Every runner needs a good pair of running shoes. What they don't tell you is that there are so many types of running shoes out there, and once you buy one pair, it's only a matter of time before you get some new ones.
What we want to do in this guide is break down the types of running shoes that are available and when you might want to use them.
Please remember that running shoes are a very individual thing, and it is important to try lots of shoes on and find the right ones for you. You may do all your runs in a racer trainer and that is ok!
With that in mind, lets get started
Your every-day runners or Mileage Munchers
These are your go to running shoe that you put on and run. They'll probably be the first pair of running shoes you buy.
These shoes can be used for all your running, but as you progress to lighter pairs you'll use this for all your recovery, easy and steady running. They'll be the shoe you warm up and and cool down in, if you have the option of changing shoes in a session.
Comfort is the name of the game here, and they'll tend to have a good amount of cushioning.
The Racer Trainer
The next shoe we are talking about is the racer trainer. The idea of this shoe is that it is a gateway to something faster and flatter, whilst still retaining some of the comfier properties of your every day shoe. Often called a Tempo Shoes, this is the type of shoe you'd use to do any Threshold or 10k Sessions in, and probably a few races.
I think these shoes are great, they combine the best of a racing shoe and an everyday trainer. The reduced weight gives you that feeling of lightness, and you often feel more of a bounce from the shoe when running. If you are looking to get something a bit more aggressive, start here!
These are shoes to race in! Back in the 70's, when the running boom was happening, everyone used racing flats, they just didn't know it. So called because they tend to be flat, these sorts of shoes are what you use for races.
Within the racing flat category, you can have shoes with very little to them, so flimsy they almost resemble a sock. These are the sort of shoes you can use for the track or shorter distances on the road. There are also marathon racing shoes, and these have some cushioning to them, but are as light as possible
Racing shoes are set up very aggressively, and are usually very hard. It is important to do a few sessions in your shoes, just to get used to them but not many. You'll be putting a lot more stress on the calf and Achilles with these shoes, so be careful how often you use them,
Running shoe brands, not wanting to be caught off guard by the barefoot running movement, created a whole new category of shoes for themselves....minimalist running shoes. The idea with these is they allow you to have very little on your foot, but still protect it from the outside world. This has now spawned into a range of 'natural' running shoes, with different grades depending on how barefoot you want to be!
In all honesty, the minimalist shoes will fit into one of the above 3 categories, mainly the racer trainer or racing flat. There's no real difference, it is just how they feel on your foot.
What the barefoot running debate did is force companies to make a lot more shoes, so now we as a consumer get loads to try on and see what we like!
Off road running can require a special off road shoe, especially in the muddy winters. These shoes fall into two categories
Door to Door Hybrid
The door to door hybrid allows you to run from your back door, over trails and back to your door! Not everyone lives within minutes of lush trails, so you might have to do some running on the road, that is where these shoes come in. They aren't as good on the slippy muddy surfaces as a trail shoe, but they won't be destroyed by the road either. A great alternative
The Off Road shoe will have various sized lugs in them (grooves) to help you grip in muddy terrain. The bigger the lugs, the better the grip you'll get. You can also get off road trail shoes for rocky surfaces. Get these if you are going to be doing lots of off-road running. That way you save your regular trainers from the muck and mud!
That was our brief guide to the various types of running shoes. It isn't an exhaustive list, but should give you some ideas on what to look for when you next go shoe shopping!