6 Feb

Finding Your Feet

Feet In Motion

The most important part of a runner's equipment is their shoes. Running is great fun and provides a superb aerobic workout but it is a high impact sport.

Each time your foot strikes the ground when you're running, your leg absorbs a force that is more than three times your body weight. Unless your feet are well cushioned with shock absorbing materials, the repeated impact on your legs can lead to joint injury and other problems.

Fortunately there are a range of running shoes, made with state-of-the-art materials, that ensure optimum performance. These specialist shoes provide cushioning, important for all runners and especially heavier people, and flexibility. They are also designed specifically for different running actions.

This last point is crucial as a key issue for many runners is pronation - the natural tendency for the foot (especially the heel and arch of the foot) to roll inwards after the heel strikes. This acts as a natural cushioning mechanism. However it is very common for runners to overpronate. This can lead to painful joints or shins and increases the risk of suffering an injury such as shin splints or a stress fracture. It's important that your running shoes offer the support that you need to help reduce any excessive rolling motion of your feet (overpronation).

If you are a mild to moderate overpronator then you need a structured shoe that provides some stability. Basically the support in the shoe compensates for your overpronation. All the main brands offer a structured shoe - the Mizuno Wave Inspire 9, the Brooks Vapor 10, and Saucony Omni 11 are popular. Runners with a very flat arch tend to have highly mobile and unsupportive feet that roll excessively (overpronation). Motion control shoes offer a greater level of medial (inside) support and a flatter sole provides a broader base of stability.

A neutral runner's foot strike rolls inwards by the correct amount to absorb shock before continuing forward in an efficient line to toe push-off. Neutral shoes offer the natural foot optimal rear and/or forefoot cushioning with maximum flexibility. Experienced runners with an eye to performance may choose a lightweight shoe. These offer varying degrees of cushioning and/or support in a lightweight design to optimise high paced training and racing.

For those who do a lot of training in the country or on the hills there is a range of high quality trail shoes available. With more aggressively gripped outsoles to withstand the demands of off-road terrain, some models also offer the benefit of water repellency features. If you are going to take up running seriously then get along to one of the UK's network of specialist running retailers to get expert advice on the shoe that suits you. There an advisor will talk to you and check out your running action. They'll get you to jog in the shop and watch you closely or even better examine old shoes you've brought along. They might use a footscanner or video analysis but what is certain is that they'll be able to advise you about the type of shoe that will suit you.

After that it's personal choice. Different brands have different qualities and you would normally try on a few to see what one suited you best. Final point - trainers lose their cushioning after 300-500 miles of running, so it's best to replace them after you've run this distance. Once you can see that the heels have worn down, the trainers need to be changed.