Nike may be the trainer of the fashion-conscious, but what's the sporty choice? Our panel hits the ground running
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The Independent Culture
AS OUR panel exemplified, buying a pair of shoes for running is mostly a matter of the shape of your feet, the way you run and, of course, whether you like the look of the shoe. Never buy just because you feel an attachment to a certain brand - Reebok, for example, are generally too narrow if you have wide feet. Buy for comfort. Serious runners will know whether they pronate (strike the ground on the outside of the heel and roll inwards) or, the opposite, supinate. Because few staff in high street sports shops are trained well enough to help the serious runner, we have suggested expert shop Runners Needs. Also talk to other runners, and perhaps buy special socks to minimise the risk of blisters.


Our panel was made up of two experts, an enthusiast and a fashion guru. The experts were Andrew Shields, sports section editor of London listings magazine Time Out and Carlos Mendonca, assistant programme director at the Central YMCA gym. Our enthusiast was Liz Moody-Stuart who ran in the National Cross Country Championships at school and for King's College London, and has continued since. Imran Khan, editor-in-chief of cult youth magazine Second Generation gave his opinion on the aesthetics.


All the trainers were worn by the panel and were taken for a short run. The panel was looking for fit, firmness of support, ease and practicality of lacing, weight of the shoe and its overall look.


pounds 59.99

One of the many running shoes using an air-in-the-sole system, the Puma Venom Ultra has looped eyelets which run further down the foot than is standard to offer a tighter fit. Moody-Stuart in particular liked this feature, "these allow for odd-shaped feet because of the length of the eyelets. I like these very much, the reflective bits are good and I liked the green honeycomb sole even before I tried them on - they're something nice for the people behind me in the race to look at." Mendonca thought "there's good stability in the middle of the trainers and they are wide in front which will support the foot without any problems, but I'm personally not keen on running on air-filled soles." Shields, however, liked the benefits that the air brings. "They are comfortable and I think these would be good for someone who does a bit of running on a treadmill. I don't like the styling and I don't like the wide lacing because they don't support my feet enough. I think they've got fashion in mind." If they have, the fashion world isn't impressed. Over to Khan: "they're grim. I don't like the Eighties B-boy lacing thing and I ask you, green and white."


pounds 54.99

These shoes are extremely lightweight with good flexibility coming from the "stability web" which sits in the centre of the sole. The rear of the shoe has an "Abzorb" cushioning pad and the eyelets allow for variable lacing. There are also reflective tabs at the rear and reflective stitching around the shoe for night runners. Shields felt that although, "there's too much mesh and not enough leather, I'd have the New Balance if I was a serious runner. They look nice and they're lovely to run in. They're light, which if you're racing is great but lesser mortals need to feel what's on their feet." Mendonca agreed that not only were they comfortable, but that they had plenty of space inside". Even Khan, who was initially sceptical, was converted, "they actually look a lot better on, and they're really nice summer shoes because they're light." Only Moody-Stuart failed to be moved by their looks, "they're ugly and really low cut which I don't like. There's hardly any padding around the ankle - in fact because they're really crispy which would rub. I'd probably race in these, but not train."


pounds 90

The Air Max has suffered from the fact that the fashion world has taken it up with such keenness; runners tend not to think this a recommendation. Past complaints have been that the heels slip and the uppers at the front of the shoe are too narrow. Nike has listened; the front has been widened and the eyelets moved back to improve the fit. Shields thought them the best-looking: "they're not full of fussy, stupid bits. These are the sleekest of them all", and Imran Khan agreed. "They're Nikes, what else can you say?" As to their class as a running shoe, the two experts were split. Shields said: "there's good support of the medial arch, a nice speed lacing system and plenty of leather on the uppers and they're very comfy to run in with the air system." Mendonca was less impressed with the air system and thought them better for other uses, "they're perfect for cross training, but they're a bit heavier than the others for running." Moody-Stuart loved the padding around the ankle, "they give support and the moulding underneath is good, but the mesh reminds me of my father's Y-fronts."


pounds 49.99

This was a shoe our experts couldn't agree on. The Galaxy is well cushioned, has a tread that will suit most uses and has "adiPRENE" (a light but dense EVA compound which is used to give cushioning and longevity) in the heel and forefoot. Mendonca found them less than comfortable, "because of the position of the insole, they're a bit wide, and if you have lots of space at the front, your foot starts moving around. The back of the sole comes out too far which can cause the scuffing of one foot against the other as you run. I think they'd be good for cross training." Moody-Stuart had a problem with the shape, "these are wider based which suits me but on the whole they're wider fitting which is better for relaxing in than for running. However, I like the orange on the back, it makes them good for road running in the dark." As if to prove that you should go with what feels good, Shields felt somewhat different. "For me these were the best. They're very well supported on the sole and in the arch. I suffer from slightly flat feet but I felt confident running in these. The lacing is very simple and they're quick to get on and off if required. I also think it would be a long-wearing shoe because it's strong with lots of leather." Khan felt much the same, if for different reasons: "They feel as if they're top quality and would last forever. The colour scheme's great and the reflective bits are really cool."


pounds 70

These shoes use Reebok's DMX system, one similar to Nike's Air system, and one which pushes air through chambers as you run. The shoe is light and comfortable, but they didn't impress Mendonca. "They're too narrow. I know that they do lots of research, but they are just not specialised enough for me. There isn't enough stability and the gap between the front and back of the sole makes your foot invert." Moody- Stuart, who liked the shoe and its sole, said: "I always used to run in Reebok. I love the moulding underneath. The fancier sole is better when running on hard surfaces." Shields agreed that the sole was unusual, "it gives a weird sensation, but I do like the feeling that the front of my foot is well protected, even if the lacing is unnecessarily gimmicky." Fashion guru Khan was unimpressed: "Eugghh. It's like the designer's thought what trainers will look like in 2010 and got it completely wrong".


Specialist advice on choosing running shoes is available from Runners Needs, 34 Parkway, London NW1 (0171 267 7525). Major sports retailers offer a wide range of shoes but may not always offer specialist advice, try: J-D Sports, call 01706 626400/1 for branches; or Cobra, call 0181 847 4616for branches.