The right running shoes frequently make the difference between a good and bad half marathon experience. Depending on who you ask, shoes last between 300-600 miles before their cushioning starts to break down. Hence, assuming you put 10 miles on them each week you’ll need to replace your running shoes at least once a year. Do not mess around when it comes to your footwear – by running in old shoes you are practically begging for injury. Buy a new pair of running shoes before you start training for your half marathon.
This video demonstrates how to know when it's time to replace your running shoes:
There are 4 types of running shoes: neutral cushioning, stability, motion control and minimalist. Each of these shoe styles has been created for specific foot types and running styles (running style is also referred to as "gait" in the shoe reference literature). Hence, when buying running shoes you need to buy the appropriate shoe type for your foot type and running style.
Your running shoes need to fit your foot comfortably and provide the appropriate support for your gait. You can assess fit in two ways. You can consult a salesperson at a specialty running shoe store. Or you can do it yourself using the techniques described below.
Your running style is determined by the amount your foot pronates during your stride. Pronation refers to how much your foot rolls inward when it strikes the ground. Pronation helps absorb shock by distributing your weight efficiently while running. Some pronation is a good thing, but it is very easy to do too much or too little.
People generally fall into one of three groups: neutral pronators, over-pronators and under-pronators (also known as supinators). Neutral pronators have the running style that is most effective for shock absorption. Over-pronators roll their feet farther to the inside of their body, and under-pronators roll their feet less to the inside of their body, than neutral pronators. Under- and over-pronators do not absorb shock as effectively as neutral pronators, which can put enough stress on the body to lead to injury.
Fortunately, shoe companies have created shoes that provide appropriate support for the various running styles / amounts of pronation. You can perform two tests to identify which type of shoe is right for you.
Get an old pair of your running shoes and examine the wear pattern on the soles. Over-pronators tend to have more wear on the inside of the sole. Under-pronators tend to have more wear on the outside of the sole. Neutral pronators tend to have wear that is evenly distributed on the sole. The picture below shows a typical wear pattern for the various levels of pronation.
Get a paper towel, fold it in half and place it on the floor. Then wet the bottom of your foot and step on the paper towel. Remove your foot and look at the imprint.
This video demonstrates how to do a wet foot test:
Normal (medium) arch: A medium arch will leave an imprint showing about half of the skin surface between the heel and ball of your foot. People with medium arches are generally (but not always) neutral pronators. These feet do well in Stability shoes.
Flat (low) arch: A flat arch will leave an imprint showing all, or nearly all, of the skin surface between the heel and ball of your foot. People with flat arches are generally (but not always) over-pronators. Flat feet do well in Stability or Motion Control shoes.
High arch: A high arch will leave an imprint showing little of the skin surface between the heel and ball of your foot. People with high arches are generally (but not always) under-pronators. These feet do well in Neutral cushioning shoes.
A summary of the typical results of the gait tests is below. Your gait determines which type of running shoe you should consider.