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5 Most Important Things to Look for when buying Running Trainers. 
 
Running footwear is a multi billion pound industry and the choices available to the runner 
are mesmerising. The science behind the marketing campaigns can be hard to find but 
there are some features inherent to running footwear that need consideration when 
making your purchase of your shiny new trainers and this guide is aimed at making your 
final decision a little more specific to you. 
Before we get to the 5 key points is worthwhile considering other factors outside of the 
trainer selection that are essential. 
Running trainers in isolation will rarely provide the solution to an injury once its occurred 
but can minimise some of the factors that could lead to the development of an injury. 
Training errors such as consecutive running days and a high running volume are the 
biggest risk factors in running injury.....you can either overtrain or under recover! 
Gradual increases in mileage are vital in allowing the body to adapt to the increasing 
mechanical stresses placed upon it. 
The choice of your runner will be based on 2 main factors (other than cosmetics!) 
- Minimise injury risk 
- Improve Performance 
The running trainer purchase by itself is not going to cut your 10km time to a sub 40 
minute session from 50 minutes. 
To improve performance you need to be able to gradually increase your training load and 
allow the body to adapt to the mechanical demands and the running shoe can be one 
variable in minimising injury risk. 
When looking at the wealth of running footwear options I would recommend considering 
the following components in running shoe design; 
 
(1). Fit 
It sounds basic but one of the key features in running shoe selection is fit. This is where 
the trip to the running shop in the first instance is important. The last fitting or upper fit 
needs to be relatively snug, a running shoe that is too big will allow the foot to shear (slide) 
in the trainer which will increase the risk of blistering on the foot and in a similar fashion a 
trainer that is too small will add compression (squeezing) force on the foot and increase 
the risk of bone injury. 
Those dreaded toenail problems with bleeding or bruising underneath the nail plate can 
also be caused by poor fit so its worthwhile seeking advice from a health care professional 
with a special interest in foot problems if this is occurring. 
Fit and therefore comfort is a big part of running footwear selection, if you have a choice 
between 2 trainers and one feels more comfortable than the other (assuming the other 
variables below are similar) then go with the comfortable one. 
 
(2). Heel Height (pitch) 
The running shoe industry has been through a culture shift over the last few years with an 
explosion in minimalism. (See blog for an overview.) www.puresportsmed.com/Assets/ 
KnowledgeFiles/001_Knowledge_Articles_TheBarefootRunningDebate.pdf 
Lack of ankle joint movement in an upward direction (dorsiflexion) is a risk factor for injury. 
It is relatively simple to screen for with a lunge test (bending knee over the foot and 
measuring the angle of the shin bone) and this provides useful information for choosing a 
shoe with an appropriate heel height or drop. 
It is recommended that the Lunge test is performed in the presence of a health care 
professional that is familiar with this test as you would be surprised how people 
unknowingly cheat! 
The heel height, referred to as pitch or drop in the footwear world can range from 0-14 (for 
the purposes of illustration) and is measured in mm. 
As a rule of thumb the stiffer the ankle joint (closer to the wall your toe is on the Lunge 
test) the more relevant a running trainer with a higher heel drop. 
 
(3). Cushioning. 
There is no straight forward answer here but any material that absorbs impact force that 
sits between you and the floor has to be a good thing right? 
The industry is constantly looking at these type of materials and Nike have developed their 
Lunarlon range and Adidas their Boost midsole as examples. 
The main question is how much is too much as this could add to instability, picture landing 
on a pillow! and what is the minimum required. This is one area that needs consideration 
and is related to factors such as your biomechanics and body weight and would benefit 
from advice from a specialist. 
In my experience there are very few runners out there that fit the minimalist running shoe 
model and these would tend to more toward the elite end of the spectrum. For those of us 
who run to a moderate or reasonable level then we would need to consider an element of 
cushioning in the midsole along with the other factors such as heel drop and fit. 
 
(4). Outsole 
As simple as it sounds its important to consider the type of surface you run on and the 
compatibility of the outsole. 
There are key differences in the type of outsole for road trainers and all terrain or off road 
trainers. 
Those of you that have run on a surface with the wrong outsole may recall sliding around 
and the risk of soft tissue injury is increased. 
Remember its the outsole that is different, invariably the midsole factors should be 
consistent from the road version to the all terrain version. 
 
(5). Motion control 
Welcome to the contentious world of motion control! Bottom line is that footwear can be 
overly engineered but there are some design features that contribute to reducing the 
mechanical forces on the foot and lower limb and therefore reduce injury risk. 
The concept of pronation bad is oversimplifying the foot contribution to injury risk but it 
does highlight how foot position can be a factor in the spectrum of mechanical forces that 
will lead to lower limb symptoms. 
There is no question that in my clinical practice foot position is a component part of the 
runners injury risk factor. 
If you run on a regular basis and have any niggling joint or soft tissue problems or you are 
looking to make a new investment in running footwear then it might be worth looking at a 
foot and movement screen to be more informed about your mechanical make up. 
In a similar fashion if you are new to running or are considering adding running into your 
exercise regime then its a great time to look at your structural risk factors for injury and 
minimise these to progress in your running program. 
Tagged as: running, shoes
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