One look at the shoe wall in any sporting goods store will tell you that there are a seemingly endless number of options when it comes to running shoes. Minimalist, maximalist, and everything in between are calling your name! If you’re new to running or looking to change up your footwear, it can be hard to know how to choose the best shoe for you.
Let’s state the obvious right up front: the best way to select the right pair of running shoes is to head to your local running store and let their professionals guide you through the fitting process. The employees have been trained to analyze your gait and have extensive knowledge of the shoes sold in their store, so they’ll find the pair that’s right for you, and if not, they will help you with your return. With that being said, we understand that not all runners have a local running store near them, so if that applies to you, listen up. Here are some factors to consider when picking out a new pair of running shoes:
- Mileage: What is your total mileage each week? The amount of impact to your body over the course of the miles you run must be accounted for in your running shoes. If you’re running high mileage, you may prefer to do your long runs in a highly cushioned shoe, while using lighter shoes for speed workouts and shorter runs.
- Body Type: Did you know that running causes an impact of 3-5 times your body weight on your bones and muscles each time you take a step? It’s true, and it’s the main reason why heavier runners may feel more comfortable in a shoe with more cushioning, especially if they are new to the sport. Smaller runners may not need as much cushioning but may prefer it regardless.
- History: Are you new to the sport, or have you been running regularly for years? If your bones and muscles are not acclimated to the impact of running, you may find that you need more cushioning in your shoe as you build up mileage.
- Pronation: Not sure what pronation is? Don’t worry! We’re just talking about whether your foot rolls to the inside, outside, or stays straight when you run. The best way to find out what you do is to take a video of yourself running and watch it in slow motion. Overpronation (the foot rolling in at the ankles) is extremely common among runners and often calls for a more supportive shoe. Runners with a neutral stride or who underpronate (feet roll to the outside) may prefer a more neutral shoe with less motion control.
- Arch Type: Do you have flat feet, high arches, or an average arch? It’s easy to find out. Simply place a brown paper bag on the floor, wet your foot, and place it on the bag. The size of the curve on the inside of your foot will give you an idea of your arch height. Feet with low arches typically have little to no curve, while those with high arches will see an exaggerated indentation. People with low arches have more flexibility in their feet than those with high arches and therefore require a more stable shoe, while those with high arches will likely prefer a more neutral, flexible shoe.
- Foot Size: Who has time for blisters on a long run? No one. Avoid them by buying shoes that are wide enough for your feet, especially in the toe box. Your feet will swell when you run long distances, so it is recommended to purchase your shoes an extra half or full size larger than you normally would to account for swelling!
- Location: Where do you run? There are different shoes for road running, trails, and track workouts.
Regardless of which shoe you choose and where you buy it, make sure to purchase from a merchant with a liberal return policy that will let you test the shoe out and return it if you don’t like it, even if you have already run it. Many running stores guarantee their product and will accept returns even if you have run in the shoe for an extended period of time. Make sure to research the return policies and support your local merchants whenever possible!