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Ten-point guide to buying a pair of running shoes

By Sam Murphy, Sarah Connors


Running shoes play the most important role of any equipment a runner owns. A recent report from California State University shows that impact forces during running vary from between one and a half and five times your body weight - so protection is needed, and that protection should be designed specifically to meet the demands of running.

In Running Well, running expert Sam Murphy teams up with physiotherapist Sarah Connors to offer tips for injury-free running and include a ten-point guide to buying a pair of running shoes.

  1. Make sure you have plenty of time, and don’t rush. Research from the Medical College of Wisconsin shows that the wrong shoes may play a role in the development of stress fractures.
  2. Go to a specialist running shop where the staff members are experienced in fitting running shoes. It helps if they are runners, too. A Which? Study in 2000 found that the advice given at most chain sports stores on trainers was well below par.
  3. Go later on in the day when your feet are slightly larger to ensure you get a good fit.
  4. Take your old shoes with you so the staff can look at wear patterns.
  5. Wear appropriate clothing so you can try the shoes out properly. A lot of shops now have treadmills to look at how you run and for you to test the shoes on.
  6. Take your running socks with you. If you wear orthotics, take them along too.
  7. Make sure the shoes are comfortable in the shop. If they are not, they won’t be for running.
  8. Don’t be swayed by appearances or brands. Try on several makes and models.
  9. Don’t go by what your friend wears as they may run completely differently from you.
  10. Be prepared to invest. Shoes will last 300-500 miles, so it is worth spending more to get a decent pair, rather than opting for the bargain bin!

How should shoes fit?
The shoe should feel comfortable as soon as you put it on. There should be enough room in the toebox for you to wiggle the toes around, and you should be able to fit your index finger between the longest toe - usually the big toe - and the end of the shoe. Some shoes are more rounded at the ends, while others taper off toward the little toe, so make sure the lateral side of the toebox doesn’t rub your toes. There also needs to be sufficient width to accommodate the foot comfortably. Women often have a narrower heel but broader forefoot than men, and female-specific shoes take this into account. But if any shoe feels too tight across the foot, try a different brand, as they each have a slightly different fit. The heel should be firm but not pinching, and you don’t want your heel to slip up and down inside the shoe. Make sure the heel tab at the top of the heel cup does not dig into your Achilles tendon. Walk around in the shoes and, if possible, try to run in them.

This is adapted from Running Well.




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