Knowing which running shoes to buy may seem complicated whether you’ve just started running or are preparing to start. However, selecting the right running shoe is essential to help increase performance, provide comfort during exercise, and prevent injury. This article covers the vital factors you need to know before heading to the running shoe store. Read on to learn how to pick the best running shoes for your feet.
- How to Pick the Right Running Shoes
- Best Shoe Type for Gait Type
- How to Pick the Right Running Shoes: Life Expectancy
- How to Pick the Right Running Shoes: Type
- How to Pick the Right Running Shoes for Your Feet
How to Pick the Right Running Shoes
Running shoes are diverse, with many types and mesmerizing styles. Besides how they look, your choice should ultimately be based on two main factors: minimizing injury risk and improving performance.
The way we each run is unique, and so is the shape and size of our feet. In addition, you’ll be spending a significant amount of time in your running shoes. Therefore, it’s essential to know and consider some key factors when deciding which will be the right running shoe to meet your requirements.
Choosing the right fit is a crucial feature in picking the right pair. The running shoes you choose should be relatively snug but not too tight. Shoes that are too big will allow the foot to slide and increase your risk of developing blisters. On the other hand, a running shoe that’s too small will squeeze your feet and increase the risk of bone injury.
The Toe Box
The toe box is the space that houses your toes at the front of the shoe. Its length should be approximately a thumbnail from your longest toe to the end of the shoe. If your feet are wider, you’ll need a wide toe box to accommodate them.
Another reason it’s so essential to ensure the space in the toe box area is comfortable is to allow for how our feet naturally behave when we run. For example, our toes naturally want to splay and separate when our feet land. This is a good thing, as it allows our feet to absorb much of the shock with the toe splay and natural pronation. Therefore, it is crucial to get a running shoe where the width and length of the toe box fit your foot shape and provide ample room to help prevent discomfort and injury.
Fit and comfort also play a big part in purchasing a suitable pair of running shoes. So, if you have a choice between two pairs, choose the one that feels the most comfortable—assuming it has everything else you’re looking for.
The heel drop is the difference measured in millimeters between your toe and your heel when standing in the shoe. The cushioning will determine the heel drop. A low heel drop is when your toe and heel align with each other when standing in the trainer. A high heel drop is when your heel falls lower than your toe.
Sometimes, classic shoes have a slightly higher/thicker heel sole, and they’re worn by runners with somewhat stiffer ankles, calves, and Achilles. More flexible runners, who prefer to feel the ground, tend to go for a zero or low drop in their running shoes.
A higher drop is considered better for running, as it lets your feet hit the ground heel-first, which is how most people run.
The material of a running shoe determines how cushioned it is, and the cushion helps to absorb your body weight and protect your joints.
A well-cushioned shoe may have an additional 174 grams compared to a minimal cushioning type. Consider carrying that extra weight per foot throughout a 5K, 10K, or more, and it will begin to add up.
For example, an elite runner with a cadence of 180 steps per minute runs a 30-minute 10K. That would be approximately 54,000 steps throughout the whole race. That is a lot of steps to be carrying an extra 174 grams per foot.
A minimal cushioning shoe is a lightweight racing flat. In the same way that you might put some aero wheels on your bike for a race, you may want to pull out some lightweight running shoes to give you that edge if you’ll be using them to race.
Consider some racing flats to gain an edge in your race or for some additional speed during your run. Most brands will advise what distance their shoe is designed for.
A 5K to 10K shoe will have less cushioning than the amount in a marathon shoe. However, shoe preferences differ from runner to runner, and you may want to run a 5K in something more cushioned, like a marathon shoe. At the same time, others may be able to get away with a shoe that’s less cushioned for a marathon. So, it depends on what you think will work best for you.
The marathon type is excellent for absorbing impact and for everyday training miles. Although they are slightly heavier, they help keep your feet injury-free.
The critical question is, how much cushion is too much? Too much cushion could cause instability, like landing on a pillow. And what is the minimum cushioning needed? Again, a combination of biomechanics, body weight, heel drop, and fit information is required to get the right balance.
The first thing to consider is that what works for one runner may not work for you. For example, it’s not a good idea to buy a pair of running shoes based on how nice they look or because a friend recommended them. Instead, consider heading to your local running store to understand your gait type.
Your gait, or pronation, refers to your running style and how your feet contact the ground. This is a set of actions/reactions the foot performs while in motion to support, cushion, and balance.
Alternatively, if you have well-used running shoes, you can check the wear patterns on the soles. This will tell you how you pronate and what shoes should be most suitable. There are three main types of pronation.
Neutral is when your hips, knees, and ankles are aligned. Here, you’re looking for more centralized wear down the middle of the ball of the foot. This is considered the most biomechanically sound, as everything tracks and rolls through in a straight and forward motion.
Overpronation is when your foot rolls too far inward. This can be identified by slightly more wear down the inside edge of the shoe. This common type of pronation is often caused by the foot’s arch collapsing in, or in some cases, being flat-footed. This ends up leading to the rolling-in motion as you run.
If you notice you have a little more wear along the outside edge of your old running shoes, you may supinate.
Under-pronated, or supination, is when your foot rolls too far outward. Supination isn’t very common. When your arch is high, it indicates you have a primarily distinct and stiff arch. Thus, as you run, you’ll tend to roll through and off onto the outer part of your feet.
Best Shoe Type for Gait Type
Neutral and Under-Pronated
The neutral shoe is intended for neutral runners and for supinated runners. These types offer shock absorption and some medial support. They are essentially engineered to roll through in a simple, neutral movement. If you supinate, these won’t add more control or stability.
A stability shoe is for a runner that overpronates. These typically comprise a firm space around the arch side for support and offer enhanced stability to regulate the foot’s movement as it rolls through. If your feet are highly overpronated or flat, you’ll need a shoe with marginally better control to prevent the arch from falling so much.
How to Pick the Right Running Shoes: Life Expectancy
While buying a decent pair of running shoes may seem like a significant investment, don’t make the mistake of trying to “get your money’s worth.” Wearing them to the point where your toes start to poke out at the end can cause your feet problems.
In addition, you could limit your performance or risk injury by running in shoes beyond their life expectancy. Over time, they’ll lose their cushion, and you’ll start to absorb the impact more.
Generally, shoes have around 300 to 400 miles in them. And typically, the lighter the shoe, the less mileage. So, there’s probably about one season of regular triathlon racing for a flat racing shoe before they’ll need replacing.
How to Pick the Right Running Shoes: Type
The type of running shoe you’ll need to consider depends on the kind of running you’ll be doing.
Trail Running Shoes
The right running shoes will make conquering the trail much more effortless. In this context, the trail refers to the great outdoors in general, from a technical trail to your local park. The variety of unpaved ground requires a specific pair of running shoes.
The trail shoe generally has more tread, with a slightly more jagged design to the sole. They will need to support your feet on uneven surfaces, contrary to flat road surfaces. Trails can include dust, rock, mud, and the type of obstacles you wouldn’t encounter in road running. Therefore, your shoes need extra grip, support, and stability features.
In addition, this type is more durable. They’ll have a reinforced upper to deal with off-road conditions or multisport events.
Road Running Shoes
Road running shoes are designed for high shock-absorbance and to help protect your joints from the hard surface impact. Once you determine your gait, purchasing a pair made from a breathable and water-resistant mesh upper is better. This will allow sweat and heat to escape while keeping the rain out. Also, look for durable soles with good sole tread, as traction is essential for running in wet weather, even if you’ll only be on paths and pavement.
Gym Running Shoes
Training on a treadmill can take a toll on your body, and fast speeds can put severe stress on your shins, hips, knees, and feet. When selecting running shoes for the treadmill, look for shock absorption, breathability, lightweight cushioning, flexibility, energy return, and durability. This will help you find the best shoe for treadmill running to match your training style, gait, and preference.
Good long-distance running shoes should be well-ventilated to allow your feet to breathe easily. Soft and breathable uppers will help with the airflow. Durable outsoles withstand your feet pounding the pavement, and thick padding in the midsoles gives you that essential plush feel. You might prefer the comfort of thicker and softer foam underfoot. However, super-soft cushioning isn’t for everyone.
How to Pick the Right Running Shoes for Your Feet
Buying running shoes that fit your requirements doesn’t need to be that hard. First, become familiar with your feet and how they move when you run. Next, understand what you need from your running shoes; you’ll likely find a style to suit your budget and preference.
An essential decision point in selecting the right pair is, where will you be running? Outdoor and indoor running shoes require different design features. How much cushioning do you want? Do you want to feel the ground somewhat or not at all? What specific support do you need for your gait type?
Many runners can choose a neutral design. However, there are plenty of options if your foot rolls far outside or inside. Finally, and most importantly, ensure your running shoes fit well and are comfortable overall. Even if you buy the trendiest pair on the market, an ill-fitting running shoe will damage your joints and feet.