Fitness: To get right shoes, tread carefully

Selection based on comfort reduces injury risks, and running on treadmill confirms it

Mok Ying Ren preparing to try out New Balance's new line of running shoes on an in-store treadmill.
Mok Ying Ren preparing to try out New Balance's new line of running shoes on an in-store treadmill. PHOTO: ONEATHLETE

Dear Alice and Wayne, thank you for the questions.

Running shoes serve the primary purpose of protecting your feet while you run. Of course, with the myriad of aesthetically pleasing shoes in the market nowadays, they can also be used to make a fashion statement.

In any case, selection is highly dependent on each individual, but it is not a difficult process.

A shoe comprises a few key components, with each playing a role in your selection.


The upper is the material which completely covers over and around your foot. With its distinct colour and design, it is probably what attracts you to a shoe the most.

However, pay attention to the design and mould.

Many current models, such as the New Balance Fuel Cell Impulse, use a "bootie construction" fit, which caters to your foot's curvature for a more snug fit.

These days, uppers are also made using mesh materials which allow greater airflow. This reduces the weight and, from a practical perspective, allows the shoe to dry faster after washing.


The midsole is where you will find the cushion for your foot. Different brands have different cushioning materials and systems for runners to achieve different experiences.

For example, New Balance's signature Fresh Foam technology, a "soft pillow" type of cushion, is used in the latest model in the line, the Beacon. In contrast, the brand's FuelCore 5000 model features the REVlite foam for its midsole for a more responsive and "fast" feel.

Which midsole is the best? This depends on your preference.

One key feature of the midsole is the heel-to-toe drop, or offset - the difference in height between the heel and the forefoot of the shoe.

Most have an offset of 6mm to 1.2cm, although some go as low as zero to simulate running on a flat surface. Shoes with a low offset require you to activate your calves more, while those with a high offset encourage you to land on your heels more. Generally, a 6 to 8mm offset will suit most.

Another aspect to consider is whether a neutral or a stability shoe would be more suitable. Stability shoes typically have some stiffer material on the inner side of the sole (usually grey), which theoretically prevents overpronation (arches which collapse inwardly) - although that effectiveness is not strongly supported by scientific evidence. If you find that such shoes help with your injuries, stick to them. Otherwise, base your decision on your comfort level.


The outsole is the bottom-most part of the shoe which makes direct contact with the ground. It is, admittedly, rather difficult to test the outsole in the store. Personally, it is important for my shoes to be able to handle slippery conditions, such as mud and wet drain covers.

You may through experience find that certain brands are more slip-resistant than others. This is particularly important if you are looking for shoes which can handle trails and mud.


Notwithstanding the above, recent medical studies have found that when an athlete selects a shoe based on comfort level, it appears to naturally reduce injury risks. This interesting observation removes a lot of (unnecessary) stress associated with shoe selection.

My recommendation would be to go to a running speciality store with a treadmill . As weird as it may seem or sound, try shopping for shoes in your running attire so that you can get on the treadmill for a test run. If it feels comfortable, then this may just be the shoe for you.

With The Straits Times Run approaching, please do not wear new shoes on race day; I have made this mistake before and paid dearly.

Start wearing your new kicks now so that you would have had at least a month to break into them.

•#STrun2018 participants can enjoy a one-time 25 per cent discount to purchase products from New Balance, the official sportswear sponsor



Why does buying a suitable running shoe seem to be so hard? any tips?


What's your favourite running shoes brand and model?

•For more details on the training programme #RunwithMok or to #AskMok, go to

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 19, 2018, with the headline Fitness: To get right shoes, tread carefully. Subscribe