Image courtesy of Take it to the Manx
It’s not enough to say that “one size fits all” doesn’t apply to running shoes. Not only is size an important consideration, but the type of running terrain you plan to tackle will greatly determine which shoes are best suited for your goals. Shoes can vary widely with regard to how they’re best used; if you set out on rough terrain with the wrong type of footwear, you might have a much tougher time—and increase your risk of injury as a result.
It’s important to do your research when choosing your running footwear. You aren’t just looking for shoes that fit your feet—you need them to fit your running style as well the terrain where you’ll be doing most of your running. Here’s a quick guide to choosing the ideal shoes.
Concrete and asphalt
Most running shoes—unless otherwise noted—are designed for all-purpose running, particularly on hard, smooth surfaces such as roads, sidewalks and paved running trails. A smoother undersole is acceptable, and foot stability is not ramped on these shoes like what you’d find in more rugged shoes.
If you’re primarily on surfaces like these, you’ll be fine investing in the base models produced by most shoe manufacturers. But one tip: when the traction starts to wear away, it’s time to seek a replacement. Even though traction isn’t a big concern, worn-out shoes can still slip on wet surfaces and lead to injury. A good rule of thumb is to replace these shoes every 500 miles.
Rugged nature trails
The terrain most demanding on your feet is anything off-road, including hiking trails or other dirt paths. These surfaces can be loose and unstable and can change several times over the course of your run. For this type of terrain, you want a trail running shoe that offers greater ankle support to reduce your risk of injury.
Similarly, your shoe’s rubber sole should feature studs and more pronounced traction technology to grip loose surfaces with greater ease. Companies like Vibram have made a name out of producing running footwear for adventurous terrain, but even mainstream manufacturers produce rugged running shoe models.
Rubber-based running tracks
Outdoor running tracks are the softest running surface you’ll encounter, and because of the cushioning and stability offered by this surface, you can get away with a more minimalistic running shoe. If you plan to participate in races on a track, you might want to invest in a racing shoe featuring studded spikes sticking out from the bottom of the sole. Your body won’t suffer from the lack of cushioning, but you’ll be lighter and will enjoy greater traction. Virtually every running shoe manufacturer makes racing shoes, so you have plenty of options available to you.
Considering activity type
One mistake many runners make is using cross-training or general athletic shoes to facilitate their runs. Cross-training shoes are great if you’re engaging in a variety of activities in various situations. But if you’re primarily a runner, you need a running shoe to match. Shoes specifically intended for running offer different cushioning and support than cross-training shoes and are designed with that singular purpose in mind.
Before you invest in a running shoe, try it on to make sure it offers a snug fit and doesn’t apply excessive friction anywhere on the foot or ankle. No matter how much research you do, it’s important to make sure the shoe fits your foot’s individual features before you make the investment. If you don’t cater the shoe to the needs of your feet, you could create other running problems—including a higher injury risk—just as you’re trying to better prepare yourself for the terrain ahead.