It’s likely that, since the return of Stan Smiths, Nike Air Max and Converse, there is at least one pair of trainers in your shoe wardrobe. We have more choice than ever when it comes to our sneakers and, thank goodness, they’re more practical than the ballet pump of a few years ago.
However, not all trainers are created equal, and when it comes to the pair to match with your ripped jeans vs. the pair that will see you through a 5k, the difference is vast.
Much like finding the perfect pair of wedding heels – that won’t be kicked off moments after the first dance or sink into the grass during the drinks reception – the perfect pair of running trainers is out there; you just need to know what to look for. Oh, and how to pronounce the brand names, from Hoka One One (you say it Ho-kah O-nay O-nay), to Saucony (sock-a-knee) and even Nike (emphasise the 'e' – I said it wrong for years).
When I first started running, five years ago, I went to my local Sweaty Betty, stood on an old-school foot measure and bought the pair that fit, despite them looking like something you'd wear to do ward rounds. I soon developed a knee injury that had me pulling out of my first marathon, and realised that perhaps I should be paying more attention to the shoes that were going to carry me hundreds of miles.
Now, my personal advice is to seek out a specialist running shop for your running trainers, preferably one that sells a range of brands, such as Sweatshop, Runners Need, or Up and Running. The staff should be able to give you an unbiased opinion on their offering and provide a gait analysis, where your running form is filmed on a treadmill and analysed to establish if you 'pronate' (where your foot rolls inwards or outwards on landing). Typically, those with flat feet overpronate, while people with a high arch tend to underpronate.
You can often figure out your natural style by watching yourself run on the treadmill in the mirror at the gym. If your foot rolls in by more than about 15%, you overpronate; if it rolls outwards then you probably underpronate. Additionally, pay attention to what your toes are doing; if you’re using mostly your little toe to push off then it’s likely that you’re underpronating, and if it’s the big toe and second toe doing the brunt of the work, then you might be overpronating. You could also be neutral, running without pronation – pushing off evenly at the front of your foot.
Most experts recommend you size up from your normal shoe size, although for some brands, like Hoka One One and adidas, you may need to go up by a size and a half. Bring socks with you to the shop, and ideally wear your sports kit so that you feel comfortable on the treadmill – you’ll unknowingly change your running style if you’re trying to run in a skirt or suit. Trust me.
If you’ve signed up for your first long-distance event, then you might want to choose something with a little more cushioning than you’d need for the occasional 5k. As the mileage builds, you need to protect your joints and stress points, such as your knees and achilles if you’re mostly road-running.
Treadmills are a little more forgiving than pavement and you can probably get away with something less cushioned, unless you tend to land very heavily. It also means that you could keep them on for the rest of your gym workout. Ideally, however, you should avoid using your running shoes for anything other than running to increase longevity – not to mention that you need a bit more stability for weightlifting.
If the shoes you purchase aren’t right, many shops will let you return and exchange them; Sweatshop will even let you do so if you’ve worn them for a month outside. If you can’t go for a test run, try them on a treadmill in store or at your gym before hitting the road, just to check that they fit correctly and don’t rub.
You should replace your running trainers every 400-500 miles (Strava is great for keeping track of your mileage), or sooner if the soles or cushioning are worn down. My top tip? If you find a pair of trainers that you like, order another pair of the exact model when they go on sale, even if your old trainers don’t need replacing yet – that way, you know you’re getting a comfortable shoe that suits your running style.
When it comes to splurging or saving on running kit, I’d recommend spending your cash on your shoes and your sports bra. That’s not to say you should buy top of the range or be coerced into spending more than you want. Starting prices are around £70 (New Balance makes a lot of great shoes around this point), while new-season adidas, Nike and Asics generally tip over the £100 mark. The sales are a great time to find yourself a bargain from last season.
Click on to find the perfect pair of running shoes to suit your needs...