Choosing The Best Running Shoes For A Road Race

Road races, including marathons, require prior preparation in terms of fitness, your clothes, and your shoes. A road race may be the time for you to get a new pair of running shoes, no matter how much you are attached to your old pair.

Running shoes fall into different categories. These are:

Neutral cushioning shoes

This is a mid-weight shoe with more cushioning, and the weight varies with the model. Neutral cushioning shoes with a lower heel-to-toe drop (height between heel and toe) encourage a mid-foot strike, while the higher heeled ones provide better protection for heel strikers.

Minimalist footwear

It is a lightweight shoe that is made from flexible materials and little cushioning. It weighs 3-6 ounces per shoe and has up to 4mm heel-to-toe drop.

Stability and motion control shoes

These are shoes that are made with cushioning and the internal structure that corrects overpronation. This reduces the inward roll that can easily lead to injuries.

Racing flats

They are lightweight shoes weighing 4-9 ounces per shoe. Although they are referred to as ‘flats’, the heel-to-toe drop can range between 0-8mm. The flats are less supportive, but they promote faster speed.

So, which pair of running shoes should you pick? When looking for a new pair of shoes, you need to consider:

  • Your pronation levels
  • The fit of the shoe
  • Your weight
  • Your speed
  • Your level of preparation
  • The weather

Pronation

This refers to the way your foot rolls when you run, and it is a part of the natural movement that helps your lower leg deal with the shock. Some people pronate less (underpronators) while others pronate more (overpronators). Pronation is not a bad thing, but it does affect the way you run and may increase the likelihood of injury if you use an unsuitable pair of shoes. It is, therefore, important to understand your pronation pattern for you to pick the right running shoes.

Your local running store should have a sales clerk who is able to look at your feet and evaluate your foot type. They should also ask questions regarding your training, injury history, running habits, and finally, watch you as you run. This will allow them to offer you options on the best running shoes for your individual needs and preferences.

  • Underpronators, also known as supinators need extra cushioning to avoid impact injuries.
  • Neutral pronators should look for stabilizing shoes, though they can wear a wide variety of shoes.
  • Overpronators should choose shoes that offer structured cushioning and support.

Your speed

How fast do you want to run? For some people, it is all about finishing the course, while others target a time. Your type of shoe should depend on your goals.

If you are an elite runner, you need shoes that will offer speed. This might be at the expense of comfort. A racing shoe for an entire marathon can really take its toll on you if you are not prepared.

Overweight Runners Need More Shoe Cushioning. Image credit: Shutterstock

Your weight

If you are heavier, you might need to look for extra cushioning in your running shoes. This will help reduce stress on your lower legs and give you more comfortable landings.

If you are a lighter runner, you can easily opt for less cushioning and go for lighter shoes. If you are a heavier runner, but you are used to running in lightweight shoes, then you will be fine because your body has adapted to the style.

The fit of the shoe

If you buy a very narrow shoe, you will be uncomfortable from the word go. Look for shoes that are wide, especially if you have a wide foot. The shoe will be comfortable and your foot will not rub against the side of the shoe. Brands like New Balance running shoes have variants on popular ranges that are wider to compensate for high impact runners.

Also, choose a shoe that is about half a size larger that your normal size to allow your toes some space, but not too much.

New Balance 1080 Running Shoes. Image credit: New Balance

Your level of preparation

If all along you have been training in cushioned shoes, it is important that you run the race in cushioned shoes. Any last minute changes might result in injuries because your feet will not be prepared for it.

If you intend to run in a lightweight shoe, start using it early in your training and get in at least 100kms in it. This will tell you if your body is ready to handle the extra pressure.

A point to note; do not run in a new pair of shoes on the race day. You need to break in your new pair by alternating between it and your old pair during training.

What will the weather be like?

As your body generates heat, so do your feet. Choose a pair of shoes that has a breathable mesh in the upper to prevent your feet from getting sweaty and uncomfortable, which can lead to blisters and difficulty in running the race.