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Choosing and Using Shoes

by Graham Boggia

Don’t get hung up on your choice

If you’re a beginner right at the very beginning of your running journey the best advice you can take is don’t get hung up on your choice of running shoes. It’s easy to get seduced by an eye-catching pair of £150 trainers when a £24.99 pair from your local supermarket might very well be just as suitable, although if you do plump for the cheaper ones make sure they are specifically being sold as running shoes, not just trainers or sports shoes.

How do I choose?

People choose their running shoes for various reasons; colour, style, brand loyalty, price, and a few nonsensical reasons such as this pair will match my favourite shorts, or my friend had a pair of this brand therefore they must be good. Well, forget the above, comfort and cushioning is king, and should always be so – the joints in your feet put up with a lot of stress when running and you need to help reduce or eliminate the risk of impact damage. When you’re trying them on can you wiggle your toes freely with room to spare? Hopefully your heels stay firmly in the shoe when you walk up and down the shop floor and is there little tendency for your foot to roll from side to side, ok this is pretty obvious really but what I’m saying here is that function is more important than form. Running shoes aren’t a fashion statement, and don’t get sucked into the whole ‘this year’s model sir’ nonsense.

Falling in love with the right pair of shoes will undoubtedly give you a little extra motivation to get you out the front door!

Graham Boggia – The right running shoe

Knowing your running style

If you’re still newish to the sport but are looking to replace your footwear or are maybe wanting a second pair, having a gait analysis is a good use of your time. What this involves is taking yourself along to a running shop, whipping off your shoes and socks and rolling up your trousers a little and then spending twenty or thirty seconds running on their treadmill while your foot action is videoed. The staff will then replay the footage for you (pun intended!) and discuss your motion in detail and make suggestions as to the best shoe for your running style. This usually comes down to a choice of ‘neutral’ or ‘stability’ footwear, and during the process, you’ll be hit with wacky words like pronation and supination but one thing I will say here is to get yourself an analysis done at two different establishments (sorry running shop owners!) and make sure both diagnoses are the same before shelling out on those expensive shoes because all being well you’ll be running for some years and using the incorrect footwear over a period of time could harm you. 

Unfortunately, not all manufacturers are clear in their descriptions about the stability or neutral-ness of their shoes, so if you’ve been advised to opt for something specific you might have to dig into the sales bumf to discover what you need.


Here’s a few terms to help you in your search

This is the forward and sideways movement of the foot when running or walking, natures’ shock absorber if you like. 

Neutral running shoes

Shoes designed with little or no foot stabilising properties – ideal for runners with neutral pronation.

Stability running shoes (motion control)

These will be designed to help reduce excessive pronation (inward rolling)

Drop (sometimes known as pitch)

This is the difference in height (from the ground) between the heel and ball of the foot. Most shoes are around 10mm but they vary from zero to about 12mm. It appears the jury is still out deciding how important this is.

Trail shoes

Most running shoes are primarily designed for tarmac, concrete and fine gravel type surfaces, and when it gets muddy in the woods their smoothish soles lack traction – enter the world of trail shoes. They’re essentially running shoes with a chunky tread pattern underneath, and usually a bit less cushioning.

Gait analysis

See above. Who knew Saturday mornings could be so absorbing!


Many manufacturers will tell you to replace your running shoes when they’ve done between 300 – 500 miles, and even if the soles don’t appear to have excessive wear after this distance it could be that the rubber/foam cushioning properties of the shoe is degrading.

A final word

Despite the above comments about colour style and fashion, you need to feel positive about life when you’re tying up your laces, and owning a pair of shoes that you’ve fallen in love with will undoubtedly give you a little extra motivation to get the other side of your front door! Happy running.

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