The Saga of Shoes: Wearing the Right Pair for the Right Type of Run
I can still remember the first time I bravely stepped inside of Run N Fun, told a staff member I was training for my first marathon, and was fitted for my first pair of real running shoes. The person who helped me put me in the Brooks Adrenaline, a support shoe for overpronators. I was a new runner and the shoes felt soft and cushy beneath my feet.
For the next several years, I relied on the Brooks Adrenaline to get me through all of my training and all of my races. When they started looking and feeling a little weary, I bought a new pair. This strategy worked for a little while until the model of the shoe changed, the way I ran changed, and overuse injuries started to crop up.
It has been more than seven years since that trip to Run N Fun. I’ve long replaced my single pair of support running shoes with a rotating collecting of neutral shoes. I wear a pair for long runs, a pair for workouts, and another pair for races and I’ve been free from major injury for years!
Why Wear Different Pairs of Shoes for Different Types of Runs?
Not too long ago, I wore the same pair of running shoes for every type of run, workout, or race. This makes good sense for a newer runner, but no longer worked for my training schedule filled with track workouts, tune-up races, and fast (for me) marathons. Suddenly my one pair of clunky trainers wasn’t doing the trick on my 10×400 workout. But why?
For starters, different types of shoes are created for different types of runs. Heavier, highly cushioned shoes aren’t meant for fast interval training the same as lightweight flats aren’t made for 20-mile long runs. Running shoe companies create running shoes for all types of purposes including training and racing on road, trail, and track. It is no wonder that all of these types of shoes are different. Consider track spikes vs. my old Brooks Adrenaline. Completely different shoes, right? So then why try to race on the track with a shoe made for training on the road?
Additionally, rotating the types of shoes used for different runs and workouts reduces your risk for overuse injuries. By wearing different shoes you’ll force your feet and legs to adapt to different conditions and strengthen muscles and tendons that would otherwise go unnoticed.
3 Basic Types of Road Running Shoes
In road running, I’ve found that there are three basic types of shoes (and many makes and models that fall under each type) aside from the traditional Overpronation, Supination, and Neutral shoe categories. I am not a shoe expert nor have I ever worked for a running or shoe company, but I’ve done my fair share of research and have found what works for me.
Not to be confused with other types of “trainers” worn for strength training, cycling, or other activities. These are your soft and cushioned shoes made for lots and lots of easy miles. Examples of running trainers include the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 (neutral) the Brooks Adrenaline (support) and the Nike Zoom Pegasus (neutral).
Best Use: Easy runs and long runs
Uptempo shoes are just that, shoes worn for uptempo runs. These shoes typically have a little less cushion and a little more bounce. They are great for road workouts such as tempo runs, Fartleks, mile repeats, and even long-distance racing. Examples of uptempo shoes include the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante (neutral), the Adidas adios Boost (neutral), and the Nike Zoom Elite (neutral).
Best Use: Road workouts and long distance races
For the experienced racers, the third type of shoe is the racing flat. These shoes are typically very lightweight and provide little support. Many racing flats are interchangeable with uptempo shoes and can perform in both settings. Do you need to race in a racing flat? Absolutely not. But if you’re gunning for a fast time they could help propel you to the finish. Examples include the New Balance 1400 (neutral), the ASICS Gel DS Racer (support), and the Brooks Asteria (mild support).
Best Use: Track workouts and track and road races
The Right Pair of Shoes for You
Ultimately, the right pair of shoes for you will be the ones that feel best on your feet and keep you healthy on the roads, trails, or track. I’ve found my happy medium running in daily trainers on my easy days, uptempo shoes on workout days, and racing flats on race day.
If you’re looking to take your speed workouts or races to the next level, consider investing in a few different types of shoes and don’t forget to consult your local running store for fit and guidance!