Marathon Running Shoes: Gait Analysis, Pronation, Foot Care & More! [8]

marathon running shoes

Marathon Running Shoes

Discover how to get the most out of your marathon running shoes

They’re the most important item of marathon running kit for injury-free, peak performance.

Once you’ve chosen the right shoes, you need to put them to good use…

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Mark: You might remember a few weeks ago we looked the three most important items of kit.

Dave did say that one of those most important ones was footwear.

Today, I think were gonna talk about marathon running shoes in a bit more detail, aren’t we.

Dave: Before we get on to that, what I would say, the type of running shoes I recommend, not too controversially, are your current choice!

If you’ve stayed injury-free and you’ve steadily improved wearing them, now is not the time to be shopping around.

I know we are in a culture where everything is new and everything is marketed and everything is about change…

But this is the time for loyalty to a tried and trusted brand, not exactly the same pair of shoes…

We’ll come on to that, but stick with what works.

Running Shoe Rotation

I would add that it’s incredibly useful if you can rotate two pairs of running shoes during a marathon campaign.

It avoids consecutive, repeated stresses on specific areas of the foot.

What amuses me is even shoes, a bit like runners, need to recover from the trauma of a session!

They need to decompress and settle down and get back to a normative state for the next session.

And that is going to be much easier to do when you’ve got two pairs of shoes rotating than one.

Particularly of course, if you’re a higher-end marathon runner and you’re running more than once a day.

Then it becomes absolutely paramount.

Mark: Can I just pick up on a little detail there?

When you say rotate two pairs of shoes, should they be two pairs of the same model or can you have different pairs of shoes…

Different makes if they suit them?

Dave: Great point.

If you’re running on the same kind of terrain as you will be mainly when you get into the business end of the marathon campaign, absolutely the same type of shoe, the same brand.

They will differ when you’re in the earlier Trail Phase as I call it…

Because you may then want to alternate a road running shoe when you know you’re mainly running on tarmac to more of a trail running shoe with a better grip, when you’re getting out on the trails.

Running Shoe Store

Dave: It’s absolutely critical in my view to visit a specialist running store.

Not a sport shoe store with 16 year-old trainees, who’ve perhaps never run, but somebody a store with somebody who knows what they’re on about.

A lot of them are very good club runners, and even if they’re not, they’ll be trained to do bio-mechanical assessments of your running action on a treadmill, we call it gait analysis.

They also look at your weight and your foot shape and it’s a fantastic service.

I don’t tend to have it done now, because I know exactly what kind of running shoes I need, but early on I was incredibly impressed and I’ve had it done in different stores as well and it’s been consistently good.

Mark: And I suppose whoever is doing the gait analysis for you should present you with a range of shoes anyway.

Dave: Anyone I’ve been to, they’re incredibly fair minded about it.

And they’ll just as likely to recommend the cheaper variety based on the results of the tests and your own feedback…

Because don’t forget your own feedback is vital.

The Bristol Easy Runner Store Guide To Choosing Running Shoes:

Gait Analysis

We do a service called gait analysis.

This is when we watch a customer walk, look at them in their standing gait and then put them into a cushion neutral trainer just like this.

This is a nice, flexible shoe that’s gonna allow your foot to behave entirely naturally, which allows us to watch you run and see how your foot wants to run!

Everyone is entirely different, everyone has their own running gait.

Running Overpronation

We look for something called overpronation and this is when during the weight transfer through the gait cycle, your foot naturally just wants to roll and tilt a little bit towards the inside of the shoe.

Cushioned Running Shoes

That’s why we use a cushioned shoe, so that your foot can compress the cushioning in whatever way it wants to.

First, we get people onto a treadmill. We film a few seconds footage, we can slow down that movement and look at it frame-by-frame and determine what your foot is naturally doing, then we tend to qualify that by watching you run outside, in a natural environment on the road.

If your foot over-pronates to an excessive amount, we would then pop you into a couple of running trainers that have got specific support in them.

For example in this one, you can see there’s certain graded areas on the midsole.

Everyone tends to land on the lateral side of the heel when they run if they heel strike and so there’s a crash pad in a lot of the trainers that has got special cushioning in there to absorb as much of the impact as possible.

Neutral Running Shoes

If you are a neutral runner, you tend to roll through the centre of the trainer and come off the five toes in a nice straight line.

Therefore, we keep you in a cushioned neutral trainer with no stability.

If your foot over-pronates and rolls towards the inside as you run, we tend to go with shoes that have got a little bit of stability.

This area here that’s marbled, just under the heel, is a slightly harder dense material compared to the cushioned area.

Using dual-density then… if your foot tries to roll towards the inside, we don’t want to completely stop it and conform it to a position.

We just want to stabilise and slow the rate of pronation that’s there.

This in turn then keeps your foot central through the running gait and enables you to come off your five toes in a little bit of a straighter line.

There’s lots of different brands available that offer slightly different ways that they build up their cushioning and stability in all their different trainers.

Everyone’s feet are so different and personal preference is paramount in the fitting service that we do.

One thing that visually may look perfect for you might not feel right…

So that’s why you need to try lots of variations from the different brands to see what fits you right.

Once we ascertain the level of support that you need, you try all the versions from the different brands.

Motion Control Running Shoes

The only other version is for somebody who may need a motion-control trainer.

And that’s the highest level of support that we offer.

Traditionally you may see somebody with a bit of a flatter foot, that might need a motion-control trainer.

The main difference with these, is obviously the greater stability that is apparent in the midsole

So that the grey area is a harder dense material that runs almost through the length of the trainer right under the arch of the foot.

Secondly, on the actual sole of the trainer, this is what we call a flat straight-last trainer.

So you can see the difference from just a mild-support trainer, in terms of the shape of the arch and under sole of the trainer.

For somebody who pronates quite excessively

The rate of movement is quite fast and what this aims to do is again if you land on the outer edge of the heel…

It’s really trying to slow down the rate of pronation and slow down the timing as well of your foot movement.

So that the support in the trainer gets time to actually work and helps to re-stabilise your foot…

Which means you can get off your toes in quite a straight line.

For the lighter side of life, racing trainers and racing flats offer you a different option from your standard kind of mileage trainer.

Weight differs between all the different brands and there’s a clear divide between a racing trainer and a racing flat.

Racing Flat Running Shoes

A racing flat is extremely lightweight, barely anything to it.

Very lightweight upper, extremely flexible and just basically a bit of rubber underneath your foot!

They offer a tiny little bit of cushioning and everyone is entirely different…

Again in terms of tolerance and distance that they think they would wear something like this over.

We’d probably wear this for 5k, some people go up to 10k in a racing flat…

But they’re extremely lightweight and don’t offer you any kind of response really in terms of cushioning.

And they don’t last very long if you do a lot of mileage in them.

Up from that you’re looking at something like a racer trainer.

Lightweight Running Shoes

Slightly bulkier than a racing flat, more of a lighter-weight mileage shoe.

These compliment your training quite nicely.

Lots of people tend to use them for their specific running.

Tempo runs, hill and Km/Mi reps stuff like that.

It’s quite nice to put something on a little bit lighter.

Especially when you come to race day and it just feels a little bit lighter under foot.

A little bit easier to run in and you can take them from 5k up to the marathon distance.

Alongside your road running training, it’s always nice to try to do a little bit of off-road training as well and you can still use your standard road trainers.

They’ve got a nice bit of cushioning.

The only thing is that the tread is quite consistent, just to tolerate smooth tarmac kind of pavement roads.

Off Road Running Shoes

What you can do is go into a more off-road or hybrid shoe as this one is a specific trainer.

This is what we call a hybrid as it’s a dual-purpose trainer.

The idea is it’s got a little bit more of an aggressive tread underneath and a bit more of a durable upper on top.

There’s a closer-net mesh on this one…

It’s actually got a water-resistant nature.

It’s not Gore-Tex, so it can’t be classed as fully waterproof.

But it will be a little bit more resilient than say wearing something with a open-net mesh on the top.

This may keep your foot a little bit cooler, but this one will be protected more on the undergrowth when you’re running off road.

It’s nice that it is a dual-purpose trainer…

Because the idea is if you go out the door for a six-mile run, you take a wrong turn and you end up in a field…

You’ve got the nice track underneath that’s going to give you grip underfoot.

You’ve still got a nice bit of cushioning and stability in there.

So when you do get back on to the road to finish off the run, you’re gonna have the resistance underfoot.

Running Shoe Comparisons

I just jumped on treadmill, done a bit of filming.

On the left-hand side I’ve got a neutral-cushion trainer on my foot and it’s allowing my foot to pronate and roll towards the inside…

Because my foot naturally wants to over-pronate and the weight is tilting towards the inside.

So I’m compressing the cushioning and it’s not holding my foot quite stable.

On the right hand side of the screen there we’ve gone into a supportive trainer.

It’s got a harder denser material running through the midsole.

As my foot naturally tries to pronate and rolls toward the inside, this harder denser material is not allowing my foot to completely collapse and roll over towards the inside.

It’s keeping it quite stable.

If we look from the base of the heel up through the achilles and up through the calf, everything is in a quite a stable position.

Lateral side of the foot, the outside of the heel and ankle are able to stay stable.

If we look on the cushion-neutral trainer, it’s just allowing the foot to curve and slightly tilt towards the inside…

And it’s only over a long period of time…

running through the same kind of movement that you would do road running or treadmill running…

That this has got every potential to contribute to lower limb injuries…

Because everything is working ever so hard, just to try and stabilise the foot.

Whereas the trainer now is doing the job for you and should hopefully reduce the risk of lower limb injuries.

Running Shoe Insoles

Insoles can be used for a variety of different things.

If you’ve sorted your running trainer and you’ve got a stabilised trainer, that should give you enough support.

If you want to complement that through the day and you feel that you have got quite a bit of pronation in your foot, you need a bit more stability.

You can add in different levels of insoles.

Everyone’s feet obviously are entirely different and what it says on the package should fit your foot…

Doesn’t necessarily take into account your foot through the walking gait and the running gait.

So it’s really important to try these things and see what’s best gonna suit you.

Got two examples here of a low-arch insole and a high-arch insole.

You can see the difference in the degree of the raise underneath the arch here.

For somebody who’s got quite a flat foot, a high-arch insole raise is possibly quite intrusive…

But on a counterpoint to that it might actually feel nice and stable and supportive under your foot.

Personal preference is obviously key.

Another side of that is a cushioned insole.

These are a really nice tool, if you’ve got a running trainer and you feel like it’s potentially coming to the end of its life but you feel you’ve got a good few miles left in it.

Sometimes adding in a cushioned insole with strike points on the base of the heel and in the impact zones can just add a little bit more life to your trainer.

So you take your normal sole out of the shoe and replace it with this.

It will add a bit more comfort, a bit more softness on the foot and you might find you get a bit more life out of your trainers.

Alongside that then you’ve got a variation of heel inserts, gel heels, heel lifts to help with all matter of injuries in the achilles up through to the calf.

A gel-arch is a useful day-to-day remedy for maybe somebody suffering with plantar fasciitis.

Because if you’re working really hard to make sure that your running shoes are perfectly suited for you…

You need to really make sure you’re looking after your feet on long weekend walks, day-to-day in the working environment.

It’s very easy to then just put on a ballet pump that doesn’t offer you any support, any kind of cushioning.

You’re working really hard, running and bringing up the mileage and you’re not looking after yourself on a day-to-day basis.

Choosing Running Shoes

Dave: It must pass the gait test, that’s the bit I’ve just discussed.

But it’s also got to pass the comfort test.

Because it’s no good being told you got the bio-mechanically most proficient pair of shoes for an 18-week marathon schedule…

If you’ve got that nagging concern that, “It’s a bit tight, I’m sure it’ll be all right, I’m sure it’s just because it’s new”…

Rubbish! If it isn’t comfortable then, it sure as hell isn’t gonna be comfortable in the middle of a 16 mile run!

Mark: No, because it’s gonna rub and all sorts of things…

Dave: It’s got to pass that test and a few little tips…

Obviously don’t just restrict your test to the gait treadmill.

Get out!

They all let you get on the pavement and run up and down the road for 40-50 yards or whatever.

When you do that, do a few strides, run at different paces

Just to see how it performs with the faster running you’re going to be doing.

Because that’s very important and another tip a lot of people forget is to wear the socks or buy some socks that you will actually be running in.

There’s a big difference!

If you’ve just come from work and you’re wearing kind of ‘civvy’ socks…

Or worse still you’re not wearing socks (although I don’t think they allow that for the test)…

It’s not going to be a representative test of how you’re actually going to be running for real.

And then another very subtle tip is…

It’s preferable to buy your shoes later in the day

Because your feet by then will have swollen up to the level where if there is any rubbing and problems with friction, it will be detected.

This is because your feet will be that much more swollen by the activity of the day.

Mark: What about seasonal changes?

Dave: Seasonal changes do make a difference as well.

Obviously in cold weather, your feet are more compacted than when it’s warm and that does have a bearing.

Changing Running Shoes

A dog is for life and not for Christmas…

But running shoes, you don’t need that kind of loyalty to that pair!

You need to be able to ruthlessly discard them, or, if you feel really precious about your shoes…

Give them a graceful retirement to the allotment or something like that!

Mark: I suppose you could fill them with earth and plant flowers if you really wanted to!

Dave: I come from an environmental recycling background and the though of people just throwing shoes in the tip is anathema to me.

so everyone of my shoes has done the rounds in family walks and trips to the allotment and whatever.

Recycle your pair of running shoes every 300-400 miles.

And what I would say to that, because you say, “Oh Dave that’s quite a big range.”

If you are injury-prone I would go on the lower end of that spectrum and make it 300 miles.

And if you’re not, I would definitely still make it 400 miles, so that you don’t become injury-prone.

Mark: Okay, I know some people might be saying:

“Well that’s gonna start costing me more money.”

But there again, running is an inexpensive sport.

Dave: Well you’re not a triathlete. Well you may be…

But in this particular instance where we are talking about marathon running…

You don’t have to invest in a bike or helmets, all that kind of kit and…

Your running shoe is the most important investment.

Something that’s super, super cheap is unlikely to meet your needs.

But it doesn’t follow that it’s a linear curve.

Often the very, very expensive brands can be over-cushioned for what your needs are for example.

Mark: So in essence what you’re saying is obviously the cheap ones aren’t necessarily the best bargain as far as performance and longevity and so forth is concerned.

But by the same token, you’re not going to get a lot more performance out of something that is a lot more expensive.

Dave: No, there’s a sweet spot in terms of your investment and that is informed by getting a really comprehensive test.

Mark: One thing that does strike me, is you said you’ve got to change your shoes every 300-400 miles…

That’s not the easiest thing to track.

Unless, you’re writing down your miles all the time. Is there an easier way?

Dave: There’s a much easier way!

What I use with my Smart Scheduler for marathon runners is a traffic light system

Where once they’ve clocked above 300 miles it goes amber…

And then when it gets into the real business end of their wear it goes red…

And alerts them to change those running shoes!

Mark: Okay, that’s good.

Obviously we’ve got quite a range there. Can you put in the amount of miles that you need to?

Dave: You can pre-configure the number of miles.

As we said, the spectrum I was looking at is if you are injury-prone, you can set the thing up for 300…

And if you’re wanting to stay injury-free, then set it to 350, 370 or whatever, up to 400.

Mark: Okay.

Marathon Coaching Sessions

Dave: Once you’ve chosen the right shoes, you need to put them to good use.

I’m delighted to say, I’ve opened up a few more personal strategy session slots.

You have an opportunity to get on a free 30 minute one-on-one video call with me to plot out your fastest path to marathon success.

Mark: I think the main point is to take away is you don’t have to spend a fortune but you do need a good gait analysis

Dave: And you need to makes sure the shoes are comfortable.

Please leave any comments you have on marathon running shoes below. 

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