A Guide To Buying The Right Running Shoes
Posted on 05 Mar, 2015
Most running shoes feel like home when you're standing in them in a shoe store, but the true test comes several miles into your run. Do your shins burn? Will pain start tugging at your knee? Are there giant-sized needles puncturing the soles of your feet?
The merits of a shoe go far beyond the logo stitched on the side. Your foot configuration, your running style, the terrain you’ll be running on. These are some of the factors to consider when choosing the right shoe for yourself. There is no one-size-fits-all rule to finding the right pair of running shoes, but here are some tips to set you off in the right direction.
See The Experts
We all have that crazy runner friend who clocks more miles on their shoes than you do in your car. Ask them where they shop for running shoes. Chances are, it’ll never be at a big department store, but some neighborhood shop with an obscure name like Phidippides.
Sales assistants at specialty running shops are better at meeting your requirements. They study your feet and analyze the way you run.
While you’re at their store, feel free to disclose any injuries you have developed from running. Problems like shin splints, plantar fasciitis, blisters and tendonitis often can be reversed with proper running shoes.
But while most specialty sport-shoe stores have knowledgeable staff to guide you, you'll be a few steps ahead of the game if you went in prepared. So read on.
Know Your Running Profile
Before you step into any running store, you might want to consider having answers to some of these questions.
- Do you plan to run on asphalt, a treadmill, on trails, on a gym track?
- What kind of distances will you be doing in your pair of shoes?
- How fast do you plan to run? Are you going to run-walk?
- Are you looking for race day shoes or training shoes?
As a general rule, it is best to not get shoes that multitask. If you plan on doing a bunch of different activities, get a shoe for each. Trail-running shoes are designed with aggressive tread for solid traction, and are fortified to offer underfoot protection. Road-running shoes are made to cushion repetitive strides on hard, even surfaces. Cross-trainers are designed for crossfit workouts or any balance activity where having more contact with the ground is preferred.
Identify Your Running Style
To find a shoe that complements you, it is important that you know your running style. Are you a toe striker or a heel striker? And do your feet roll inwards or outwards when you land?
If you own a well-used pair of running shoes, you can check the wear pattern on the soles to help determine your running mechanics. To be sure, get on the treadmill at a running store and have the sales assistant confirm it for you.
If you are a biomechanically efficient runner, your shoe will wear out uniformly and you should look for a moderate stability shoe, which has the right mix of cushioning and support.
Many runners, however, experience overpronation or suppination when they run.
Overpronation is an exaggerated form of the foot's natural inward roll. This can be identified by wear patterns along the inside edge of your shoe. Because your knees and ankles torque inwards when you overpronate, you risk getting injured in these areas. Overpronators usually do best in stability or motion control shoes.
Motion Control Shoes have a thick midsole made of harder material. This is to limit excess motion, to prevent your foot from rolling inward as your weight transfers from your heel to your forefoot.
A Stability Shoe has a level of corrective support below that of motion control.
Whether you require a stability or motion control shoe depends on the degree of your pronation. How much you weigh is also a factor here. The heavier you are, the more support you need.
Supination is the insufficient inward roll of the foot after it lands. It can be marked by wear along the outer edge of your shoe.
It's vital that an underpronator's shoes have no added stability devices, as those prevent pronation. Underpronators are best suited to cushioned shoes with a soft midsole to encourage pronation.
Wear-Pattern On Shoes
Know Your Arch
The height of your foot arch affects the type of injuries you may sustain while running. A good way to determine your foot's shape is to do a wet test—wet your foot, step on a piece of newspaper and analyze the blot.
High arched feet
High arches, because they don’t flex enough when you land, doesn’t allow the force of the impact to be distributed efficiently. This sends the shock quickly and laterally up your leg, resulting in more bony injuries like stress fractures and shin splints.
Also, when your arches are particularly defined, your feet end up being rigid, and more prone to underpronation. To help reduce the jarring impact of your stride, a cushioned shoe is best suited if you're a runner with a high foot arch.
If you are a low arched runner, you will tend to have more soft-tissue injuries when the force that is transferred from the ground spreads across your foot. Also, because your arches can't support your step, your foot will roll excessively inward, making you an overpronator. To help reduce contact with the ground, a shoe with a hard midsole is ideal for flat footers, to help restore the missing curve in their feet.
Although the two are closely linked, flat feet are not synonymous with overpronation. When we label someone as having flat feet, we are referring to the position of their arch when they are standing still. Pronation on the other hand refers to the kind of movement in your foot upon contact with the ground. It is the lowering of the arch that occurs when weight is put on the foot. Like suspension of a car, it is part of the body’s shock absorption system.
Shop toward the end of the day
Feet swell during the day. They also expand while you run. To avoid buying shoes that are too small, try on shoes at the end of the day when they are at their largest.
We rarely have our foot measured because we just assume we know our size. But feet actually change as we age; not only in size, but in shape. Your feet could flatten over time, requiring you to switch from neutral shoes to stability shoes for more support. Also the size you wear in a New Balance shoe may not be the size you wear in a Saucony. So always get your feet measured at the store.
Always get shoes that are bigger than your shoe size. When you’re standing with both shoes on, make sure you have at least a thumbnail’s space between the tip of the shoe and the end of your longest toe.
After you’ve checked off on the length, switch your attention to the other parts of the shoe. Make sure that the base of your shoe is wide enough and that all your foot bones are sitting on the shoe platform. The width should be snug, but with a bit of room for your foot to move without rubbing. Barefoot shoes are an exception. They need to fit like a glove.
Trying on a shoe is much different than running in it. To get a feel for them you have to take them for a test run. Most specialty stores have a treadmill, but if they don’t, run within the store, or outside on the sidewalk.
Don't buy into excuses from the store that a shoe needs breaking in. Running and walking shoes should feel comfortable right away. Ask yourself these questions while your shoes are in action. How do the bottom of my feet feel when they hit the ground? Are my toes jamming into anything? Are there parts of my foot rubbing against the shoe?
Bring your own socks
To get a realistic evaluation of how well your new shoe will fit your feet, bring the socks that you wear while running. If you have special shoe inserts or orthotics bring those along too.
Don’t be a trendsetter
Freon-filled midsoles and pump-it-up tongues. Some running shoes look better suited for a space mission than a run in the park. When shopping for running shoes, always go for function not for form.
Some runners go for hour glass-shaped shoes to make their feet appear slimmer. The thing is, no foot is shaped that way. It is either an odd C-shape or boringly straight.
Shoe manufacturers will use characteristics like looks, cushioning, lightweightness and fancy terms to sell shoes because these are tactile factors that appeal to consumers. Let none of those things distract you from choosing a pair that gives you the support and fit you need. Your feet may not look good in them, but you’ll look good running in them.
Don’t overpay, but don’t skimp either.
Consider this. Whatever your shoes cost, it will probably be less than what your doctor’s visit would cost if you got hurt. But that said, don’t go out and buy the best and most expensive shoe out there.
Remember, the best shoe, may not be the best shoe for you. Good running shoes generally don’t come cheap. But it will be worth it.
These days, there is increased media attention drawn to minimalist shoes. The argument for minimalism is that the more you baby your feet with technology, the more your muscles will atrophy, increasing its reliance on your shoes as a crutch.
If you run regularly on ungiving surfaces like roads and pavements, cushioning naturally makes sense. There is growing evidence, however, that when running on hard surfaces, the joints in our body adjusts it’s stiffness using a concept called “muscle tuning.”
Minimalist shoes, because it has close to no cushioning, forces you to land on the meatiest part of your foot, which happens to be your midfoot, the sweet spot many serious runners aim for.
If you intend to give minimalism a shot, it is important to make the transition gradually. With a lesser shoe, your bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles need time to strengthen and adapt to the new stimulus. Before going all the way, you may want to experiment with a step-down shoe that is moderately minimal.
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