Finding the Right Shoes for your Marathon

Physiotherapist Neil Smith’s monthly article to guide your Marathon training. This month he talks to podiatrist Alex Ross about choosing the right running shoe.

With 2018 getting into full swing, many of your marathon training programs will just be getting started. January and February are often busy months at our clinic with marathon runners picking up injuries as the mileage cranks up. One factor that we commonly see linked with a variety of running injuries is footwear.

Now don’t get me wrong… it is rare for footwear to be the sole cause of an injury (pun intended) but it can certainly play a large part in developing overload injuries. Different types of footwear will have different impacts on the mechanics of the foot. This can then lead to increasing load at the ankle, knee hip or lumbar spine. For this reason, I commonly get our expert podiatrist Alex Ross involved in my management of marathon runners. This is Alex’s thoughts on what to consider when shopping for your marathon footwear.

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When running a marathon (hopefully) only one region of the body makes contact with the ground and that is your feet; making footwear selection an important aspect of not only your run but also your training régime leading up to the big race.

The footwear industry is BIG business with many different models and styles of running footwear; from featherweight trainers to bulky running shoes and everything in the middle. With this expansive range on offer it can be quite overwhelming when it comes to choosing running shoes and especially trying to find the ideal’ shoe for you.

Choosing the right trainer for you

The current paradigm most footwear companies and running stores use is three different subgroups of trainers: neutral, support and control. You will be usually be advised which is more suitable depending on your level of pronation’ and the height of your arch. However, we know through research that pronation isn’t always linked to injury; let alone deciding how much pronation is too much’; and that our foot shape does not predict how our foot is going to move when walking and running.

With this and current research in mind when finding a running shoe the most important aspect should be COMFORT; not only does it seem very basic, it is importantly linked to injury reduction. The main aspect to keep in mind is comfort is a personal subjective measure; inherently meaning only the runner (you) can be the one to decide what is the best shoe.

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This may mean some trial and error before landing upon the shoe that compliments your run the best but when you do find a shoe that works well with your running stick with it and avoid major design changes. If you’re having trouble finding your ideal running shoe it’s worthwhile having a gait assessment with a podiatrist to help guide you with your footwear choices.

Footwear choice can also be influenced by the experience of the runner with first time marathoners more likely requiring more substance from the shoe midsole compared to an experienced runner with years of miles in the legs who can use a lighter shoe to help improve their running economy.

For first time marathon runners while we’re building up our running miles we should be continuing to compliment these longer runs with shorter tempo runs or interval training; for the experienced runners this is something they will be attuned to. When completing these shorter higher intensity runs this can be a time to use a lighter shoe with less midsole to aid running economy without substituting the protection required for the longer repetitive runs.

Tips for finding the ideal running shoe:

  • Attend a store with a treadmill so you can run in 2 – 3 pairs of trainers before purchasing and be guided by the comfort and fit of the shoe while running. 
  • In addition to comfort, if you feel you’re running easier (especially if it’s easing a current injury niggle) and making less noise when running this is a good sign of the shoe complimenting your movement pattern well. 
  • Keep in mind previous footwear choices (good and bad) to help guide your decision; if you’ve enjoyed the feel of a shoe previously and avoided injury keep to a similar style/​brand of footwear and likewise if you’ve had trouble it might be time for a change. 
  • Ideally it’s good to have 2 pairs of trainers; either the same style rotating between runs or conversely a lighter, more flexible pair for gym or sprint/​interval training and a sturdier pair for your longer miles. 

If you’re currently experiencing an injury or niggle it’s worth getting assessed by a podiatrist or physiotherapist to ensure your still achieving your spring goals in building towards marathon season. Click here to book an appointment with one of our expert team members across our clinics. 


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