Ultrarunning: Choosing the Perfect Pair of Running Shoes

May 15, 2012

This article is part of Endurance Planet’s ultrarunning article series. If you have questions, comments or feedback about “Choosing the Perfect Pair of Running Shoes”, please leave it below in the comments section…

Overuse injuries such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis are very common among runners, particularly in those who participate in ultramarathon events. But these overuse injuries can be prevented, and in fact, can very well be  minimized just by using the proper kind of running shoes.

Know the type of feet you have and how they gait when you run

Determining the exact type of your feet and how they touch the surface when you run is imperative if you really want to acquire that perfect pair of ultrarunning shoes. Neutral stable feet tend to land the surface evenly and so are less prone to injuries. Meanwhile, those with pronation problems, wherein feet roll excessively either outwards or inwards while running, tend to suffer more from blisters and overuse injuries.

Fortunately, knowing your feet type and gait is much easier now. There’s always your trusty sports podiatrist to consult. Also, most specialty running stores now have machines that take images of your feet while you run. Once you know these details, then you’re much better equipped at choosing the shoes that will be suitable for your ultrarunning endeavors.

Choosing your running shoes

There are tons of brands of running shoes in the market right now. And most will highlight new special features which, back then, were unheard of. There are stability shoes, the motion control ones, the lightweight types which are supposedly ideal for training, and the extra cushioned kinds. Given such countless options, it’s then a bit challenging, especially for the novice runner, to choose a pair of shoes. But to avoid the confusion, always keep in mind these two things:

Model

Pay careful heed to the models of running shoes and the features each have. If you have neutral stable feet, then a neutral model with decent cushioning will be your best bet. Steer clear of shoes that are advertised as extra cushioned, especially if the added padding is located in the heel area. The body tends to apply more force to the heels when wearing extra cushioned shoes, so instead of avoiding injury, you’ll in fact become more prone to plantar fasciitis.

Meanwhile, if you have pronation problems, then running shoes with just about the right stability features are the most ideal. These shoes have added motion control pads which are usually found from the heel to the ball of the foot. Stability shoes tend to be harder overall because of these additional features so you have to be careful when choosing a pair. The shoes need not have to be hard to the feel. If they feel like bricks underneath when you run, then this pair has excessive stability features.

Size

Proper fit is just as crucial as the model of running shoes. And most of us tend to make the mistake of buying shoes that are a little tighter than what’s healthy and sustainable for our feet. Ultrarunners should even be more careful when selecting the size of shoes to acquire to ensure that the dynamic movements of the feet are accommodated yet protected as well. Sports podiatrists advocate that a whole thumb’s width should be present between the tallest toe and the shoe. But you may require half a size bigger if you utilize special shoe inserts.

Summary

Do you have questions about running shoes, or what you’ve read so far? Do you have any ultrarunning pointers of your own to add? Please leave your feedback, comments and questions below, and we promise we’ll respond.

Comments (6)

  • Kyle Kranz says:

    Being a massive over pronator I have found that after 5000+ miles in minimalist shoes I have a hard time agreeing with "pronation control" in shoes.

  • Horacio says:

    Sockdoc and many others have a very different view…. (against oversupportive shoes). Check out Natural Running Center material

  • David Lehnherr says:

    Don't forget the importance of considering a minimalist shoe. We really were "born to run," and shoes with padding, unnatural shapes and different types of "support" have screwed up a lot of feet. Runners have to work slowly into a minimalist shoe, but the rewards long-term can be immense.

  • Tony Mollica says:

    Do you have any specific recommendations for over pronators that need a wide size shoe. I also want a shoe with good traction.

  • John H. says:

    Finding the right shoes may require some experimentation. I can't tell how many different shoes I've had in the past. I've worn a particular brand/ model now for years without issues. Because I've worked to shorten my stride and quicken my tempo, I changed to another shoe just to "try it out" and came away with all types of foot, ankle and calf injuries. Luckily I recognized it immediately and went back to my trusted model and vowed never to stray again.

  • Chris says:

    Do you also have any recommendations for people with flat narrow feet. The trails I run are rocklined so most of the shoes I tried have taken a real beating and wear out quickly.


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