As any serious runner knows, there is nothing more vital when purchasing training or racing footwear than to take the time to choose the right kind of running shoes for your training or racing style, and for the terrain on which you do the majority of your running.
Most of the major athletic-shoe manufacturers provide an extensive range of very high-quality running shoes, each one designed with a specific purpose in mind. For short-distance sprinters, for instance, there are lightweight studded shoes that prevent any slippage and propel the runner towards the finish line. Long-distance runners will need something a little more substantial, with slightly thicker soles to provide cushioning for the feet, as well as more supportive insoles. Unlike sprinting, the emphasis in long-distance running is less on the ball of the foot and the toes than on a good rolling motion from the heel to the toes, and the sole needs to reflect this and be considerably more durable than a sprinting shoe.
The majority of lightweight running shoes designed for sprinting and short-distance flat racing have uppers made of microfibres, leather and gauze, or a combination of materials. The most important feature of flat racing shoes is their lightness, which prevents the runner from being slowed down by weight, and also encourages each footfall to be a balanced and controlled motion. The shoes need to provide an excellent fit at the same time as allowing the foot to breathe and to move naturally through every stage of the race. This is achieved with a combination of stretch materials around the collar of the shoe, and durable laces.
For endurance races such as marathons, the breathability of the shoe is even more vital to its design. Foot discomfort prevents a racer from running efficiently, and shoes that are not aerated sufficiently also wear out more quickly than the breathable kind, since there is no outlet for the heat and sweat that accumulates around the feet during a race.
Trail trainers, ideal for running on a very tough terrain with unpredictable qualities, are much bulkier than the majority of running shoes, and almost resemble low-cut trekking boots. The laces on these shoes are thick and virtually unbreakable, while the padded sides and plastic-enhanced features protect the foot and the shoe from cuts and other damage. Trail running shoes need to have an excellent grip, and as such are noticeably heavier than other running shoes – but obviously not so heavy as to become unwieldy or to make racing impossible.
All good running shoes are available online through individual brands’ online shops as well as through reputable sports retailers. Selected popular styles are also available on the High Street in all good sports shops.