By Mike Aquino for Yahoo! Southeast Asia
This is the worst thing you can do as a beginning runner: pick up any running shoe that fits your foot, then start a full-on training regimen with them. You simply don't pick running shoes based primarily on their styling or their cost: you could end up in pain for weeks, or worse, with an injury.
Running shoes are built specifically to fit a number of factors: how your foot rolls as you run and the terrain you prefer to run on, among others. Choosing the right shoe is important, says Nike Philippines product specialist Alejandro "Andro" Torres, "because it can determine whether you get on track with running and start to log on more and more miles, or whether you get turned off at the outset because of a bad shoe."
So when you're shopping for running shoes, leave cost and color for later: use the following criteria first:
Foot type. Running shoes are designed specifically to address varying levels of pronation, or the way your foot rolls inward with every stride. Neutral pronation represents the most efficient gait, a natural rolling movement that helps the body better absorb the shock of impact. But not everybody runs like that: "There are underpronators: their feet don’t completely roll, so they don’t execute the proper foot strike," Andro tells us, "and there are overpronators who execute the foot strike too abruptly."
Running shoes are designed to fit at least one of these foot types. Underpronators and neutral pronators should be fine with neutral running shoes; underpronators in particular need extra cushioning to protect their feet from shock-related injuries. Overpronators, on the other hand, need running shoes built for stability—these tend to have extra support on the medial (inner) side of the foot near the arch.
For example, if you're an overpronator who use shoes that lack medial support, you risk serious injury: "You’ll lack support, and then a lot of your body parts will tend to compensate," says Andro. "If your foot rolls too fast, there’s no gradual weight distribution, so it could cause injuries that can be very hard to bounce back from once you start running."
Preferred terrain. The great majority of runners will do their training on hard surfaces, like asphalt or concrete. Runners who look to the mountains, will need the specialized soles that only trail shoes can provide. "If you run on trails with a flat, regular road shoe, you’ll be slipping all over the place," Andro explains. "Trail shoes have a lot of protruding, aggressive, sharp features on the outsole, because they need to be able to grab on to uneven surfaces."
Track record. Stability and support are more important for newbie runners, whose muscles are not yet conditioned to take the punishment that running can deliver to their body. "With more structured shoes, you'll get the safest range for a runner who’s on the heavier side, because your joints are more vulnerable to higher impact," explains Courtney Cole-Faso, country marketing manager for Nike. "Especially if your body is not conditioned for running, it’s probably likely that your gait is going to be off a little bit. So you’re going to want to have that extra support around your foot."
As your body becomes more conditioned for repeated running sessions, you can start trading off comfort for speed, choosing shoes with less cushioning but greater responsiveness on the track. Courtney cites cars as an apt analogy: "When you're driving a Corvette, you've got speed and you've got agility, but you don’t necessarily have comfort. As opposed to a luxury automobile like a Cadillac, you've got a lot of shock absorption, but you don’t necessarily have acceleration."
Putting it all together. Choosing the right shoe will require balancing these factors out against your own running profile. Finding out your foot type requires the equipment that's usually found at specialty running stores; they usually offer these gait analysis services for free.
Andro suggests the expert advice you get in those stores will also do you good: "The salespeople will probe you, ask you how often you run, what’s your average distance, and then they kind of figure it out from there."
Andro recommends a particular running shoe profile for newbie runners: "It would be better to get 1) a lightweight shoe; and 2) a shoe that’s quite soft, in terms of the cushioning." Whether it comes in hot pink or not is entirely up to you.