How do you find the correct run shoe for you? It sounds simple, but with a labyrinth of jargon out there, the reality can prove trickier than finding your transition space at the London Triathlon. For example, should you choose supportive or motion control?
When is heel cushioning more favourable to forefoot cushioning?
Run shoe manufacturers might sometimes be liberal with claimed injury-prevention advantages, but as time passes and injury stats are studied, there’s an increasing argument that run shoe choice should largely be about what feels the most natural and comfortable. Some run-shop experts might disagree, their video technology a tool of persuasion, but use this as a starting point and you won’t go far wrong. It’s a point picked up on by coach Annie Emmerson.
“It’s personal preference, but without a doubt you need to go with whatever works for you,” says Emmerson. “I’m not into changing too much in terms of biomechanics. Instead, work with what you have and make subtle changes along the way. For instance, I wear a neutral shoe, but if I’m racking up the miles in training, I’ll buy an off-the-peg inner-sole with a bit of arch support to prevent sore Achilles. Ultimately, there are too many shoes that are rigid and heavy. Yes, some triathletes will need more support and cushioning, but that doesn’t mean the shoe has to be restrictive.”
With Annie’s wisdom in mind, see which of these 10 best fits your personal template.
Run shoe jargon buster
Landing/StrikeForefoot – ball of foot lands first; midfoot – ball and heel together; heel – heel first then flexes to toe-off.
Toe-off - Final part of foot contact before propelling forward.
Pronation - When your foot moves inwards slightly between landing and toe-off
Overpronation – to a significant degree;
Underpronation – no inward roll and even a slight outward roll.
Neutral - Type of shoe, with adequate support and cushioning.
Are heel-to-toe drop differences in run shoes overrated?
Pronation: what it means and how it affects your run shoe choice
Women's triathlon race day run shoes: 7 of the best reviewed
Run shoes: 9 of the best reviewed for training and long distance races
Triathlon run shoes: 10 of the best for racing the run leg
How we tested the run shoes
Your off-season will likely be filled with long, low-to-medium intensity runs to crank up aerobic capacity and transform you into a fat-burning machine, though your muscular and neurological systems will also appreciate a few intervals to not only keep speed ticking over but add much-needed variety, too. That’s why our test runs were between 30min fartlek sessions and 75min easy(ish) runs. Comfort ratings were based on initial fit and how opinions changed – or not – on the fly. Stability was key, too. There’s no point in having a comfortable shoe if, when you run, your foot’s shifting around. Finally, we weighed each with Salter scales.
Saucony’s stability shoe caused some division at 220. One minute we liked its looks, the next thought them a touch cheap. Then we felt über-supported, but later sensed some lateral movement. Ultimately, indecision concluded – it did a job, though didn’t deliver that special something you want from a run shoe, especially for £140. One thing that stood firm was its impressive foundation thanks to Saucony’s EveRun cushioning system. Its springy nature meant proficient energy return, making it one of the fastest on test. At 320g, it’s also one of the lightest. But we suspect in an effort to cut weight, the carved-out upper lost a little integrity, leading to occasional foot slippage. Wider-footed triathletes may be okay, though.
Verdict: Good energy transfer but stability issues 74%
Buy from www.saucony.com
Now this is one incredibly cushioned shoe. Core to that soft landing is Brooks’ new DNA Loft midsole, which blends ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), rubber and good old air. All of this comfort-aiding tech, according to Brooks, comes without a weight penalty – the scales agreeing at a reasonable 348g. Thankfully, the super-absorption doesn’t suck all the power out as it transitions nicely from landing to toe off – but it does tend to encourage a heel landing, perhaps due to the 10mm drop and heel thickness. While this might suit some, it’ll almost certainly upset biomechanical purists. Brooks have also added an ‘internal stretch bootie’ for further comfort; its plush fit moving nicely with each stride. brooksrunning.com
Verdict: Great for heel landers, but too cushioned for most 78%
Buy from www.runnersneed.com
American brand Topo are all about three things: minimal weight, low drop and a voluminous toe box. At 345g, it’s a hefty 62g heavier than the Fli-Lyte 2, but this is the cushioned model made for comfort, with a 0mm drop that begs for interval sessions. But the zero drop doesn’t mean a flat ride. Clever use of a multi-density midsole – soft against the foot yet responsive to the ground – results in proficient gait. The upper’s not as smooth as some here, but it’s comfortable, keeping feet in place. That roomy toe box – engineered for ‘spread and splay’ – is too wide for the slim-footed, yet performance impact is minimal with no slippage. Aesthetically, however, the material folds slightly around the toes. topoathletic.com\
Verdict: Impressive shoe but too wide for narrow feet 79%
Buy from www.tredz.co.uk
Continue reading our guide to the best winter run shoes (2/3)