Whether you're starting your first couch to 5k or you're a seasoned runner looking to run a marathon or even an ultra, one of the most important things is to have the perfect pair of running shoes. Follow our guide for everything from brand analysis, different types of running shoes, which shoes are best for you, and which shoes to choose according to your running goals. Everything you need to know is here in Sundried's guide to buying running shoes.
In this guide:
- Running shoe brands
- Can running shoes cause knee pain?
- Where to buy running shoes
- When to buy new running shoes
- Trail running shoes
- Running shoes for long distance running
- Trainers and sneakers for sprinting
Running shoe brands
There are endless shoe brands out there so it can be tough to push through the noise and find a brand that is perfect for you. When it comes to running shoes, there are a few big players.
- New Balance
- Hoka ONE ONE
Some of these brands are more well known than others, such as the global giants Nike and Adidas. However, the other brands are important as they specialise in running and therefore the designers really know what to look for and work on when it comes to running specifically.
Asics is a Japanese brand whose first product was a pair of basketball shoes designed and manufactured in 1950. Since then, this brand has become one of the biggest players in the running shoe game and they sponsor such prominent athletes as Gwen Jorgensen and Jan Frodeno. Asics running trainers are tried and tested and you won't go to a single running event without seeing many people wearing Asics running trainers. This is a great brand to trust and they make running shoes for everyone from those who over-pronate to those who under-pronate and everyone in between.
Nike is one of the biggest companies in the world, sponsoring world class celebrity athletes like Tiger Woods, Maria Sharapova, and they even have a range in collaboration with Michael Jordan. It's impossible to go anywhere without seeing people wearing Nike shoes or clothing and they have ranges from casual to performance and cover many sports from golf to tennis to running and CrossFit. Nike work hard on innovative technology and always have new shoes on the market with never-seen-before features such as Fly Knit, Air, and Zoom.
New Balance is an American shoe brand that is now internationally acclaimed after being a popular sportswear brand for over a century. It only became well-known in the UK fairly recently but is making waves, especially with huge sponsorship like that of the London Marathon.
Brooks Running is another American brand that was founded around a century ago. They enjoyed their prime in the mid 1970s but then the brand faltered in the 1980s. By the turn of the millennium, Brooks re-branded and focused solely on running with a special focus on performance technology. They are now one of the best-selling speciality running shoe brands in the world and have enjoyed accolades such as 'Best Running Shoe' by publications including Runner's World and Sports Illustrated.
Adidas is another of the global brands which is world renowned and can be found anywhere. In recent times, Adidas have pushed forward in running shoe innovation by developing Boost technology and their newer ranges of running shoes offer something really quite special. Collaborations with designers like Stella McCartney have launched this brand into the next dimension and they continue to grow year on year. Despite being perhaps best known for their fashion trainers, Adidas is a really big player when it comes to running shoes and they have a vast range with something to suit everyone.
Hoka One One
Hoka One One is a lesser known brand, but is very popular among athletes and serious runners. Serving a more niche market, Hoka's running shoes are specifically designed with a super thick sole and 'rocking' motion for long distance runners. It's said that if you run a marathon wearing Hoka shoes, your legs won't even ache at the end! Co-founders Jean-Luc Diard and Nicolas Mermoud wanted to create a running shoe that was more effective and cushioning when running downhill, and in doing so reinvented the running shoe.
Can running shoes cause knee pain?
The simple answer to this is yes, running shoes can cause knee pain. That's why it's hugely important that you understand your own personal anatomy and physiology before buying new running shoes so that you can buy the right ones for you. Not only this, if your running shoes are old, tired, and worn out, they are more likely to cause an injury.
There are three types of runner: those who over-pronate, those who under-pronate, and those with a neutral stride.
If you overpronate, this means that your feet roll inwards due to a low arch or flat feet. This can have serious implications if you run in the wrong trainers and you can end up with a whole host of running injuries. If you over-pronate, you need to wear stability shoes which have in-built arch support to keep your feet in the right place as you run and to take the strain off your knees to prevent injury.
If you have a neutral stride, you may benefit from barefoot-type running shoes. These shoes are more flexible and light and will allow your feet to take their most natural shape when you run. If you have a neutral stride - lucky you - you will benefit from a very wide range of running shoes and have a much bigger choice when it comes to buying running shoes.
Finally, if you under-pronate, you need to look for very well cushioned running shoes to prevent shock injuries and to absorb the impact on the outside of the foot. If you underpronate, you will land on the outside of your foot when you run and this is the foot's weakest part, so you need your shoes to work with you to prevent injuries.
Where to buy running shoes
The best way to buy running shoes is in person at your local running store. While a large department store or chain may seem like they have more choice, the employees are often paid commission to sell certain brands and you may therefore not receive impartial advice and end up purchasing shoes that are not in your best interest.
If you are thinking of buying running shoes online, it is best to read as many running shoe reviews as possible before you buy. It's important to bear in mind that fit varies from brand to brand and even from model to model so you need to check that they are true to size or discover if they run small or large. Additionally, check to see if the shoes provide adequate cushioning and response from the sole and if they will last the distance or if they will deteriorate after only a few miles.
If you buy your running shoes from a local expert running shop you will often be able to test them out before you buy on an in-store treadmill and therefore decide if they fit well. You will also be able to determine if they work for you personally and if they are right for your goals. Not only this, the expert at the shop will be able to give you impartial advice. Therefore, this is the best place to buy new running shoes.
When to buy new running shoes
There are a few things to look out for if you think you may need to buy new running shoes. Worn out shoes can cause a lot of issues, so make sure you stay aware of how many miles you've run in your trainers and are ready to buy new ones with time to wear them in before getting rid of your old ones.
A good quality pair of running shoes should last you between 300 to 500 miles of wear. For someone who is running an average of 80 miles a month, this means replacing your running shoes every four to six months. However, factors such as your running style and your weight can affect how quickly your shoes wear out. Heavier runners put more pressure on their shoes and need more cushioning, so may need to replace shoes more often.
It's always worth investing in a new pair of shoes if you feel like your running trainers are getting worn out so that you avoid developing injuries and niggles. You can check the soles of the shoes to see if there is any noticeable wear, and if your running style starts to feel different or you start developing pains you've never had before, it could be time to get a new pair or runners.
If your running shoes look like this, it's definitely time to retire them!
Trail running shoes
If most of your runs are done on mud, grass, or trails, it is worth investing in proper trail running shoes instead of ruining your attractive fashion trainers. There are lots of differences between trail running shoes and regular running trainers, such as a thicker sole and more protection against stepping on stones and rocks, as well as better grip for running on slippery mud.
Many running shoe brands manufacture trail running shoes, but it may be worth looking for a brand that specialises in this type of shoe. Topo Athletic is one brand that sell good quality trail running shoes. Topo's secret is that the toe box on the shoe is wide so that your toes don't get crushed and your feet have more room to move and breathe when navigating tough trails and paths.
Running shoes for long distance running
If you're training for a marathon or ultra marathon, you need running shoes that can go the distance. This means sneakers that have lots of cushioning and support. Pounding the pavement for hundreds of miles can put a lot of strain on your muscles and your nervous system, so it's important your trainers are supporting you.
When it comes to long distance running, you probably don't want to go for a minimalist running shoe. Instead, opt for one with a thicker sole and lots of cushioning, especially if you are a heavier runner.
As mentioned above, some brands design their running shoes specifically for long distance running, like Hoka ONE ONE, so it is worth exploring these brands if you are looking to run long distances injury-free.
Trainers and sneakers for sprinting
For sprinting, you'll want more lightweight running shoes so that you can achieve explosive power and speed and not be weighed down by your sneakers. There are many options when it comes to lightweight sprint shoes, such as the Nike Free Run series or the Asics Gel-Hyper Speed shoes. The best shoes for speed will be designed for precisely that and as such won't have as much cushioning as other running shoes. Due to this, you need to make sure you're not running long distances in racing flats because you may damage your feet and joints.
Sprinting would include distances up to around 5km. For any running distances farther than this, you should look into buying different running shoes.
As summer fast approaches and the weather warms up, it's time to start adjusting your training and racing tactics for the heat. Follow these top tips so that you can perform at your best in hot, humid weather and finish safely in good health.
Don't drink only water
This is possibly the most important point on this list. We all know that we need to drink plenty of water when it's hot, however an increasingly common mistake seems to be drinking only water and potentially over-hydrating. Didn't realise that over-hydrating was a thing? It can be potentially deadly. News broke last year of a woman who was left in a coma after over-hydrating at the London Marathon. The mistake this woman made was that she only drank water and caused her body to enter a state called hyponatraemia. This is when your body's sodium levels are dangerously low and in this context is caused by replenishing water but not electrolytes or salts.
The best way to stay safe and healthy when running in the heat, especially if it is a long endurance event like a marathon, is to top up your sodium before you run and then keep it topped up by drinking a sports drink or taking electrolyte tablets. Team GB duathlete and Sundried ambassador Louise Douglass says, "practise in training with different brands until you find the best one that works for you." This is important as the race you do may not have the sports drinks or gels that you're used to, so sometimes it's best to take your own, especially if your race is in a foreign country.
Of course, you need to keep a safe balance between water and salts, so try to work out how much of each you need before you start. You could do this by doing a sweat test, such as the one offered by sweat experts Precision Hydration, to see how much salt you personally lose when you sweat and go from there.
Adjust your hydration and nutrition from winter training
If you live in the UK and have signed up for a spring or summer race, chances are you've done most of your training in very cold, windy, and miserable conditions. What this means is you will need to adjust your hydration and nutrition for the actual race and it may differ from your training as the amount of water your body required in December will be vastly different to what it requires in July and August.
Make sure you are flexible with your hydration and take extra water and sports drinks with you to the race just in case so that it doesn't come as a surprise on the day. Most, if not all, races will have water available so stay topped up but as highlighted above, don't be tempted to over-hydrate!
Wear a hat or cap
Wearing a hat or cap is a great idea whenever you're in the sun as it protects your head from the heat and can reduce the risk of developing heat and sun stroke. Not only this, wearing a white, fabric cap when you run can mean you can keep a wet sponge under it to keep your head cool and keep soaking it with water to keep your basal temperature down.
"I would recommend wearing a white hat for sure, I’ve found wearing it backwards with sunglasses on actually is best." says Team GB age group triathlete and Sundried ambassador Sam Mileham.
Reduce your pace and listen to your body
You may have been able to push your body hard during training throughout the winter, but race day might be a different story. Especially if you're not expecting a hot race or race day is unseasonably hot (something that can often happen during the big April marathons) you may need to reduce your pace. Even if this means missing out on a potential PB, it's far better to get to the finish line with a smile on your face than being carted off on a stretcher!
Team GB triathlete and Sundried ambassador Paul Suett says "listen to your body and slow your pace down if it’s feeling too hard. London Marathon last year was my toughest race to date, the heat was insane and took a lot out of my body. Throughout the race I constantly listened to my body to make sure I was running sensibly."
Ironman athlete and Sundried ambassador Jon Dixon says "If you know in advance that the weather for a target race is going to be hot, then acclimatise by running in conditions similar in the lead up, preferably start at least 2 weeks out." Team GB age group triathlete Ali Trauttmansdorff adds to this by saying "I trained a few weeks before racing in Mexico by training in similarly hot and humid conditions in Florida to try and replicate the conditions as much as I could. I deliberately went out for my runs at 10am instead of early in the morning so that it wasn't cooler."
It may be difficult mentally to take yourself out for a training run when conditions seem tough, but this is how to train smart and will certainly pay off on race day!
Trail running is a world away from road running and although a challenge, it can be a lot of fun. We give you our top 5 tips for surviving your first trail race so that you can have the best time and get to the finish line in one piece!
1. Do hill training
One of the main differences between road running and trail running is that trail races tend to have a lot more elevation gain which means lots of running up and down steep hills. Rather than plodding round a flat course on smooth tarmac, you will need to be able to navigate down steep, stony tracks and get yourself up tough ascents. Doing lots of hill training will really increase your chances of making it to the finish and will condition both your cardiovascular fitness and your muscle strength so that the hills don't completely incapacitate you.
2. Don't skip leg day
Trail running is much tougher on the legs than road running due to both the elevation but also the difficult terrain. Your legs will have to work much harder to keep you stable and you will need a lot of muscular strength to help you up the hills and to jump over tree roots and duck under low branches.
Make sure you incorporate lots of strength and conditioning into your training so that not only your legs but also your back and core are strong enough to handle the strain. Do plenty of squats and deadlifts as these will target those areas but make sure you are doing endurance weight training which means light weights, high reps, instead of training for pure strength which is heavy weights and low reps.
3. Wear the right shoes
Trail running can feature challenging terrain from long grass to loose gravel to deep mud. You will need proper trail shoes which have aggressive traction and grip so that you don't slip, fall and injure yourself.
It's also worth checking for trail shoes which incorporate a rock plate to the bottom as this will protect your feet when you inevitably step on rocks and stones and will prevent injuries to your feet.
Finally, a pair of shoes that are waterproof is a big bonus but not a necessity. Chances are you will have to run through mud and especially in winter you might even need to wade through water which will make you very cold so waterproof shoes will prevent cold, painful feet.
4. Check the weather
You are far more exposed to the elements when trail running and they will affect you more, so make sure you keep an eye on the forecast so that you can be prepared. Wear plenty of sun cream if it's going to be hot and take wet weather gear if it's going to rain. The last thing you want is a DNF because of being ill-prepared for the weather!
5. Have fun and don't expect a good finish time
It's important to remember why we do trail running – to have fun! Those who run road races tend to compete purely for speed whereas trail running is more of a challenge for ourselves and to push our own limits. Most trail runs will be significantly more difficult than a traditional road race and it's highly unlikely that you'll achieve a distance PB. There may well be sections that are impossible to run and you will be forced to walk in order not to fall, or because a hill is just that steep. Make sure you are doing it for the right reasons and don't go into it expecting to achieve your best time ever or even trying to be overly competitive as you will only end up disappointed.
Stephen is an older athlete who competed in the second ever running of the London marathon. He talks to Sundried about all things running.
Have you always been into sport?
No! At school I was the kid who hid when it came to PE. I think I am what you call a late bloomer.
What made you decide to enter the world of distance running?
I was into rock climbing when I was in 6th form and beyond. I then watched the 1st ever London Marathon on TV and thought ‘yep, that looks cool, I might have a go at that’! Never having run before, I got an entry and completed the 2nd running of the event.
What’s been your favourite race to date and why?
I now compete as a V60 athlete. I won my category in the 2018 Eden Project Marathon after 2nd places the previous 2 years in the half marathon. It is a really well organised event and uses small lanes and trails as well as a superb finish right by the Eden domes. I have many V60 1st places but I feel this one was hard won.
And your proudest achievement?
After a serious illness and time in hospital back in 2009, my 2 sons and I completed a non- stop Lands End to John o’ Groats cycle relay. The three of us completed this in 68 hours 15 mins with my wife doing all the support driving. We raised a lot of money for Cancer Campaign in Suffolk.
Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?
Not one of my longest races, but I did the Motatapu Trail Marathon in New Zealand a couple of years ago. I had done it before and wanted to get on the podium in my category. I felt ‘a bit off’ before the race and at the highest point in the race with 10 miles still to go, I got the worst cramp I have ever had. A helicopter that had landed to evacuate an MTB competitor waited to see if I too needed a lift! I don’t do giving up so I did get to the end under my own steam but the lesson is, if you feel unwell leave the heroics to another day.
How do you overcome setbacks?
Setbacks make the successes all the sweeter.
What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?
When I reached V55 I based my performance (or lack of) on what I was doing when I was 28. A coach friend of mine gave me the simple advice to start V55 as a ‘new career’ - forget all PBs before that. Simple yes, but it got me into the right place mentally.
What are your goals for 2019 and 2020?
My major goals for 2019 are almost completed including the Keswick Mountain Festival Ultra Trail Race and the International Snowdon Race. It is now back to cycling for my major 2020 goal which is the Tour Aotearoa in February. Luckily it is in New Zealand so it is summer there!
Who do you take your inspiration from?
Anyone who overcomes adversity to compete or simply enjoys taking part in sport.
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
I first became aware of Sundried when they supported the Clacton Half Marathon, shortly after their launch. I liked the idea of sustainable sports kit and the use of coffee grounds had me hooked. I own several of the original tops which just last and perform so well. I have now ordered a full set of Cadence cycling kit and can’t wait to put it through its paces.
From forgetting something to going the wrong way, we've all been there. Sundried asked our ambassadors "what is the dumbest thing you've ever done at a race?" and these were their answers! Have you ever made any of these racing mistakes?
Helene Wright - Triathlete
I was once on the bike leg of a duathlon and knew I was second lady so was chasing down the leader. I saw a cyclist in the distance so pushed on to catch them. As I got closer I soon came to realise they weren't wearing a number so they weren't even in my race... But worse still I'd followed them off course and down to the bottom of a hill! Fortunately, after getting back into the race, I hadn't lost a place but didn't track down the leader in time to win first place.
John Wood - Team GB Triathlete and Coach
A client of mine raced Cardiff Triathlon as part of training and forgot his wetsuit.
Dominic Garnham - Triathlete
I trained hard throughout all of last winter for a race early this year. I felt very confident and very excited for the race and I was in the best shape I've ever been. I turned up to sign in at registration on the day only to find I had forgotten to actually enter the race!
Nick Lower - Celebrity Trainer
I fractured my ankle 7 miles into ‘Man v Mountain’ (a 20 mile race up and down Mount Snowdon). I stupidly just strapped it up and completed it!
Alice Tourell North - Team GB Triathlete
At a recent race I forgot to put my race belt on! I had the best swim I’ve had this season, flew into T1, got to my bike... and then had to stand there for over 3 minutes whilst the race officials tried to find my husband who had the race belt in my bag. Total nightmare!
Steve Sayer - Triathlete and Coach
My swim hat pinged off and I lost my goggles at Ironman 70.3 Wimbleball, but I had the fastest swim stroke ever!
Martin Owen - Team GB Triathlete
I had an issue until recently of not being able to pedal and drink at the same time. I used to have to coast very slowly to drink. In a standard distance Duathlon, my bottle wouldn’t go back into the holder and it dropped out on the first lap. 35 more miles on 1 gel and no water...not nice!
Anne Iarchy - Personal Trainer
I hadn't ridden my bike for a couple of years due to injury. I had entered a triathlon last year, hoping I would have the time to get back on beforehand. Unfortunately that didn't happen. As I got onto the bike leg, I had totally forgotten how to change the gears on the bike. I managed to take them up, but not down. So when pedalling into the wind, it was really hard work. Thankfully I managed to figure something out on the 3rd lap!