Your best foot forward: How to choose runners

In need of a new pair of runners but overwhelmed by choice? Here's what you need to consider when making that all-important purchase. 

Have you hit ‘the wall’? That is, the floor-to-ceiling-wall of shoes in a sports store? So many styles, colours and shapes that you’d be forgiven for walking out and putting the task of buying a new pair of sneakers in the ‘too hard’ basket.

That’s why we’ve gone to the experts for their advice on what to look out for when on the hunt for your next pair of runners.

Know your foot shape

Most sports stores have diagrams or labels saying whether a shoe is ‘neutral’ or ‘support’.

“If you have a larger, flatter foot, you may need a shoe with support,” explains Adam Glascock, principal podiatrist at Newcastle Family and Sports Podiatry. “If you have a high arch, you’ll probably need a shoe with cushioning, which is usually called a neutral shoe.”

But getting the right pair of shoes isn’t going to suddenly enable you to run a marathon or do a slam dunk! It’s more about being comfortable and minimising injury risk.

Getting the right pair of shoes is more about being comfortable and minimising injury risk.

Get measured

Marcus Dripps, National President of the Australian Physiotherapy Association, says he’s amazed how many people wear the wrong size runners. 

“We can talk about shock-absorbing mechanisms and arch support till the cows come home, but if they don’t fit right, you’re not going to wear them,” he says. 

Replicate shoe success

If your previous runners have served you well, it makes sense to opt for the same model again. 

“If you’ve got shoes that you’ve been happy with and you’ve had no symptoms, be content,” Dripps says. “But if you have been having some issues, it’s probably worth talking to a podiatrist or physiotherapist, rather than just a store attendant.”

couple running sun

Do the twist test

Plenty of fashionable sneakers are super flexible and feel good when you first put them on, but Glascock says you need something firmer if you’re running or working out. He suggests doing this quick three-step test before making a purchase:
  • Squeeze: When you squeeze the heel it should be reasonably firm.
  • Twist: Hold the shoe at the front and back and try to twist the shoe like you’re wringing out a cloth. It shouldn’t twist very easily.
  • Bend: If you put the shoe on a table and bend it, it should bend beneath the ball of the foot, not the arch.

Match to your movement

Glascock recommends choosing a runner that matches the activity you do most often. 

“For most of us, one pair of shoes is okay,” he says. “A netball shoe would also be okay for a gym class. But you wouldn’t go running 10km in them – for that you’d need a proper running shoe.”

Choose a runner that matches the activity you do most often. 

Shop for comfort

The right shoe should feel supportive, but effortless to wear. “Most of the time you’ll try on two or three pairs and one will fit like a glove – that’s usually the shoe for you,” Glascock says. 

While experts don’t recommend choosing runners purely for style, Dripps acknowledges that it is important to some people. 

“At the end of the day, it’s about being active,” he says. “Physical activity is good for you so get out there, have a go and make sure you’ve got good footwear that won’t be a barrier to activity.”

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