Having taken the first steps-in all senses-let’s now see what are the most important and indispensable tools for running. We have said how important it is to start gradually and gain awareness of what you are doing right away, now it is time to run more and more seriously, and to do that we need to choose the right shoes.
Unlike other running shoe guides you find on these pages, this one is only for first-time runners and those who have returned to running after years of inactivity.
The shoes you should NOT use
It may seem superfluous to specify, but a lot of people think that generic “sneakers” are just fine for running. But it gets worse. A lot of people think sneakers are perfect for doing a few handfuls of miles: they’re sporty and cushioned, so why wouldn’t they be ok?
The answer is: no, they are not ok. If so called “running shoes” exist, there is a reason, and the reason is that each sport has its own tools and each shoe is made for a specific sport. Exercise shoes-better referred to as “trainers”-are fine in the gym, for floor exercises, crossfit or whatever, but running shoes are structurally different: they bandage differently, they are cushioned differently, they are … different!
Types of shoes
Lucky you: if you had started running 6/7 years ago you would have had to learn the difference between neutral shoes, with anti-pronation support, supination and so on. Interested? Not anymore.
By now, the supply of running shoes has fewer and fewer categories. Indeed, I could describe it to you with a diagram starting with a question: Where do you run? Trail or road? The two major families of running shoes are in fact road and trail shoes, which are then divided into other subcategories. Let’s leave out the trail ones for now and focus only on the road.
I outline a lot because for people starting out in racing, it is not very interesting to know the difference between a racing and a track shoe: they have time to eventually get to try both, and in the initial stages they will never use them.
Road shoes can be divided into two broad categories: protective and responsive. You can easily recognize them: the former have a midsole (what is commonly and hastily referred to as the “sole” but is actually what lies between the tread and the upper, that is, what cushions your run) that is very obvious and thick while the latter have less material. Simplifying a lot: the thicker the midsole, the more comfortable and protective the shoe but also the less responsive and “slower,” the less thick the midsole…well, the opposite. Protective shoes weigh more than reactive shoes, and you need them to do a lot of miles or help you when you start running because your body is not used to running and can suffer consequences that can result in injury. The more you protect it, the more you can run smoothly. Protective shoes serve both those who do a lot of walking and are trained and those who do less (such as those who are just starting out) but are somewhat overweight and have not yet developed muscles capable of supporting them adequately.
Those best suited to you
If you are just starting out or recovering after a long period of inactivity, choose protective shoes without question.
They will help you tremendously in the beginning and will be faithful training companions even when you master the technique better. Protective shoes also have a dual use: they are both perfect in the beginning for not overloading your body and equally so when you start doing long runs and need a tool to support you when, now fatigued by exertion, your legs no longer support you as they do when they are fresh.
Before choosing a model and always remembering that shoes are not chosen with the eyes but with the feet, the advice is to have a gait analysis done. Almost all specialty stores can do it: it consists of a very short running session on a treadmill filmed by a high-speed video camera. Observing how you rest your foot allows the specialist to recommend the most suitable shoe.
At this point he might tell you strange things like “You need a pronation correction” or “You’re neutral.” You nod and keep in mind what I said to you one fine day (i.e., today), “If you run midfoot-and you should run midfoot, that is, not resting your heel-any shoe will do, as long as it is protective.” For today, trust these words; they will become clear to you later.
Rotation: yes or no?
What is it all about? Rotating shoes does not mean swapping right for left (someday I will be punished for this joke, I know) but using different types depending on the training. For workouts where you particularly care about technique and speed, it is better to use responsive shoes, while for long runs where you build endurance, it is better to have protective shoes with good cushioning. “Who’s thinking about speed now?” you may be wondering. In fact: in the beginning and until you develop a good basic technique, refining speed and then having shoes suitable for particularly fine work is unnecessary. There is always time to improve and get faster, but in the beginning it is better to lay a firmer foundation than ever before.
Do not run in old running shoes bought 15 years ago and “almost new”-perhaps when they were new they were great but today they are no longer mechanically performing and have lost elasticity and tone.
Choose shoes that are protective and in which you feel comfortable.
Don’t be guided only by aesthetics: the best shoe is the shoe that you forget and that, once worn, you never think about again. Get advice from specialists in sports stores.
Don’t skimp: shoes are not just for running but more importantly to protect your muscles and joints. Saving means taking risks.
However, if you want to spend a little less, evaluate last year’s models-you can find them discounted and they are just fine.
THE GUIDE TO START RUNNING
What shoes do you really need for running?