Running shoes buying guide: what to look for

One of the thrills of running is its simplicity and purity. Get home from work, slip on a run tee and shorts, lace up your favourite shoes and you can soon be lost on the trails, without the fear of a bike mechanical or pool-lane tyrant to halt your progress. What you wear on your feet, however, has become an increasingly complicated business.
Zero-drop, oversized, minimalist, motion control, trainers for pronators and supinators, conventional or tri-specific shoes are just some of the sub-genres out there to pick from. Scientific research on run shoes for triathlon is also far from definitive, with much of it not catered to endurance athletes logging miles of running each week, often after sitting hours on a bike.

Even the differences between training and racing shoes have become blurred by ambiguous marketing and a multi-billion dollar industry hungrily looking for the next big trend. So just what is the difference? “The aim of a race shoe is to achieve an optimal traction combined with a powerful push-off, which is as direct and fast as possible,” says On Running’s co-founder David Allemann.

“To transfer the power of the runner as directly as possible to the street, a racing shoe needs to be very responsive. This means that many racing shoes aren’t well-cushioned.”
Having prepared for race season in your favourite mile-munchers, what should you look for when buying a race shoe?

“Performance. Pure and simple,” says Saucony’s technical representative, Simon Jones. “Shedding those extra grams of weight, lighter and more breathable uppers, higher grade of carbon rubber to gain more traction. Think of a racing shoe as a Formula 1 car compared to your everyday car. It’s about finding those extra seconds which are all-important on race day.”
What works for you in a run shoe is personal, with run biomechanics, weight, experience and injury history all coming into play. Trying before you buy at a specialist run shop is key, as is factoring in what distances you’ll be racing. Finding that perfect run shoe can take time, but when that eureka moment arrives, it’ll leave you itching for race day to come.

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