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Whether you've decided to get fit for the first time or you're maintaining your fitness levels, the most important item in your running wardrobe has to be your shoes. You could run in a business shirt and trousers and only feel uncomfortable and restricted, but wearing the wrong shoes for running can easily cause injury and undue stress on foot, leg, and back muscles.

What's your running philosophy?

It may seem like a weird question, but your choice of running philosophy can heavily influence your choice of running shoe. Perhaps the most popular running philosophy recently has been the barefoot running concept – that our bodies evolved to run in bare feet through grass and over rough terrain, and that wearing shoes with flexible soles that let our toes spread out can improve our running form and minimise injuries.Others tend in the almost polar opposite direction: that our feet need to be heavily supported and cushioned against impact with hard surfaces to protect them and our muscles from heavy jolts.

Barefoot running shoes

Barefoot running shoes are designed to minimise the effect of shoes on the body's natural movement, while still providing protection against stones, sharp objects, and the elements. They tend to have thin, flexible soles, minimal uppers, and often extra space in the toe area so that toes can spread to increase stability. Some go a step further and actually separate the toes out from one another. Some find that this limits the number of blisters they're prone to getting.

Differences between genders

Women's feet tend to be a bit different to men's. They're often narrower, and have higher arches. So women's running shoes tend to allow for this by being narrower and having more arch support – especially gel-sole brands. If your feet follow this pattern, then you'll probably be more comfortable in shoes designed for women. If your feet are flatter and wider, shoes designed for men will probably fit you better.

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