Choosing the right running shoe is one of the most important decisions a runner must make. The wrong shoes can end your running career before it even begins. However, choosing the right shoe will keep your feet happy and make the miles fly by.
Here are some tips to help you find the perfect pair:
1. Foot Type and Gait Analysis
We all have unique physical attributes. The first step to finding the right pair of running shoes is to determine your individual needs. Do you have flat feet or high arches? Does your foot pronate (roll in) or supinate (roll out)? Are you a heel-striker or do you land mid-foot? These are difficult questions, especially for beginners.
Fortunately, there are experts available to analyze your specific needs and point you in the right direction. Find your local running specialty store and pay them a visit. While you’re there, you can pick up a GPS watch, running gear, energy gels, hydration packs, and anything else a runner might need. Most stores offer informal group runs and many have coaches on staff.
2. Don’t Believe the Hype
Be careful not to get caught up in the various marketing hypes that shoe companies use to sell their products. Barefoot running, spring-loaded blades, energy return lugs, extra thin soles, extra thick soles, etc. They all claim to be innovative and new, which is why you should be skeptical. You best bet is to go with something that has been tested and validated.
Runner’s World, Competitor, and RunRepeat all offer shoe reviews with ratings and road test results. If you’re looking for more in-depth reviews you can find lots of reliable run bloggers with a quick search. Read carefully, and look for shoes that compliment your running style.
3. Function Over Fashion
Once you know the type of shoe you need, the fun begins. Try on as many shoes as you can. When you find a shoe that feels good, you’ll know it right away. Here are some questions to consider:
- Do my feet feel comfortable?
- Are these shoes made for the type of terrain I run on?
- Are there any uncomfortable seams on the inside of the shoe?
- Are they made for high mileage or racing?
- Will these shoes grip well in slippery conditions?
- Is the forefoot flexible?
- Do my calves feel OK when I run?
- Is the heel drop too high or low?
- Is there room to wiggle my toes?
- Is my heel snug and secure?
- Will these shoes breathe well?
- Do they provide reflectivity for safety in low-light conditions?
If you’re lucky, you’ll find a shoe that looks as good as it feels.
4. Run Before Buying
Run in your shoes before purchasing them. Most specialty stores will allow you to take a quick run in their shoes before you buy them. If you purchase online, look for companies that will allow you to return them after taking them out of the box for a run.
The best way to test a pair of running shoes is to take them out for a run. Try running fast and slow, uphill and down, and on a variety of surfaces. After all of that, you can feel confident about your shoe choice.
5. Quality Counts
Your running shoes protect your feet and everything that’s attached to them. Flaws in your footwear can lead to an imperfect landing, which in turn can cause stress on your ankles, knees, and hips. Running shoes can be expensive, but avoiding injury is priceless.
Jason is a competitive marathon runner and RRCA distance running coach. He's the senior editor at SaltmarshRunning.com, and writes for several online health and fitness publications. When he's not running on the roads and trails, Jason can be found enjoying life with his family and friends on the New Hampshire seacoast.
Main Photo Credit & Fourth Photo Credit : Halfpoint/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: Daxiao Productions/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: AstroStar/shutterstock.com