Running shoes buying guide

How to pick the best pair of running shoes for your foot type
 
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  • Updated:10 Mar 2008
 

02.Your running style

Melinda’s experience

Woman runningTo find out more, CHOICE invited former world sprint champion Melinda Gainsford Taylor to trial a more comprehensive screening method at Sydney’s Running Science. (For similar running stores in your state, look under 'Locations' on coolrunning.com.au.

The process, known as ‘video gait analysis’, involves filming a customer’s running motion on a treadmill and analysing their biomechanics (level of foot stability) through a replay of the footage. You can get an in-depth analysis of your running style at a sports podiatrist, but stores like Running Science provides a simpler version of the service for free.

To begin, Melinda was asked to jog on the store’s treadmill for approximately five minutes, during which her running style was filmed.

From the video footage, store manager Brent Harris determined she has a neutral foot type, but has a slight tendency to overpronate (her foot rolls in slightly too much when running).

Three pairs of running shoes were then selected, based on what’s structurally suitable for her. They were mid-range ‘stability’ models (see 'One shape doesn’t fit all' for more on this) from Asics, Brooks and New Balance, all retailing for between $170 and $200.

If the shoe fits…

To make a final decision, Melinda was asked to jog on the treadmill in each pair and decide which ones felt most comfortable. While she thought all three pairs had a good cushioning system and provided stability when she ran, she had a clear preference when it came to overall comfort and fit.

“The Asics fitted like a glove and were extremely comfortable. They completely moulded my foot,” Melinda said. “The Brooks were a bit firmer, and because New Balance was a wider shoe, there was more movement in the shoe than the other two.”

While Brent thought the Brooks put Melinda’s feet in the most neutral alignment, Melinda preferred the Asics shoes. As all the shoes selected for Melinda were structurally suitable, the decision came down to what felt best for the runner.

“There are things that a third person can’t tell,” said Brent, “For example, the feel of the upper around the foot or the smoothness of the ride.”

He recommends what many people would feel intuitively: when you’re choosing between shoes that are structurally suitable for your feet and have a similar price and features, go with the brand that feels best on your feet.

Expert’s verdict

Associate Professor Dr Aron Murphy from UTS’s School of Leisure, Sport and Tourism examined the three shoes we picked for Melinda and found a very similar level of quality at this mid-price point. The major differences were in some of the features offered by each brand.

For example, the New Balance shoe has the brand’s top-range foam in the heel and forefoot (area between the arch and toes), made with a mix of three different rubbers. There’s also a spongy surface underneath the insert, designed to increase comfort and decrease impact — a feature the other shoes don’t have.

On the other hand, Dr Murphy noted the Asics shoe had an excellent heel-to-toe transition (smoothness of the forward rolling motion of your foot as you run) which he attributed in part to the company’s Impact Guidance System and the forefoot design.

And the standout feature of the Brooks shoe is its full-length midsole (the protective foam layer and cushioning between the outer sole and the upper material) and a ‘Progessive Diagonal Rollbar’, which serves to control excessive inward roll of the foot.

 

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