All shoes are not created equal. Each is made with a specific size and shape of foot in mind, a type of terrain, an ability of runner and even climate. This is the pair of shoes that is going to take you away from home, work and responsibility, up, up, up into the hills or deep into the forest. Over the next few years, these trainers are your ticket to get away from it all; the pair of you could travel hundreds of miles together. It’s worth taking the time to purchase exactly the right pair of shoes for you.
Find a shoe retailer that specialises in running footwear, so they have a wide range of models. The more options you try, the more likely you are to find the perfect fit. Specialist running shops should have staff who do their best to find the right shoe for you – be wary of salespeople who don’t ask lots of questions about your running routine! It’s also reassuring if a running shop asks you to run, so they can observe your gait. Some shops have an in-store treadmill, while others ask you to run outside.
Shoes for pronation
Pronation is the inward rolling motion of the foot. Some runners roll their feet too far inwards (overpronation) and others don’t roll enough (underpronation). Overpronation is more common and, in general, it’s people who are overweight or have flat feet that do it. Unchecked, it can cause shin and knee problems. Shoes for overpronators need a snug fit to keep you stable and extra cushioning on the inside to create the arch your (probably flat) foot lacks.
Pronation problems are not as much of an issue on soft trails as they are on more solid tracks and roads. But if a trail runner does have issues with overpronating, a shoe that isn’t built up, has a good heel counter and some mild support may help. If you’re too high off the ground, there’s more risk of going over on your ankle.’
For anyone who combines road and off-road running, or who jogs on something in-between the two (such as canal paths), a multi-terrain shoe is best. Confusingly, these are often sold as “trail shoes”. They look like road shoes, but have more grip to cope with mud and less cushioning than a road shoe, which needs to protect your joints from the impact of constant pavement pounding.
Winter & water-repellent shoes
If you live in one of the wetter and colder parts of the UK, and find yourself running through rain and snow during the winter months, go for a watertight shoe that has lots of grip.
If you want to enjoy running through the snow, then you need a completely waterproof shoe. Otherwise a water-repellant shoe may suit.
For the hardened trail runner who avoids roads like the plague and careers over steep, uneven and muddy ground, a fell shoe ought to be top of your Christmas list. They are so light you feel the earth beneath you and going back to a regular trainer can feel like putting a big weight on your foot.
A fell shoe is less bulky, to prevent you going over on your ankle – running on steep and uneven trails in hefty regular trainers will make you feel clumsy. The fell shoe also has a much more snug fit than a regular trainer, to stop your foot moving about and, again, this can prevent ankle injuries and blisters.
Some people often group fell and minimalist (or ‘barefoot’) shoes in one category, but they are not the same. A fell shoe has more grip via a deeper stud. A minimalist trail shoe will cope well with a hard-packed trail path, but anything seriously muddy requires a fell shoe.
A minimalist shoe is unsuitable for most people because it requires a mid/forefoot (or ‘barefoot’) landing. If you fancy making the transition from heel to mid/forefoot striking, do it very gradually and go for a minimalist shoe that has a lot of cushioning. Give your bones and muscles time to adjust to the reduction in cushioning too. Build up mileage gradually if you do go for minimalist.