodi Gardens or the casual stride you take early morning near India Gate, the running track lays the basis of the kind of shoes you need to select.
Know Your Track
For a better understanding, we listed down the types of tracks for you. Whether it’s a recreational activity or a preparation for the marathon, the type of track you choose holds immense importance in the shoe selection process. The types of tracks usually found in our part of the world are:
A synthetic track is an artificial, rubberized, all-weather running surface mainly used for professional athletics. The main advantage of this type of tracks is that it provides the runners with a consistent surface, with good shock-absorption that causes minimum adverse effects to your joints. This improves the runner’s performance results as compared to other surfaces, and also doesn’t let adverse weather conditions get in the way. Due to the artificial nature of these tracks, and being a separate independent system from their surrounding environments, they do not deteriorate over time and can be maintained easily with little effort.
The most important fact about synthetic tracks, however, is that it is this type of tracks that the Usain Bolts, and the Florence Griffiths of the world test their athletic abilities and push their limits on. These are the tracks which have seen so many memories being made, so many tears of joy as well as disappointment being shed. In short, these are the tracks, where history is made! So if you’re planning on going pro and representing your country, this is the type of track where you should head towards.
Such synthetic tracks can be found in a number of places in India, mostly in stadiums. The Birsa Munda Athletics Stadium in Ranchi, or the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium are a few examples where synthetic running tracks can be found, among many others.
Selecting the shoes for such a surface is of great importance. If caution is not taken while selecting shoes, it might result in causing damage to the surface. Different synthetic tracks around the world have their own specification, however, the most common requirement is that shoes with pyramid shaped spikes that don’t exceed 6 mm (1/4 inch) in length should be worn, to keep the damage to the surface at a minimum.
Grass and Turf
If you’re thinking of going for a run in your local park, this is the kind of track you’ll come across. These tracks can be found all over India, and provide an ideal spot for a nice morning jog or run, to keep-up that feel-good attitude throughout the day.
Such a type of track, however, comes with its own pros and cons. The pros are that it provides a nice cushion while running, lessening the rebound, thus minimising the stress caused to your joints.
On the flip-side, your time on this surface will be slower and you are more likely to ‘over-pronate’ (later explained in the section titled ”Motion Control Shoes”). Also, due to grass being a natural type of surface, there’ll be potholes, marshes, uneven ground, and sometimes even animal droppings. So you have to watch your step while running on grass and turf.
Keeping that in view, the ideal shoes for such a surface are those which provide a good arch support, and cushioning that will protect your heels. Also, grass tracks can be slippery when they’re wet or when there’s dew present. To deal with that, shoes that have thicker soles (e.g. trail shoes) should be selected as they provide better traction and stability.
Dirt tracks are usually considered one of the best surfaces to run on, after grass tracks. Another thing dirt tracks have in in common with grass tracks is that they’re both very commonly found throughout the world. However, there are variations again just like grass tracks; there are two sides to the picture.
The positive side is that such tracks have the right amount of hardness and leeway to make for an ideal track for running. Such dirt tracks are usually found in forests etc. While the negatives side is that if the dirt tracks that you’re running on are rocky routes on mountains or deserts, the uneven nature of the tracks may cause an injury to your ankles.
Having said the above, the ideal shoes for a dirt track may vary for the type of dirt track you’re planning to run on. For a softer and more even dirt track, such as a forest trail, the shoes you wear should provide you with ample cushioning, good flexibility and proper structure.
For a harder and more uneven kind of dirt trail, the ideal of shoes are ones which provide you with a proper traction and a good amount of protection to avoid any oddly shaped pebbles or rocks that you might step-on during the run. However, in doing so, the extra protection and traction shall result in lower flexibility and added weight due to the protective layers.
If you’re a city dweller, than you’re more than likely to have such tracks nearby. Asphalt tracks are hard in nature (not as much as concrete). In fact, they’re the hardest type of running track amongst those mentioned in this article. However, with great hardness comes great rebound. The harder the surface you’re running on, the faster your run time will be, as it provides a greater rebound force which pushes you forward resulting in a faster run time.
So if you’re in the mood for setting a personal record for fastest run time, an asphalt track is your best bet at doing just that!
It should be kept in mind though, that the hardness of the surface and the greater rebound it creates will have a stronger impact on your joints than most other surfaces (remember Newton’s Third Law? Any action shall result in an equal and opposite reaction). Also, another downer related to this surface is that on sunny and/or hot days, it’ll feel as if the track is radiating the heat from the surroundings on to you as you run along, causing dehydration.
So, in order to avoid any potential injuries to your joints due to the hardness of asphalt tracks, the ideal kind of shoes for such a surface are those that offer good cushioning to lessen the strain caused to your joints. Shoes that offer protection and support are also good for such tracks. Also, in order to out-run (pun intended) the problem of dehydration, it is advised to keep along a bottle of water or energy drink to keep yourself well hydrated throughout.
Know Your Shoes
Having gone through the types of tracks listed above, it is quite clear that the types of shoes ideally suited for a certain type of track mainly depend upon the hardness of the track. In order to tackle this and other issues, we have prepared a list of shoes and divided them in to categories. We divided the types of running shoes in to four interesting categories; Motion Control, Stability, Neutral and minimalist shoes.
Ever heard of the term over pronation? Well, it’s a clinical term used to describe people with low arches. In common words, a ‘flat foot’, a condition where the weight is on the inside of the sole. These kind of runners should select a shoe with a midsole cushioning commonly known as ‘motion control shoes’ which will lift their arch and help them provide a good support while running. “About 30 percent of people have a flat foot” says Dr. Victor Prisk of West Penn Hospital.
These are the kind of statistics, runners and shoe manufacturers tend to ignore. Therefore, in order to avoid injury or cramps, it is advisable to get the length of your arch measured and select your shoe in accordance to that.
As mentioned earlier, pronation can cause knee injuries and spasms. However, stability shoes are for those runners that have mild to moderate pronation that needs to support the arch side of each midsole.
Neutral or Barefoot Shoes
These kind of shoes are extremely light weight and makes one feel like touching the ground, hence the term ‘barefoot’. Most of these running shoes do not contain a heel pad or a cushion to support the arch. The contact between your feet and the ground is as minimum as 3-4mm.
These are unconventional shoe type that usually encourages a mid-foot landing. This type of landing is preferred by runners who want a direct landing, a substitute for heel strike which might put pressure on the heels of the feet.
Efficient runners with a natural stride who require the perfect combination of cushioning, responsiveness and the right distance between the ground and the sole, prefer the minimalist style of shoes. With a heel drop of almost 4-8mm, this shoe type offers a natural motion while running.
Choosing the right shoes for the right track will not be a problem anymore if you consider these factors before selecting one. This guide was made keeping in view all the possible choices and types, as physical health is extremely important in all possible ways.