Trainers are an important piece of running kit, but choosing the right pair isn’t easy… unless you have this ultimate guide handy.
RUNNING IS A SIMPLE SPORT. PICKING THE PERFECT PAIR of running shoes? Not so simple. Whether it’s lightweight racers or cushioned footwear, if you’re ba ed by runner jargon, you’re not alone. Your running gait (how you run), the terrain you run on and how far you run will all infl uence the type of sneakers you require. So how do you know whether you need supportive or neutral ones? “Your body knows when something isn’t right, and it will tell you so through a niggling discomfort,” says Steve Wales, technical representative manager for Brooks Running. “The fi nal word on what shoe you need should come from listening to your body in tandem with advice from your local running specialist.” Bear in mind you’ll probably need different shoes for different training sessions. And the modern trainer is evolving, with lightweight fabrics and ultra-soft cushioning revolutionising the market. Take your pick…
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OFF-ROAD TRAINERS BEST FOR: Trail running Running on gravel, rocks, mud and other varied terrain boosts your lower-body and core strength, and improves proprioception (body awareness) skills. And when you hit the trails, you’ll need a pair of offroad joggers. These shoes feature lugs under the sole that will grip slippery terrain, while many also offer waterproof protection to keep your feet dry. There are different sub-categories of off-road trainers, such as stability trail shoes or racing trail shoes, so look for a pair that suits your style. THE SCIENCE… There’s little doubt that an off-road shoe reduces the risk of falling over when you’re running on uneven surfaces. What is up for debate is whether a minimalist (or lightweight) off-road shoe improves trail-running ability by providing a closer connection to the ground, which improves proprioception. One study found minimalist footwear reduces calf pain and boost biomechanics in trail runners.
NEUTRAL TRAINERS BEST FOR: Comfort Neutral shoes – often called “cushioned trainers” – have been made for maximum comfort. They boast a lot of midsole cushioning, which will feel soft underfoot, and are generally lighter than support shoes because they don’t have motioncontrol features. Due to the less supportive nature of these trainers, they’re best for biomechanically effcient runners who tend not to over-pronate (roll the foot excessively inwards when it lands).
THE SCIENCE… It makes sense that a cushioned trainer protects joints from impact forces. Data suggests, though, that you can teach your body to cope better with running on hard ground simply by doing it regularly. But if you wish to err on the side of caution, biomechanical science does link lower-limb injuries to high-impact loading, so a bit of extra cushioning could help ward offrunning-induced pain.
PERFORMANCE TRAINERS BEST FOR: Racing Known in running circles as “racers” or “racing fl ats”, performance trainers are often reserved for competitions. Why? Because they’re lighter than other types, due to a lower-profi le (or thinner) sole, less cushioning and lighter upper-sole material. In fact, these trainers tend to weigh a mere 250-300g. This makes them perfect for races because the lightweight nature of the shoe means your legs do less work when pushing offthe ground. However, they’re also less supportive than other running shoes and best reserved for the biomechanically effcient runner.
THE SCIENCE… Data from the University of Colorado Boulder suggests that lighter shoes could give runners an edge. The scientists discovered that race time for a 3 kilometre run increases by 0.78 per cent for every 100g added to trainers. But there’s a curveball – the faster a runner is, the less likely they are to benefi t from lightweight shoes (possibly because speedy runners have less contact time with the ground). But, every little bit helps, which is why performance shoes are best reserved for those looking to shave seconds offtheir personal best.
STABILITY TRAINERS BEST FOR: Over-pronators Stability trainers (also known as support shoes) have been designed to guide the foot towards a more effcient way of running, thanks to nifty features like a support block (a plastic insert on the arch side of the shoe) and midsole cushioning, which limit certain movements such as over-pronation.
THE SCIENCE… Researchers from Singapore have discovered that those who over-pronate are 23 per cent more likely to suffer foot, ankle, knee and thigh injuries. The jury is out, however, on whether all customised footwear prevents injuries. A paper published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine concludes that there isn’t evidence to show that cushioned heels, or other measures to counter over-pronation, keep injury at bay – but that’s not to say that support trainers won’t improve your running technique if you over-pronate (if you don’t over-pronate, you shouldn’t need this type of shoe).
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