It doesn't matter if you are a professional or an enthusiast, if you have been running for years or if you are just starting, every runner needs a suitable running trainer to avoid injuries and to enhance your running.
Running with an uncomfortable pair of trainers is half the way to you deciding to stop running. That's an avoidable problem if you know what to look for next time you're choosing a pair of trainers. You may never have stopped to think about it, but every person has a different foot structure/anatomy, which means they also have specific needs.
In addition, the variety of brands and models of running trainers is so wide that it is sometimes difficult to choose. However, despite looking the same, the models are very different and specific. To help you differentiate them and to choose the ideal one, we have created a guide of 4 steps that you can follow when buying a new pair of trainers.
1st Understand the trainer and its terms
Often trainer descriptions come full of terms that are not easy to understand and are often in English. So it's best to get a grasp of some key words first. We will tell you the terms in English and explain what they mean.
The 'upper' consists of anything above the sole. It is ultimately the top of the trainer. Traditionally, it is made of layers of fabrics, glued or sewn on. When running, you want the upper to be tight to the foot, without causing friction or sores. On the other hand, the 'ankle collar' is the part that goes around your ankle, where the heel goes through when you put on your trainers. There are models with a more cushioned 'ankle collar', like the Asics Kayano, and others in which it only has a layer of thin fabric, as if it were a sock. This is an important part of the trainer that you have to pay attention to, in order to avoid hurting the skin in the area around the Achilles tendon. In the same area, but lower down, we have the 'heel-counter' which is responsible for the support and freedom of movement of the ankle.
On the other side of the trainer, we have the 'toe box'. As the name suggests, it is the area that surrounds the toes. Different brands have toe boxes that are more or less wide. It is crucial that there is room for the foot to flex and stretch in a natural and spacious way.
When it comes to the outsole, there is not much to say. Materials with more traction and less weight are always preferable. The midsole is the one between the outsole and the upper. It is usually here where the characteristic technologies of the brands that differentiate the trainers lay. It is the part that serves to cushion the impact of the footstep. This is all part of the so-called 'stack height'. The height of the trainer will therefore vary between highly cushioned and almost flat, in other words, with little cushioning. The thickness of the stack height depends on the type of runner, his preferences and the ground.
Very common in running trainers is the heel-toe offset (drop). A long name that refers to the difference in height of the heel and instep to the ground. Typically, the heel height is higher to accommodate the stride, as the heel is the first part of the foot to reach the ground. This will enhance greater absorption of the impact of the running motion. There are several options with different heights, and those without any are more designed for a movement in which the instep or the toes reach the ground first, as in ballet, for example.
In general, running trainers are classified as either neutral or stability shoes, with about 80% of the trainers you'll find falling into the first category. This is directly related with pronation.
2º Know your feet well
Knowing the type of support you need during your run is fundamental. This goes along with the concept of pronation that we mentioned above. Pronation is the natural way your foot behaves when you move. Your stride can be neutral, pronating or supinating. The easiest way to identify which category you fall into is to get a professional analysis. However, there are other ways that can help you find out on your own, by analysing a pair of well-worn trainers or the wet foot test.
When you walk, if your feet hang more towards the inside, that's considered a pronator stride. It means you need a trainer that gives you more stability and control of movement. To check if this is the case, look for areas of wear in the big toe area and on the inside of the heel. If you do the wet toe test, you'll find a spot with a curvature of the foot between the heel and instep that’s too short or almost non-existent.
On the other hand, if your feet hang more towards the outside of your feet, it is considered a supinating stride. These cases are rarer, but in case this is you, you need a trainer with more cushioning and flexibility. The wear zone here is along the outside of the foot. In the wet foot test a supinator will find a spot with a very large curvature of the foot, and in extreme cases may not even have any part of the foot in contact with the sheet with the exception of the heel and instep.
A neutral stride is when the foot does not rock to one side or the other. In these cases the wear of a well-worn trainer is on the heel and instep. In the wet foot test, you will find a spot with a curvature of the foot the size of which is approximately less than half the width of your foot.
3º Choose a type of running
Now that you know your stride type, it's time to consider the type of running and where you're going to run.
If you're a frequent runner, you'll need an 'everyday' pair of trainers. They are ideal to keep up with you for the long miles of your routine. They are also the type of trainer that beginners should look for as they are more focused on comfort and combating the stress associated with regular running. Normally, this type of trainer is prepared to withstand between 500 and 1000 km, due to its durability.
The lightweight running trainer, on the other hand, is designed for more experienced runners, who want to do faster workouts once or twice a week. As the name suggests, this type of running trainer is lighter and is usually made from fewer materials. That means they'll wear out faster and will feel less comfortable as the training stretches on. A good time for this type of trainer is the day of a competition. By running with a lighter than usual trainer, the athlete will be able to achieve faster times. Although it is not recommended, a less experienced runner can use such a trainer if he trains a maximum of three times a week, never more than 45 minutes.
That brings us to our next point: trainers for competitions. If you want to enter the world of competitive running, you might want to look for a competitive running trainer. These are usually trainers with fewer layers of cushioning and fabric. The aim is to run faster, with as little weight as possible. That means, of course, that you will feel the ground under your feet more. Due to the high wear and tear, a trainer like this can handle between 160 and 480 km. In case it's the first time you invest in a competition trainer, we advise you to test it first in a short training session before the race.
If you're more of a Trail runner, you'll need a trainer that can handle dirt and rough terrain. Trail trainers have a more durable upper and some lugs on the outsole to help with grip on rocks and dirt. Technologies like Gore-Tex (waterproof) are essential. The main purpose of these trainers is to give stability, support and traction to the runner, who has to be prepared for any terrain.
Finally, we also have the cross-training trainers. These are the trainers for gym or balance activities, where it is preferable to have more contact with the ground than cushioning. That means that they have a low stack height.
4º Find your suitable size
Everyone has a size of shoe that they normally wear. However, when it comes to running trainers, you should always get your size right. Too big or too small can make all the difference, especially when each brand has its own sizing mould.
The most accurate thing is to measure the size of your feet. Yes, both of them, since no two feet are the same. The ideal size is not the exact measurement of your foot, but that measurement plus the width of one toe. This will prevent your toes from rubbing against the fabric of the trainer, especially when running downhill.
Also, once you've decided on a model, you should try it on at the end of the day, because your feet swell throughout the day, just like they do during exercise. You should also try it on with the type of socks you train with. If you wear insoles, it's important to ask to try the trainers on with them. Make sure the trainers are comfortable from the first moment you put them on. You are not supposed to "break them in" and adapt them to your foot.
Now that you know the four steps to choosing running trainers, look for the right trainers for you. Remember that they all have a maximum mileage. You don't want to run the risk of getting injured. Gear up for the cold and enjoy a good run in the running trainers that were made for you.