The science of running shoes

The science of running shoes

With the daylight hours increasing and those summer running events getting closer, many of us will be starting to ramp up the distances.  That means those all-important running shoes will be earning their keep.

Replacing trainers or buying that first pair can be overwhelming. Here is some guidance about narrowing down that enormous choice.


Primitive man didn’t have shoes, which is an argument often used in favour of barefoot running. Of course primitive man didn’t run on pavements, and with a life expectancy of around 35 years wasn’t too worried about preventing injury.

Most of us probably will want some foot protection for comfort and cleanliness, and that’s where the running shoe comes in.


Pronation refers to the motion of your foot when you run. It is personal to each of us and there’s no wrong or right level of pronation. What does seem to matter is that you buy the right shoe for how you run.

Your pronation (under, over or neutral) can be determined by the simple wet foot test, because it is associated with the height of your foot arch. Neutral pronators or new runners can wear almost any shoe that suits them. Over-pronators need a stiffer shoe to control the foot motion. Under-pronators need more cushioned footwear. However there are no absolutes, so keep an open mind.


Every pair is different, and sizing is not accurate between different makes. That means it will be all about the trying-on, so go prepared with some time and the socks that you use for running.

Try the shoes walking about, and even running if the shop has space or a treadmill.  Take your old shoes along as well, as an expert salesperson can tell a lot about your gait from the wear on them.

If you are going to be clocking up the miles, you need to look after yourself. Time and money invested in the right running shoes will pay off.


The Author

Jessica Ambrose

Jessica is a fitness writer who loves long distance running, yoga, strength training and healthy eating.


Mark J.
11 April 2018

Mark J.

finally it has stopped snowing or raining and I can hit the streets again. Only to find that the shoes have worn out - so off to the shops. Never fun but I'm hoping these ideas will cut down the time taken.

Brittany T.
13 March 2018

Brittany T.

this is helpful - I'm fairly new to running and it is so difficult to know what shoes to buy, and if I'm getting what I pay for. Looks like I need to go to a proper shop too!

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