What is the best shoe for me?

Running, July 02, 2017

I get asked this by many athletes. The simple answer - the shoes that feel comfortable and give the right balance of support and cushioning for the training and/or race you are aiming for. Listening to your own body is key in making "fluid informed" decisions due to your own body changing + shoe model changes.

I currently have seven pairs of shoes on the go. I believe our bodies (especially our feet) thrive on a little bit of variation - within common sense parameters.  I also do periods of barefoot running on the beach to help keep my feet strong, and help with overall stability. "Grounding" also has many other health benefits.

There are three types of running foot types........

1) Overpronator - requiring a motion control shoe

2) Neutral pronator - requiring a stability shoe

3) Supinator - requiring a more cushioned shoe.

The foot type doesn't take into account the rest of the body. I feel COMFORT of a shoe takes priority and your own running shoe history. You have to own the shoe purchasing decision and take advice from shoe sales people and coaches blended with your own feeling. Listening to your body is key and building up a history of self- information. This makes ongoing decisions more informed. Shoe models and types change from season to season so you can't just go on past shoe type. Always keep an open mind and TRUST your gut!

In terms of road shoes I have my tried and trusted Asics Kayano (12mm drop) that I use for most training road runs, and I have raced in when my feet have been "niggly" and I have resisted using my racing flats. I own a pair of Asics DS- Racers (8mm drop) that I used to race in up to marathon distance on the road but now (after listening to my body - feet) I only use up to 5-10km and for track sessions. These shoes have little support and cushioning. 10 years ago I could get away with the shoes but now it will take me 2-6 weeks for my feet, knees, and hips to recover from an intense road race. I could continue to race in these shoes as they are light and feel fine at the time but it goes against my overriding ethos - consistent, sustained training and racing that will allow me to continue running DEEP into old age. I have a pair of Asics gel NOOSA tri which are similar to the DS -Racer (8mm drop) but have a little more support and cushioning. For road racing now I use the ALTRA Torins for half and full marathons. These are a new shoe on the market with a very wide toe box, extra cushioning and zero drop. They are a little heavier at 258g compared to the Asics racers at 180g but these days I'm going for longevity and consistently been able to run over light weight shoes that may compromise foot health.  I over pronate a little but as I have strong pelvic control, and am lean I feel great in these shoes (with a zero drop you have to graduate into them over 3-6 months especially if coming from a 12mm drop shoe). They feel VERY comfortable on, and my feet feel awesome afterwards.

For my trail running, I train in the Hoka Challenger ATR which is a mid range maximalist shoe with a 8mm drop but with a fairly high heel and forefoot. I enjoy the tread,and overall stability of this shoe on the trails. I race in the ALTRA Olympus for longer events as this shoe is built for comfort (weight at 312g M and 255g for W). It is for neutral runners and is classed as a maximalist trail shoe with a zero drop.

The most important shoes in my stable are my old Aasics Kayano's that have been washed and don't go outside. These shoes are my slippers and I put them on after a long run when at home, or a key session to allow my feet to recover quicker. I also use the spikey ball to self massage the feet. 

The take home message when deciding to buy a shoe - Go for COMFORT, and get a shoe fit for your needs. Do your own research. If you want to discuss anything further please get in touch.