Choosing running shoes is a minefield, and all too often runners will plump for the option that’s on sale, looks the best or their mates have recommended. Yet, sadly, injuries are all too common in recreational and competitive runners alike, with a recent peer-reviewed study suggesting half of all runners will suffer some sort of injury within a calendar year.
If we’ve still a way to go before running shoes are optimised for injury avoidance, it’s not for want of trying by running shoe brands. Most shoes aimed at long-distance runs feature an array of hi-tech midsole materials to soften impact and give energy return to your stride.
Running shoes buying guide: what to look for
To cater for a wide triathlete audience, there’s plenty of variety among the 9 pairs on test here. The emphasis may be on suitability for year-round mileage and training, but there are many options on test, from the oversized ethos of Hoka One One to the ‘clouds’ of On Running.
So, while some of these won’t be supportive enough for you, some will be too supportive and others might just not fit your foot shape. Some will even double as a race-day option, especially for those racing long-course triathlon.
Our key advice is to always try before you buy, take a test run and get a proper fitting before choosing your everyday running shoe. Your joints will thank you for it…
How we tested
Mileage run shoes require lots of miles, so we went out and ran. A lot! Each pair was taken on multiple long runs of between 9-13 miles, and then various shorter runs on gravel, grass and treadmills, some at pace to see how versatile each shoe was when used at varying speeds. A long test period meant each shoe was used in dry and rainy conditions, so we could really test the grip and traction each shoe had to offer in all weathers. Our main tester trains at 6:40min/mile, but we also consulted two fellow runners for their verdicts. Runner 1 averages 8min/mile over 10km, and Runner 2 averages 10min/mile over a 6.5km. All weights quoted are for one shoe in a UK size 10.5.
As the run shoe that Tim Don wore to a blistering 7:40:23 Ironman finish in Brazil, the 258g Cloudflow doesn’t fit obviously into the mileage shoe category. Yet the cushioning offered by On’s patented lugs is adequate for a wide range of runners, and will serve you well for half-marathon distance and beyond if you don’t require a high level of cushioning. The 18 lugs here essentially replace the foam and gel midsoles seen on other shoes, and we love the spring they put in your step. They can get squeaky in the rain, things can get stuck in the lugs and grip is slightly compromised, but only in icy conditions. The Cloudflow may be too aggressive for steadier runners, but as a training and/or marathon shoe they’re spot on. on-running.com/gb
Verdict: The sole will divide opinion, but we love them! 85%
Buy from www.runnersneed.com
With plenty of cushioning, the 336g Fresh Foam is one of the most supportive options on test. Saying that, we found the ‘Fresh Foam’ a bit too solid, making us feel lethargic when the pace ramped up on our test runs. This is where New Balance could learn a trick from Saucony with their cushioned shoes, and these could do with another layer in between the midsole and upper to swallow up some impact. At slower paces they towed us along adequately, but the density and lack of ground contact underfoot isn’t ideal if you’re averaging under nine-minute miles for training or racing. The outsole is almost like a trail shoe and gives good traction, making it a good entry-level shoe for mixed terrain. newbalance.co.uk
Verdict: Solid: good beginner’s marathon shoe 78%
Buy from www.newbalance.co.uk
Continue reading our guide to this year's run shoes for men (2/3)