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What kind of feet have you got?
Feet fall broadly into three categories: Normal, flat and high-arched - and different shoes can work best for each variety.
Normal feet do not require much in the way of special features, but people with flat feet can "over-pronate" as they run - which means that the foot rolls inwards excessively as it strikes the ground.
Special "motion control" shoes are available to limit the amount of pronation and therefore prevent injury to the feet over time.
People with high arches tend to under-pronate, so that their feet are not acting as effective shock absorbers. Cushioned shoes with plenty of flexibility can help spread the burden better.
If you don't know what type of foot you have, stand on a hard floor or piece of paper with wet feet and see what shape mark is left behind. Google will help you find examples of typical foot shapes and specialist shops have equipment to test your feet.
Does it really fit?
Once you've established what type of feet you have, you'll still need to get a trainer that matches the dimensions of your foot. Some of us have broader feet than others and different manufacturers' products can vary for any given size.
When trying a trainer on make sure you have a little space (perhaps the width of a thumb) at the toes to prevent bashing your pinkies up - but don't leave too much space or you could end up with blisters.
Trying trainers on in the afternoon might be a good idea because our feet swell up during the day.
What will you be doing?
There are a multitude of trainers available for different activities - and some of the design features can make a real difference to comfort, performance and the likelihood of injury.
For example, running shoes are generally subjected only to forward motion - although different varieties are available for different surfaces.
Shoes intended for off-road running may have a more aggressive and open tread pattern to assist grip and mud-shedding ability.
Tennis shoes, by contrast, will be subjected to a lot of lateral impacts as players jump sideways - so will have more support and cushioning in the sides.
Cross training shoes will be a "jack-of-all-trades" option and a sensible choice if you expect to take part in a variety of sports or combine running with gym work.
Where should you buy?
If you suspect you may have flat or high-arched feet - or just if you have experienced problems before - then a visit to a specialist sports shoe store might be a good idea.
You are likely to get better advice in a running shop, for example, than in the high-street chains.
Shoes are possibly the worst thing to buy on the internet, as fit is critical and it's a hassle to send them back.
But if you already know which trainers suit you, why not keep an eye out for bargains online and snap up a second pair to keep in reserve.
How much should you spend?
Serious runners tend to spend £70 to £100 pounds on a pair of shoes, and the same appears to hold true for other sports too. Good basic sports shoes are available from around £50 though.
How long a pair will last is dependent entirely on the mileage you do - and on the durability of your shoes - but 400-600 miles is about the distance you should expect to cover before they may need replacing.
What are your favourite trainers and why? Comment below...