Tips on Buying Women’s Running Shoes.
Compared to other activities that you might choose to do for keeping fit, losing weight and generally staying healthy, running is perhaps one of the cheapest. Some gym memberships can cost you an arm and a leg, and tie you in for months at a time, or make it very difficult to get out of the membership if you decide to move home or get injured and need to take a break for a while. Most other types of fitness programs, like yoga or pilates, normally require you to get some kit, but you need to pay for the lessons every time you go – or you pay up front for a course, so if you miss a class, you lose the money for that session. Even if it’s cycling that you are into, you will need to get a ladies bike, a pair of women’s cycling shoes and a crash helmet. How easy it is just to walk out of your front door and start jogging! The most expensive thing you will need is your running shoes, and since you will save so much money (which could so easily have been squandered elsewhere), you are well advised to pay a little more for the perfect pair of women’s running shoes. Cheap and nasty doesn’t cut it when you are pounding the streets or trails, where injuries will undoubtedly be the only result.
The differences between men’s and women’s running shoes
Apart from the obvious size differences between men’s running shoes and women’s running shoes, is there any reason to opt for women’s running shoes specifically? Or is it simply a case of different size scale, and pretty feminine colors? Well actually, there are significant differences in the ones made for women and girls. Of course there are some great looking shoes in terms of style and color.
The female anatomy is not like that of a man, and running shoes need to reflect this in order to protect women against possible injury. Because women tend to be lighter than men of the same foot size, the midsole foam padding can be reduced. A man would need more padding to protect the joints from jarring at each footfall. For women, cutting down on this unnecessary cushioning means lighter weight running shoes, and therefore less fatigue.
The women’s running shoe upper is also modified, as men’s feet tend to be longer and wider than those of a comparably sized woman. There are also some slight anatomical differences between males and females in the ball of the foot and the big toe areas. It therefore makes sense for manufacturers to design and build ladies running shoes from scratch, in order to achieve a better and more comfortable fit; rather than taking a man’s running shoe design and trying to modify that.
Perhaps the most obvious distinction between men and women is that the woman’s hips are wider. You might wonder why this is important, but it has a huge impact on the female runner’s biomechanics. Wider hips mean that the angle from the hip to the knee is larger for a woman than for a man. This can cause the muscles of the leg – quadriceps, hamstrings and iliotibial band – to tighten up. But more importantly, it causes women to be more liable to overpronation (where your feet collapse inwards), and causes greater stress on the knee joints. Proper warming up and stretching can go a long way to preventing injuries due to tight muscles; whereas getting your feet fitted for their ideal running sneakers will begin to address the biomechanical differences which can make women more at risk from running injuries than boys.
So women’s running shoes are an absolute necessity for the female runner. They are far more than just pretty pink versions of the men’s jogging sneakers. They are lighter, have uppers designed specially for the female foot shape (so they are not too wide, which can cause rubbing and result in blisters), and they offer support for the arch to help minimise overpronation. Orthotics running shoes are also available, which have inserts to further support the feet and correct potential problems associated with the woman’s higher Q-angle (hip-to-knee angle).
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The decision to start a fitness campaign by committing to go running two or three times a week could be life-changing. You will lose weight and tone muscles, and you will look and feel fantastic as a result. But your hard work could easily be ruined by unnecessary injuries if you simply grab the cheapest sneakers you can find. The gear you wear will determine to a large degree how far into the future you keep up your jogging routine, and for female runners, the most important piece of kit is a pair of women’s running shoes.
You will have to be prepared to ask questions at every stage when choosing your running shoes; questions demanding answers from both yourself and the sales staff you encounter in the stores, trying to sell you their wears. Here are some tips to help you when shopping for running shoes for women.
- There are many types of footwear for running, so you will need to decide what kind of jogging you are going to do. Think about the sorts of distances you are aiming to achieve each week. Will you be training for a marathon? Then you’ll need more than one pair of running sneakers. What kind of terrain do you intend running on? If you are going to run on cross country trails you will probably need to consider running spikes instead of flat soled running shoes. If you are going to jog in parks and on the roads, then you will require a good cushioned pair of women’s running shoes.
- It is of the utmost importance to know your foot type, because the manufacturers have produced shoes to cater for all types, and you will benefit greatly from getting the correct ones. Try doing the “wet foot test” to see if you have a neutral gait, or whether you overpronate or supinate when running. Many dedicated running stores will be able to carry out gait analysis, which involves getting you to run on a treadmill while filming your footfalls with a very high speed camera. You can then see which way your foot rolls, and get the most beneficial running shoes accordingly.
- It may be a fairly surprising fact, but your feet expand slightly throughout the day, especially if you are standing on them a lot. When you buy running shoes, go to the store in the afternoon or evening so you don’t end up getting ones that are slightly small once your feet have expanded.
- It is a good idea to take your old running sneakers with you to the store, or even wear them. A well-trained salesman will be able to spot problems and perhaps suggest a change to a different type of shoe, based on where certain parts of the current training shoes have wear and tear. For example, you might find that you are wearing away only the inside part of the sole treads. This may indicate that you are an overpronator who is wearing neutral running shoes. The problem will of course get worse as you wear away more and more of the tread, as that will facilitate the inward rolling of the foot. (Many people often only become aware of this once knee problems have begun to occur, and they are consulting a sports physio for help!)
- If you know the store you go to has a treadmill for gait analysis, turn up there in jogging pants and a comfortable top, so you can try out different running shoes by actually running with them on, rather than just standing still.
- For better levels of comfort and foot health, choose moisture wicking socks for your running rather than cotton ones. Take the socks you wear for running to the store, along with any other supporting inserts such as orthotics that you would normally use. This way, you will know if they fit properly, and still feel comfortable in the new jogging footwear you aim to buy.
- You should be regularly visiting your running supply store for maximum benefit and injury prevention. Definitely after 500 miles, it is time for a new pair of ladies running shoes. Always keep a log of your training, and include (amongst other things) which shoes you wore, how far you ran, your time for the run, and maybe a cumulative total totted up for those shoes. You may also want to note down the date you bought your latest pair, but the important thing is how many miles you pounded out in them.
- Measure your feet fairly regularly, and always try to get that done by the sales assistant in the store, so you can get an optimum fit. Remember to get the measurement done while you are standing up for a more accurate representation of the size when running.
- Do not allow yourself to be rushed by sales staff. Take your time and try on several pairs. Even try different sizes (esp. half sizes if available) to get the perfect shoes in both length and width.
- Always look for quality rather than low price – think of buying running shoes as an investment in equipment designed to minimize injury. (If you were going to bungee jump, you wouldn’t look for the cheapest bungee rope available!) Once you have found a decent pair that works perfectly for you, then you might consider shopping around online for same ones again at a discount.
- The fit of your new running shoes should be snug but not so tight that they cut off the circulation and make your feet go numb. They should not be so wide that your feet can slide slightly from side to side; that is a recipe for an attack of the blisters, a runner’s number one foe. The shoes should have plenty of padding in the midsole to absorb heel impacts when running, to protect your feet and joints.
- As for sizes, keep on trying pairs until you find the ideal ones, which should have perhaps a thumb’s width of extra space around the big toe. This prevents your toes from rubbing and blistering, especially once you have warmed up into your stride and your feet may have expanded slightly. Do not overdo this though – a half size bigger should be fine, but no bigger, otherwise they will start to rub and chafe.
- Try and hunt down the lightest weight women’s running shoes you can find, as long as they have all the required features for your foot type, and they fit perfectly. The last thing you need when running is to carry the extra unnecessary weight of a heavy pair of clodhoppers! Heavy ones will just slow you down and lead you to fatigue.
- Moisture wicking socks were mentioned above (Tip#6). If possible, try to buy a pair of well ventillated running sneakers to help keep your feet cool and dry. Many brands have options incorporating moisture wicking linings which will help to keep feet healthy and comfy.
- Last but by no means least, do not buy a new pair of women’s running shoes and expect to go straight out and run a marathon. They can take a little while to get used to and need breaking in properly. Give it a week or two of running, and stay alert for areas of your feet where thay might rub or chafe. Common places are the toes and the top of the heels. You might consider wearing a Band-Aid or slightly thicker socks for breaking in new shoes. For general chafing, use Vaseline or other gel products such as “Chafe Free” by Asics.
So that’s it! Fifteen tips to think about next time you are out looking for a new pair of women’s running shoes. I hope they help you to find that perfect pair, and enjoy your next 500 miles of painless, injury-free fitness.