When it comes to your workout wardrobe, your running shoes are the most important piece.
Nonetheless, finding the right sole-mate is easier said than done. The whole process can be unnerving and might leave you feeling overwhelmed, especially when you are just starting out and/or don’t know what type of kicks works the best for you.
The Importance of Running Shoes
When it comes to preventing injury and improving training efficiency, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of proper shoes.
By getting ill-fitting shoes, you’re predisposing your body to pain and injury. And you don’t want that. Not to mention that it’s also a complete waste of your time and money.
On the other hand, finding the right shoes is like a dream coming true. A suitable pair can help you run comfortably and increases your efficiency, which is something all of us runners want, regardless of our training background and goals.
The Factors at Play
Many factors affect shoe selection. Things like your weight, unique biomechanics, training surfaces, training goals, personal preferences, and your foot type and gait should be accounted for when purchasing a new pair.
That’s why today, dear reader, I decided to teach you about the many types of running shoes out there.
In my opinion, there are primarily six types of running shoes you need to be familiar with. You’ve got the stability, the cushioned, the support, the performance/speed, and the trail running shoes.
This classification is based on structure, form, and function. Every shoe type is different and designed to serve different objectives—both biomechanical and training wise.
So, are you excited? Then here we go
1. Lightweight Shoes
If you do a lot of speed work or race, then you will need lightweight trainers.
Also known as racing flats, or cross country spikes, these are ideal for speed workouts, like sprints, intervals, fartleks, and competition.
Lightweight shoes are built with less foam and cushioning features under the foot, allowing for more natural and dynamic motion for the feet.
But there is a downside to the lightweight shoe.
In general, these do not offer the same degrees of cushioning and shock absorption as regular road shoes classified in the neutral or stability categories. That’s why they should not be used for general training.
If you are just starting out, the last thing you’d want to get is a racing flat. You don’t need them that early in your training program.
2. Trail Shoes
Trail runners have to maneuver across mud, dirt, rocks and other off-road obstacles, therefore, they require the best in support, stability, and protection. And with over 6 million trail runners in the U.S alone, trail shoes sales have surged in the last few years.
Trail shoes, as the name implies, are built for trail running. These shoes are designed for running surfaces that are undulating and have a wide range of terrain, from mud to grass, road, and hard packed paths.
Think of trail shoes as a mix of running sneakers and hiking shoes. They offer enough protection around the ankle and the tongue to protect your feet against all the roots and rock found on rugged and rocky terrains.
Not ony that, these also provide superior grip for better traction and control on softer, often uneven, and slippery surfaces—typically achieved through aggressive soles and stickier rubbers.
3. Stability Shoes
Stability shoes are usually recommended for runners with a normal arch or neural feet. These athletes tend to require shoes with a good mix of midsole cushioning and good support.
There is nothing wrong with pronation—it’s, in fact, part and parcel of human movement. Pronation, simply put, refers to the inward rolling of the foot upon impact.
But too much pronation might be problematic.
Stability shoes can come in handy as they can help prevent, or at least reduce, excessive pronation, by offering more arch and ankle support throughout the gait cycle.
4. Motion Control Shoes
As previously stated, pronation is part and parcel of the body’s natural movement. But not all runners pronate equally. Some of them do it to excess. That’s why they might need a pair of shoe to help them limit, or even prevent, this.
Motion control shoes are usually recommended for runners with low arches and moderate to serious over-pronation, which is the excessive inward rolling of the foot following a foot strike.
Motion control shoes are usually more rigid than the average shoe and are built with a wide sole to limit excessive motion throughout the gait cycle.
These are also ideal for heavy individuals looking for shoes that provide high stability and durability.
5. Cushioned Shoes
In general, cushioned shoes are made with extra cushioning for a plush feel, but without a lot of corrective or supportive elements.
Most cushioned shoes are built with shock dispersion features in the outsole and/or midsole portion of the footwear—typically in the heel or forefoot regions.
Cushioned shoes are typically recommended for runners with little to no pronation as they offer both shock absorption and protection with little to no extra support throughout the gait cycle.
These shoes are also called “neutral padded shoes”. These are designed to counteract supination.
Typically, cushioned shoes are recommended for runners with high arches—what’s known as supinator, or underpronators in the running circles.
Experiment & Get Informed
The best way to find the “perfect” shoe is to do a lot of digging yourself and experiment with a lot of brands and designs.
That’s the trial and error process at its finest, and you can’t do without it when selecting the right sole-mates.
Once you have a rough idea of what you’re looking for , then you hit the nearest specialty running store where you can have your foot mechanics assessed by the knowledgeable staff.