Running has boomed over the past couple of decades – and the last few weeks. The long term trend suggests that two million Britons run once a week; although since the coronavirus lockdown came into effect, that’s surely risen as people take to the streets, parks, and canal paths in search of their one bit of outdoor exercise a day.
The great thing about running, as so many of us are learning now, is the bar for entry is low. Except for will power and, ideally, some clothes, all you need is a pair of the best running shoes you can find. But that last bit can be easier said than done.
“Having the right type of running shoe can help in the attempt to prevent injuries,” says Nick Newman, store manager at Runners Need. “In an ideal world we would be nicely aligned when we run and not put stress and strain on our bodies.”
The first thing to note is that, while running shoes often look like regular trainers, they are in fact stacked with technology aimed to protect your body and boost performance. For example, cushioning helps shock absorption.
There are a few main types of running shoe, such as road, trail and lightweight. Ruggero Loda founded the running shoe review website Running Shoes Guru in 2009, after working in the footwear departments at Nike and Reebok Adidas. He explains that road shoes are essentially divided between neutral shoes for beginners or long mileage, stability shoes, and lightweight options.
“Running shoes need to be comfortable over a long mileage,” says Loda. Your everyday running shoe therefore should be versatile and durable, with plenty of cushioning to help absorption as your body pounds the ground step after step. “Sand is extremely cushioning,” says Loda. “It doesn’t hurt you, it’s very good for your knees, ankles, and joints, but you can’t go fast. The force that you put on the ground is dissipated through the sand. That is the same with a very soft, cushioned road shoe.”
A lightweight shoe will be less cushioned, with thinner soles, often made of a bouncier material. These offer less protection, but allow runners to move quicker. Loda warns beginners and casual runners against these: “Running is hard on your body. Shoes made for competition are made for people who are extremely efficient, they weigh very little and don’t need as much cushioning as somebody that’s very heavy.”
Trail shoes are designed for running off-road, where it might be muddy, rocky or slippery. Thus they’ll offer a deeper tread for better grip, extra ankle support, weather-resistant tops to prevent water or dust getting in, while still offering shock absorption.
When we run our feet expand, for two main reasons. Firstly, when it touches the floor it widens – think of a basketball bouncing in slow motion. Secondly, the increased sweat and blood flow. So it’s important to leave around half an inch of space. “At the same time,” says Loda, “the heel and mid of the foot should be not tight, but secure. There’s nothing worse than a small pair of shoes. If it’s too big and your foot slips, it’s annoying, but if it’s small it’s really going to cause pain and blisters.”
As for cost, Loda says the more you spend the better a shoe gets, but it doesn’t necessarily mean a more expensive shoe will be right for you. “The difference between a shoe of £50 and £100 is incredible, but the difference between a shoe of £100 and £150 is not as big.” Loda recommends looking for the previous year’s models, where you can typically find around 40 per cent off the RRP.
1. Brooks Ghost 12
Why we like it: The best shoe for beginners and long mileage