Best foot forwards

Let's get running. Photo: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

Let's get running. Photo: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

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Does running feature in your 2016 fitness goals?

As one of the most convenient and efficient forms of exercise out there, it’s little wonder why more and more people are catching the jogging bug - but while the simplicity of running (you can do it any time, any place, at your own pace) is no doubt a big part of the appeal, getting the kit right can be daunting for beginners, and one of the things you’ll want to consider is your footwear.

If you’re a newbie, you might not want to spend a fortune, but it’s worth remembering that a lot of technology goes into developing running shoes and, ultimately, it’s about avoiding injury, as well as enhancing performance and enjoyment.

So what should we be looking out for? Here, experts explain the key points...

SOLE SEARCHING

“Every runner is different, and every run is different. A good running shoe should cater for exactly what you need,” says Angus Wardlaw, director of FUTURE Running at Adidas.

The key design elements in any shoe, he notes, are the outsole, midsole, and upper, all of which serve a vital purpose in the overall function, stability and comfort of the shoe.

“The outsole, normally made of rubber, provides the grip for the runner. When running in mud or on trails, the outsole needs to have a deeper and more aggressive set of lugs that perform like a mountain bike tyre.

“The midsole is what provides the cushioning and gives you the comfort under your heel when running. The upper is what wraps your foot and is responsible for giving a running shoe its comfortable fit and support.

“Different combinations of upper, midsole and outsole are used to build running shoes that meet the needs of any athlete.”

MADE WITH PURPOSE

What if you already have a decent enough pair of trainers, can’t you just run in them? Lots of us are guilty of using the same footwear for all our fitness activities, whether it’s a gym class, weights workout or jog, and that’s not always a bad thing, as it is possible to get a decent all-rounder - but it can be.

Again, it depends on the shoe specifics and your needs, but if you are aiming to run frequently, investing in a shoe that’s designed for running could make a big difference - and likewise, suitability should be considered for other activities too.

“For gym work and gym classes you ideally need a versatile all-rounder. The disciplines within that environment can put different demands on the body and many people will do a variation of exercises when they train,” explains Franz Rott, director of FUTURE Sport Science at Adidas.

“A versatile training shoe will provide some stability to help with lifting, some cushioning to help with running and then some support for jumps and lateral movements. People who want to focus on specific aspects of training can pick more specialized shoes, for example; a shoe for aerobic training should be lightweight, have some shock absorption and a flexible forefoot, whereas a shoe for lifting weights should have a firm, flat sole with grip on the ground to support a secure stance. A shoe for gym classes, which includes jumping and side-to-side shuffling, needs lateral support, a good grip and some cushioning.”

KNOW YOUR NEEDS

Considering your needs in terms of a shoe takes in the terrain you’ll be running on, how often and how far you’ll be running, plus additional factors, such as the shape of your foot, any problems you have with gait, pain or injuries and the way your foot touches down when you run.

Talking to a specialist stockist and having your gait analysed (Runners Need offer this service in various UK locations: www.runnersneed.com) can help identify any individual needs in this area. Some of these things can be addressed with the right shoe, but other options - such as specialist insoles - can be considered too.

“Some people may benefit from additional support from an orthopaedic insole - especially those with ‘flat feet’, low arches, sufferers of plantar fascia strain and anyone adding on the miles in preparation for a half marathon, marathon or ultra distance. Custom orthotics can be pricey but generic insoles aren’t always successful,” says James Naylor, from orthopaedic footwear specialist SOLE (yoursole.com). “Our Softec Response Footbeds [from £38] mould through the heat of your feet to fit you perfectly and give customised support, and are designed to gently lift your arch into its optimal position while allowing your foot to function properly and prevent over-pronation.

“The deep heel cup stabilizes your foot in the shoe and reinforces your heel’s natural shock-absorbing quality. SOLE footbeds flex as you run so they are supportive but not controlling.”

THREE OF THE BEST... Running shoes

Our testers put three high-promising pairs through their paces.

ON Cloudflyer, £130 (www.on-running.com)

“One of the reasons I’ve never taken to running is because my feet always feel like leaden weights on my legs, but ON’s Cloudflyers, which launched in November, have completely changed that. With a unique sole design, featuring 12 Zero-Gravity foam ‘Cloud’ elements, which give them a spring-like quality, they’re the most lightweight trainers I’ve ever worn, and I almost feel like I’m flying when I run. Plus, as I up my mileage, they more than meet their promise to ‘make long runs feel short’. Suitable for all runners, they’re designed to cushion feet naturally while helping maintain stability.”

Adidas Ultra Boost Shoes, £130 (www.adidas.co.uk)

“I love the look of these neutral running shoes - and I love how they perform even more. The ‘Stretchweb’ rubber outsole feels like it gently moulds to my feet, for a light but stable fit. The ‘Primeknit’ upper promises to expand and flex naturally as your foot moves, and it does feel supremely seamless and comfortable, even on longer and faster runs. Their best feature is the super-cushioned sole, however, giving the shoes its ‘Ultra Boost’ name. Fantastic rebound, my running has certainly felt bouncier and more energised since wearing these.”

Saucony Kinvara 7, £105 (available March; www.saucony.co.uk)

“I’ve been impressed with Saucony running shoes in the past, so was curious to try the Kinvara 7s from the brand new EVERUN range, launching this spring. The range’s unique selling point is ‘continuous cushioning’, with - a design first - a new layer of cushioning that sits closer to the fit, promising a ‘livelier and more responsive run’, as well as better protection and reduced pressure on take-offs and landing. If that all sounds a bit technical, in layman’s terms - as I discovered - it all adds up to a wonderfully smooth-feeling run. I noticed a marked difference from the first time I wore them. They fit like the shoe equivalent of a velvet glove, yet the pressure distribution through the foot is remarkable, helped by the fact there’s no friction. On my longest run of the year so far, my feet and knees didn’t ache a bit.”