ST: Getting into the right kicks!

This article was first published in The Sunday Times on 19 Aug 2018.

#AskMok

  1. Why does buying a suitable running shoe seem to be so hard? any tips? – Alice Lee
  2. What’s your favorite running shoes brand and model? – @wayne_wcw

Dear Alice and Wayne, thank you for the question.

Running shoes serve the primary purpose of protecting your feet while you run. Of course, with the myriad of aesthetically-pleasing shoes on the market nowadays, running shoes can also be used to make a fashion statement!

In any case, shoe selection is highly dependent on each individual, but it is not a difficult process. A shoe is comprised of a few key components and each component should play a role in your shoe selection.

stylist-ideas-what-to-look-for-in-a-running-shoe-3-anatomy-explained-sierra-trading-post-blog
Google image on the anatomy of running shoe.

Upper

The upper of the shoe is the material which completely covers over and around your foot. With its distinct colour and design, it is probably what attracts you to a particular shoe the most.

However, pay attention to the design and mould of the upper. Many current shoe models, such as the New Balance Fuel Cell Impulse model uses a “bootie construction” fit, which caters to your foot’s curvature and gives a more snug fit. These days, uppers are also made using mesh materials which allow greater airflow. This reduces the weight of the shoe and, from a practical perspective, allows the shoe to dry faster after washing!

Midsole

The midsole of the shoe is where you will find the cushion for your foot. Different shoe brands have different cushioning materials and systems for runners to achieve different experiences while running.

For example, New Balance’s latest Fresh Foam Beacon model adopts the brand’s signature Fresh Foam cushioning technology for its midsole, providing its wearers a “soft pillow” type of cushion. In contrast, the New Balance FuelCore 5000 model features the REVlite foam for its midsole, to provide a more responsive and “fast” feel for its wearers.

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New Balance’s new line of running shoes. Photo: RunONE

Which midsole is the best? This depends on your preference.

One key feature of the midsole is the heel-to-toe drop or offset of the shoe. This refers to the difference in height between the heel and the forefoot of the shoe. Most shoes have an offset of 6mm to 1.2cm, although some go as low as 0mm to simulate running on a flat surface. Wearing a shoe with a low offset requires you to activate your calves more while wearing a shoe with a high offset encourages you to land on your heels more. Generally, shoes with a 6 to 8mm offset will suit most.

Another aspect to consider for the midsole is whether a neutral cushioned or a stability shoe would be more suitable. Stability shoes typically have some stiffer material on the inner side of the sole (usually coloured grey), which theoretically prevents overpronation (arches which collapse inwardly). However, the effectiveness of using stability shoes to address overpronation is not strongly supported by scientific evidence. If you find that such shoes help you with your injuries, stick to them. Otherwise, you may base your decision on your comfort level.

Outsole

The outsole of the shoe is the most bottom part of the shoe which makes direct contact with the ground. It is, admittedly, rather difficult to test the outsole in the store. Personally, it is important for my shoes to be able to handle slippery conditions, such as mud and wet drain covers.

You may through experience find that certain shoe brands are more slip-resistant than others. This is particularly important if you are looking for shoes which can handle trails and mud.

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Mok Ying Ren trying out New Balance’s new line of running shoes on an in-store treadmill. Photo credits: ONEATHLETE

Comfort above all

Notwithstanding the above, recent medical studies have found that when an athlete selects a shoe based on his level of comfort, it appears to naturally reduce the risk of injury. This interesting observation removes a lot of (unnecessary) stress associated with shoe selection.

My recommendation would be to purchase your shoes at a running specialty store with a treadmill for you to test your shoes on. For myself, I head down to the New Balance store at Kallang Wave Mall, where I can run and test the shoe on the treadmill. As weird as it may seem or sound, try going shopping for shoes in your running attire so that you can get on the treadmill for a test run! If it feels comfortable, then this may just be the shoe for you.

With The Straits Times Run approaching, it is my sincere advice that you do not wear any new shoes on race day – I have made this mistake before and paid the price dearly! Start wearing your new kicks now so that you would have had at least 1 month to break into them. If you need to buy a pair of new running shoes, New Balance (the Official Sportswear) offers a one-time 25% discount to purchase NB products, which you can leverage on as a participant of #STrun2018!


Week 12 Giveaway:

Mok Ying Ren goes to the NB store at ________ to try out the shoes on an in-store treadmill before buying.   

Submit your answer to the question on #LearnWithMok and stand to win a race slot for ST Run, happening on 23 Sep 2018!

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