Running is a popular sport and exercise in many countries especially with the proliferation of marathons and running clubs in many cities. New York Road Runners in New York is a global champion of the running movement and the world's premier community running organisation while the Reservoir Dogs are a club for people who love to run. In Australia, the Coastal Running Club bring runners who want to participate in organised events while maintaining fitness and social contact with other runners while the Achilles Running Club in Sydney help people who would like to walk and run, able-bodied and disabled, to do it together. Amsterdam Fit in Amsterdam offers a variety of running groups and structured Marathon and Half Marathon training programs for all fitness levels.
In Japan, the growing popularity of running as a hobby and lifestyle choice has some 10 million to 25 million pounding the pavements daily. The popularity is similar in the US where a record of 22,800 running events were held in 2010, the biggest increase in race finishers in three decades. Running is becoming an everyday habit for more people as its a relatively inexpensive sport or hobby. Fitted with a good pair of sneakers, you can run almost anywhere you want.
While most of us know enough about running, few of us may be familiar with the considerations for an appropriate pair of shoes. Wearing ill-fitting or incorrect footwear while running can actually cause lower limb injuries such as heel pain, ankle sprains, muscle fatigue and stress injuries. Before you head off and start pounding the tracks this weekend, here are 10 important considerations when choosing a pair of running shoes.
* A Good Fit - Apart from the attractive design, the most important consideration in a pair of running shoes is how they fit you. Running shoes must be carefully chosen to suit your running style in order to prevent injury while running. The key considerations here are stability, cushioning, durability and comfort. Heavier runners will also require more durable shoes.
As each shoe manufacturer has its own philosophy and design technology, you should review the technological and marketing information when discerning what to buy. For example, Nike's Air system provides cushioning through pressurized, compressible Nike Air chambers while Adidas's midsole technology offers neutral footstrike guidance and stability protecting against pronation.
* Foot Pronation - If you have any pronation of the foot, it is worthwhile to consult a sports medicine doctor or a podiatrist before taking up running and choosing the appropriate shoes.
* Use of the Shoe - Runners should take into account mileage, frequency of use, assorted training and competition, pace and performance requirements when choosing their footwear. For example, a marathon runner requires shoes with increased durability whereas a sprinter covering far shorter distances will be sufficient with general cushioning. Terrain is also a factor with a variety of shoes catering to running on different terrains such as road, track and trail. Wearing footwear that matches the terrain improves grip and stability and decreases the chances of slipping or tripping.
Asics running shoe / Photo by Tomomi Sasaki of Flickr
* Motion Control or Stability Shoes - This type of shoe is highly suitable for long distance runners and heavy runners due to its durability. They are commonly wide-fitting with a heavy durable outsole, a firm heel counter for added motion control and increased support in the instep. A firm heel counter is a sturdy back of the shoe that cups the heel to restrain excessive motion when it lands on the ground. They have especially dense and mouldable rubber material in the midsole such as ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) or polyurethane to enhance stability, shock absorption and cushioning.
Mizuno running shoe / Photo by CharlesFred of Flickr
Asics is one of the few companies still offering multiple motion control models and its GEL Foundation 10 provides exceptional heel stability for over pronating foot strikes. The Mizuno Wave Alchemy 12 offers support, cushioning and a sporty ride all in a light package while the latest Nike Flyknit Trainer upper will mold to your foot after a few runs.
Adidas running shoes / Photo by Chris Hunkeler of Flickr
* Cushioning Shoes - These shoes are suitable for runners with malalignment issues which result in poor shock absorption during running. They have a single layer EVA midsole with increased cushioning materials such as gel, air pockets and silicon on high-pressure areas of the foot such as the heel and forefoot.
New Balance 890 V2 with its Revlite foam is said to have one of the most responsive cushioning platforms on the market today. Adidas claims its "BOOST" technology is a groundbreaking innovation in cushioning that provides more energy return than any other foam cushioning material in the running industry.
* Cross-trainers - They are recommended for gym workouts, weightlifting and a variety of sports like badminton and tennis which involve multi-directional and random movements.
Cross trainers are designed to provide a wide base of support with flex points and traction specific for such activities but may not provide adequate support for all sports. They generally come with outsoles that are made of denser rubber that do not wear out or distort under stress and provide better grip.
New Balance running shoes / Photo by slgckgc of Flickr
The Avia A1433 sports extra cushioning in the heel and side-to-side stability and is built to handle cardio classes and treadmills while the New Balance 1010 holds up well during gym routines requiring back and forth movements.
* Racers - These are race day shoes designed to increase performance during competition because they are lightweight and responsive during running. They are also used for short specific training like interval training. As each shoe only has a thin midsole which reduces the overall cushioning and stability, it can cause muscle damage or micro tears during prolong running.
Nike running shoes / Photo by Tejas Prints of Flickr
The Nike Fly-Knit Racer which debut at the 2012 London Olympic Games is popular for race day or speed sessions. A good alternative are racer trainers which have cushioning adequate for marathon events and offer moderate stability.
* Trail Shoes - They are specially designed for trekking and trail running and most are constructed with a rugged outer sole so as to prevent slippage and enable stable foot strike on outdoor terrain.
Brooks running shoes / Photo by marcospozo of Flickr
The Inov-8 Roclite 285 has a durable and sticky rubber outsole for all kinds of off-road running while the Brooks Cascadia 7 provides increased support and protection for off-road running with the inclusion of a rock plate for foot protection and pivot system for stabilization over uneven terrain.
* Barefoot Running or Minimalist Shoes - Barefoot running became popular after some researchers were inspired by the ability of native tribes like the Tarahumaras in Mexico to run barefoot on gruelling terrain without sustaining injuries.
The 'in' thing in running circles, this running style emphasises 'toe-running' in which runners land on their mid or forefoot instead of their heel on each running step. It is claimed to improve running efficiency and allow for natural bone and muscular development. Therefore each shoe has to be lightweight with minimal material construction and a thin midsole that allows flexibility.
Vibram FiveFingers Sprint are said to be the next best thing to running barefoot as it is thin, flexible and easy to get on and off with individual toe pockets for the most natural balance. If you want something more tribal, the Original Luna Sandal is designed to feel as close as you can get to having nothing on your feet.
* Walking Shoes - Brisk walking or causal walking is a one-directional activity thus walking shoes are designed with flexibility and traction for forward motion. Each shoe has a wider base, a firm heel counter and increased foot cushioning. They are suitable for anyone, especially the middle aged and elderly who do morning or evening walks. Dr. Andrew Weil Integrative Footwear Rhythm Walker are designed by podiatrists to provide an orthotic footbed that wear well for travel, work or school while Joya provides a patented sole for a very soft, light feel to walks.