Best beginner's running shoes?

17 messages
05/08/2011 at 20:41

Though this would be the best place to ask. I'm going to start running in the coming weeks and wondered what the best shoes at an affordable price I should go for? Details and reasons for your choice are warmly welcomed.

  Thanks!

05/08/2011 at 20:44
Simple answer is the one that fits your gait....go to a proper running shop..they will have a look at the way you run and recommend  the correct shoe for you...cost should not really be important.
07/08/2011 at 08:03
Definitely go to a specialist running shop who can check your feet, running is a very cheap sport, if you want to run regularly then the one and only thing you don't want to compromise on is a good quality shoe. Having said that, there is a big difference in price between premium shoes such as the Asics Kayano at £120 plus and other models which might be suitable at almost half the price, but a good running shop should help you. If you're not sure where to go, let us know the area you live in, I'm sure someone on here will recommend a good local shop....
18/08/2011 at 21:20
Thanks for the advice, i'm based in west dulwich, but i have good travel links, so reaching the shop won't be too difficult.
19/08/2011 at 08:47

Hi Felix

You might like to know that there's a school of thought that says you don't actually need running shoes! Search for 'barefoot running' and you'll find a lot of info about it. 

Personally I don't think running completely unshod is a particularly good idea, but I do think there's some interesting theory every runner should know about.

The thinking is basically that humans evolved over thousands of years to run barefoot, so the way you run without shoes is the most natural form and the least likely to cause injury. Modern running shoes have high heels and padded soles, and this can cause people to change their natural running style. If you try running barefoot, you'll find you tend to land on your mid- or forefoot, whereas modern running shoes often encourage people to land on their heels.

You can now find a growing number of 'minimal' shoes, which have very thin soles, no padding and no heel. Probably the best-known and most popular is the Vibram Fivefingers, which looks like a glove for your foot with separate toes! I run in Vivobarefoot Evos, which look more conventional (people often say they look pretty cool, in fact).

Existing runners who make the transition to minimal shoes often have trouble - trying to make the change too quickly can cause injury because the body isn't accustomed to moving in such a different way. However, as a brand new runner you'd be ideally placed to give it a try. The main thing to remember is to take it very gently indeed - start with running a mile or less, and build up by adding no more than 10% distance. If you feel any pain, stop.

There's a good deal of debate about barefoot and minimal shoe running, and it's not for everyone - but it really works for me! Read up about it and see what you think, but I'd strongly encourage you to give it a go.

Hope this helps!

Anne

19/08/2011 at 14:37
Thank you very much for the information Anne, i'll definitely read into it!
19/08/2011 at 16:06

No worries. After all, if you're after reasonably-priced shoes, you can't get any cheaper than no shoes at-all!

That said, most minimal shoes are at least as expensive as traditional running shoes, unfortunately. Proof of the saying 'less is more'...

19/08/2011 at 16:29
I would suggest that barefoot running is probably not the best strategy for a novice.  I won't get into the whole barefoot debate (I am personally very skeptical), but it is clearly something that a person must work themself into gradually.  Jumping in at the deep end can have disastrous consequences. 
22/08/2011 at 03:24

Your in Dulwich which is South East London, right?

 I'd suggest getting the train up into Central London and getting to either a Runners Need store (see website for whichever store suits you best, stores I am aware of are at Moorgate, Liverpool Street, Kings Cross, Canary Wharf, Holborn and Kensington) Or Run and Become which is also a very friendly and helpful store, nearest station is St James Park or its about 10-15 mins walk from Victoria station.

They can work out your gait and suggest trainers for you, how they feel will vary from brand to brand.

I like the whole barefoot thing but wouldn't suggest it for you as a beginner, its really not something to really dip into (not without putting you at risk of injury!) If you are interested in it, read up on it first, learn why people do it and learn also about the risks. Though the human body can and does bounce back from much worse, there are no doubt scars left from most injuries and its something I'm sure you can do without -especially if its a preventable problem.

23/08/2011 at 13:43

I'd be the first to agree that barefoot or minimal shoe running isn't for everyone. The scientific evidence for the benefits is still scanty, and I haven't seen any studies that actually show a reduction in injury rates, although many runners believe it's helpful.

However, it does have a growing following and is becoming more mainstream, with even brands like Nike starting to make shoes for the minimal market. And what is certain is that running barefoot helps you focus on good form.

Personally I ran for about 10 years in conventional padded shoes, with truly atrocious form. I was a fan of Mizuno and Asics, and I wore the models recommended by the lovely helpful people in Sweatshop and Run and Become.

Here's the thing to remember: the people in running shops can spot the problems with your form and suggest shoes that will help. However, those shoes won't actually correct the problem. They'll simply mask it and reduce its impact. The people in running shops will never actually tell you if you're doing something fundamentally wrong - after all, you're the customer and they don't want to upset you!

So I, in common with many other runners, spent years running incorrectly. I was fine for a while, then the injuries crept in: Achilles problems, knee pain, hip pain, shin splints...

We're all born knowing how to run, but the trouble is we can forget. We often spend too long sitting at computers or in front of the TV; we wear shoes that change our gait; we develop bad habits. I didn't know how bad my habits were until I visited a physio for my injuries, and he told me where my weaknesses lay. Years of incorrect running had compounded the faults - if I'd corrected them early on, I could have reduced my risk of injury greatly.

So Felix, whatever shoes you choose, look after your form and don't rely on the shoes to do it for you. If you develop good form early in your running career, it will set you up for life.

There's a useful video and downloadable guide here: http://trainingclinic.vivobarefoot.com/ 

I'd also recommend reading the inspirational book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall - a fantastic true story about running adventures, as well as an insight into why so many people are chucking away their trainers these days: http://www.chrismcdougall.com/ 

Oh, and in case you're wondering, I've been running for over a year in minimal shoes now - and my previous injuries are (fingers crossed) a thing of the past. I've been working hard on my form, and it hasn't always been easy. I suffered a lot of calf pain early on, because my muscles just weren't used to the change. Also, I found it was so much more fun running in minimal shoes, I tried to go too far, too fast, too soon. I had setbacks, but I persevered - and I'm much happier as a result!

23/08/2011 at 17:23
If you go to a specialist shop (highly recommended), make sure you get a clear idea of what your foot does (ie over pronate or not) and what type of shoe they recommend (cushioned, stabilty or motion-control). They should give you a range of several pairs and let you try them out, either on a treadmill or on the street. Fit is then your priority, followed by price, though obviously needs must. Be upfront with them that you are starting out and are mindful of cost - be very wary if they just offer you top end shoes, as shoes in all categories are available at much more reasonable prices.
You will probably pay a bit more for this pair, but you are also paying for the advice you get. Afterwards you can search online now you know the type you need, and pick up bargains on last year's models etc.
Keep a track of how many miles you do in them, a (very general) rule of thumb is that most pairs last about 500 miles, but this can vary a lot. Listen to your body for unusual aches and niggles which tell you they are done (often the cushioning in the midsole, or the stability in the upper goes before the sole gets worn out).
24/08/2011 at 02:04

The problem I'd have with suggesting barefoot to a beginner is that one of the major points to remember when first starting out is that its not a silver-bullet: its a new way of thinking and its not one that we as "Westeners" have managed to aquire in out Western-world. We have a dog-eat-dog competative winner-takes-all philosophy- I never thought I was the competative sort...till someone jumped onto a treadmill next to me and peered over at my stats: something close to anger filled my veins and I had one of my best runs! The reason it was what I had decided was my "best run" was because I was able to run faster and for longer then I normally did. I was able to run faster and further then the person who had previously sneered at my stats: its not so abnormal to judge a run like this, to assume its quantity rather then quality and often no matter how much we tell ourselves otherwise, we are always looking to better our previous model.

Look, what I'm saying is with barefoot, the whole "Western" philosophy is turned on its head: suddenly your looking to appreciate your body, stop when it hurts and not to run too far. Its far easier to pick up an overuse injury from barefoot running then with chunky trainer running and for a beginner without the same knowledge of good pain vs bad pain (something which took me years to work out and I am still sometimes working out at times!) that alone would put a newbie at risk of injury let alone having muscles which perhaps needed to gain some stregnth and endurance which can also take time.

I barefoot run, I read up on it, I read books, went to talks, asked info from others on forums (the runners need US site is great!) its not something you should go full out on, the painstakingly slow starting point (100m runs building up slooowly) its frustrating for me and I had done all the reading- also learning about what to look out for, pitfalls and injuries..these all took me research, its not something painted out for you so easily because everybodies body is different. My pit-falls will be different from other peoples. How do I know my pit-falls? That has taken me time and experience, just getting my fitness up has taught me alot, running with a heel-strike, that has taught me things- I am not an expert on anything else but my own body and even there I have more to learn.

Don't get me wrong: barefoot is a great thing to do (I do this!) but I'd strongly advise to do alot of research not just on the whole technique (very very few have a natural forefoot or even mid-foot strike), but also to gain a basic level of fitness through any sort of exercise to get a good feel of how your body works and if possible learn where your weaknessess could lie.

24/08/2011 at 02:14

Just to add: as much as I really do value the advice given from sports stores, I don't think its a good idea to rely on them: aside from not knowing if they are qualified to give medical/injury advice, not all support the barefoot theories: I only had to say the word "barefoot" to a few store members in one well known brand of store to get looks which words cannot describe: some shock, others looking at me as if I'd just told them I was considering bungeeing of Big Ben without a rope and hoping the American Tourists would save me by breathing air to catch my fall...(yes, that bad!)

Sometimes stores will have special physio clinics or even gyms but again, the advice you gain from a 5 minute postural, gait or run assesment (if one is given) is not something I'd recommend to rely on for advice and direction: Know your own body, know when to ask for help, go to a professional for help (ie Doctor, Chartered Physiotherapist or etc).

Not saying that to slam you, just mentioning all that as its been my experience that many issues can become overlooked if your dependant on the few minutes that a sports store can offer you (if indeed they can).

25/08/2011 at 09:29

jennn wrote (see)
Its far easier to pick up an overuse injury from barefoot running then with chunky trainer running

I think Jennn has some very wise words, but I'd take issue with the above. No shoe manufacturer has ever been able to produce a shred of evidence to show that their products help prevent injury, despite all the marketing claims they make about the benefits. Nike, Reebok, Puma, Asics...with all their mighty budgets, they can't prove their shoes protect you at-all.

You'll be injured just as surely with padded shoes, but it will just take much longer for the injury to manifest. The cushioned trainer distances you from the reality of your foot pounding the ground and masks any deficiencies with your running style, so you can run for years without knowing what you're doing wrong. 

Meantime, the problems with your form become ingrained, and the bad habits become harder and harder to break. 

With barefoot running, you learn the hard way if you're doing something wrong. You feel pain after just one or two runs, and that gives you the clue that you need to make a correction.You can then fix the problem before it becomes chronic and does long-term damage.

Jennn is spot on about it being a different philosophy, and I've had my own troubles with my competitive nature driving me to do too much, too soon. I learned the hard way, but it didn't put me off. Barefoot running is indeed not a silver bullet, and just because you take your shoes off it doesn't mean you magically develop perfect form. However, it does help you work on your form - and for that reason a lot of professional athletes include at least a little bit of barefoot work in their training.

I'd encourage any runner to just try running barefoot once in a while. Pick a safe patch of grass or pavement and just run 100 metres or less, observing what happens. I was astonished the first time I tried it - my habitual heel-strike immediately vanished, and I felt like I was  running the way I was supposed to for the first time. I was hooked!

Unless you've grown up in a barefoot culture, most people will have to work at making the transition to barefoot running. As Jennn says, you have to do this with incredible care. When I made the change, I was used to running around 7 or 8 miles per session, so I tried going out for 3 or 4 miles - but it was way too much. I had calf pain for weeks! I should have started with a mile or less, and that's what I did subsequently. Now I can do 6 or 7 miles again, but after over a year I'm still building up slowly - my pace is slower than it used to be, although I'm improving that too. I'm also still working on getting my form right - it's so much better than it was, but not perfect still. 

It just seems to me that if a brand new runner starts barefoot/minimal, they won't have to unlearn all the ingrained bad habits that experienced runners can develop. Any new runner should build up distance and speed gradually in any case, so they're in a good position to follow a barefoot training programe and learn to listen to their body.

Nevertheless, I can't emphasise strongly enough that it's vital to read up on the theory and understand what you're doing. Don't try barefoot or minimal running unless you're prepared to focus on it, listening carefully to the feedback from your body and accepting when it's telling you to stop.

26/08/2011 at 13:05
Just came across this article which explains the case for barefoot running a lot better than I have: http://www.mlive.com/sports/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2011/08/kick_your_shoes_off_run_awhile.html
26/08/2011 at 14:31
interesting stuff on shoes v barefoot

but could I also point you at this article written by a sports scientist

The barefoot running debate: Born to run, shoes & injury: the latest thinking

to me the conclusion strikes a great balance

"And I’d end my opinion on barefoot shoes by just cautioning its advocates to avoid making the same mistake you are accusing the shoe industry of having made for many years. The shoe industry, it is said (with good reason) advocated for many years that shoes were the “answer” – one size fits all (pardon the pun), and that simply putting someone in the right shoe would prevent or cure injury. Now, the barefoot movement is in danger of making the same error – learn from the past and recognize that individuals need individual solutions. So don’t put everyone in a barefoot box."

I have no issues with those who wish to run barefoot for whatever reason, but I do take issue with those that evangelise about it to an extent that they say all shoes are bad for you. that quite simply is just plain wrong.

for those heelstrikers who are not suffering any injuries from using "normal" trainers, why should they change?? if it ain't broke why try to fix it?? that's just plain daft otherwise.



31/08/2011 at 13:44

fat buddha, that's a GREAT article.

One point that's very interesting - the article highlights the way barefoot running is currently something the majority of advocates have turned to after suffering injury. And many of the issues and dangers experienced by people making the transition are due to years of running in shoes. However, a brand new runner won't have those issues.

It seems to me that it's time for barefoot (or minimalist) running to be considered as an option for new runners, rather than just a solution for people who have difficulty running the conventional way. If you learn it from scratch, you should (in theory) be able to pick it up just as easily as everyone did before padded shoes became available in the 1970s.

As for the 'if it ain't broke...' argument, my question would be: how do you know if you're broke or not? I ran for years without having a clue. It was only when my body started to break down under the strain that I found out what I'd been doing wrong...


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