If you want to start working out more, you need to make sure you have the right equipment – otherwise, you could be putting yourself at risk for injury. In particular, having the right kind of running shoes is essential for preventing stress fractures, joint pain, and tendonitis. While we’ll be happy to treat any injury you get, we’d be happier seeing you healthy and thriving. That’s why we’ve created this guide on how to choose the right running shoes.
First – What Are the Benefits of Good Running Shoes?
Maybe you’re still not convinced that having a good pair of running shoes is necessary. Here are a few more benefits you’ll see when you upgrade to a pair that’s tailored to your needs:
- Improved performance: While you might not be trying to make it to the Olympics, good running shoes can still help you up your game by providing more comfort and energy return with every stride.
- Support for your arches: If you’re like many of our patients that have flat feet, you absolutely need shoes that provide proper arch support. Even those with high arches can benefit from a shoe that caters to them.
- Cushioning for your foot: The best running shoes provide targeted cushioning in the midsole, which is the part of your foot that goes from the ball of your foot to your heel. This reduces stress on the toes, ankles, and heel, making your run less painful and safer for your back, hips, and knees.
Steps to Choosing the Best Running Shoes
Choosing the best running shoes for your needs is a multistep process. Primarily, you’ll need to focus on the cushion level, your running style, your arch type, the type of shoe you want, and any additional features that might be relevant.
Your first thought might be to choose a shoe with as much cushioning as possible. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the best approach. Too much cushioning isn’t great if you’re a more experienced runner, as it can slow down your performance. Even worse, one study found that cushioned running shoes put more stress on runners’ joints when they were completing a treadmill workout.Here’s a quick breakdown of the various cushioning levels so you can see what might be right for your needs.
- Maximum cushioning: Ideal for runners just starting out or those who are a little heavier.
- Medium cushioning: Good for runners who want a balance of lightweight fit and comfort.
- Low cushioning: Best for those who enjoy the feel of barefoot running and want to strengthen their feet.
No, we don’t mean whether you run marathons or sprints – we’re talking about whether you overpronate or supinate.
- Pronation is when you run neutrally. Weight is mostly balanced on the ball of the foot and the outer edge of the heel.
- Overpronation is when you roll your feet inward, putting most of your weight on the inner edge of your shoe and heels.
- Supination is when you roll your feet outward, putting most of your weight on the outer edge of your shoe and heels.
If you have an old pair of running shoes, it’s easy to see whether you pronate (run correctly), overpronate (roll inward), or supinate (roll outward). Just look to see where the tread on your shoe is worn the most, and that will give you a quick answer.
For pronators, any type of shoe will do just fine. It’s overpronators and supinators that will require special selections.
Overpronators should look for shoes that offer stability or motion control. This will keep them from turning their foot inward and help get them back to a neutral stride. Overpronation is a common problem with runners, so there’s a good chance you might fall into this category (we can help you know for sure, though).
Supinators, on the other hand, would do best with a ton of cushioning and flexibility. This adds extra impact protection since one of the main risks of supinating is putting more impact stress on the body.
You may already know your arch type (especially if you’ve had an appointment with us), but you may not know how your arches affect how you run. Generally, runners with higher, less flexible arches need less support than those with flat, flexible arches.
- High arches: People with this type of arch generally supinate, so getting a running shoe with neutral cushioning should help neutralize the stride.
- Medium arches: People with this type of arch are more prone to overpronation, as their arches are more flexible and can roll inward. They’d be best suited for a running shoe focused on stability.
- Low arches: People with this type of arch are the most susceptible to overpronation, so they’ll want shoes that stabilize their feet and prevent side to side movement.
Types of Running Shoes
There’s not just one type of running shoe out there. In fact, you’ll have numerous choices depending on what your goals are. For many of our patients, the most popular kinds of running shoes are:
- Everyday running shoes: These are the most versatile kinds of running shoes and can be used on sidewalks, tracks, treadmills, and more. Basically, you can use them in any ordinary running situation.
- Lightweight running shoes: Lightweight shoes are more relevant to runners interested in racing or improving their speed, as the lower weight eliminates drag.
- Trail running shoes: Not everyone likes running on a stable concrete surface. For those who like to take their workouts off-road, trail running shoes are a must because of their durability and more rugged outsole.
Running Shoe Features
When you head to the store to look at shoes, you may be overwhelmed with all the different technology and features of each shoe. Here’s a quick summary of the most important things to be on the lookout for when choosing your new shoes:
- The upper is all the material above the sole of the shoe and is usually made of mesh and fabric. You’ll want an upper that resembles the shape of your foot so it will be snug without rubbing anywhere.
- The ankle collar is the wrap around the top of the heel where your ankle touches. Make sure you find a shoe that doesn’t rub here – you’ll want a model that doesn’t irritate your heel, or you could face blisters or Achilles tendon problems.
- The outsole is the bottom of the shoe. You’ll want a shoe that provides traction without weighing you down or feeling too stiff.
- The midsole is the part of the shoe between the upper and the outsole. It’s where all your cushioning and support will be.
- The heel-toe drop is the difference in height from the ball of your foot to your heel when in the shoe. This can vary between brands and models, so find a drop that feels good.
Running Shoe Buying Tips
In addition to the information above, we’ve curated a few extra tips you can use when narrowing down your shoe selection.
- Don’t just pick the prettiest or sleekest looking shoe. Good looks don’t equate to a good fit.
- Avoid getting shoes in too small of a size, as this can cause blisters. Make sure you have enough room to wiggle your toes.
- Always have your foot measured before trying on. Just because you’re usually a size 7 doesn’t mean you’ll be a size 7 in running shoe brands, as every shoe is cut differently.
- When trying on shoes, bring a pair of socks you’ll wear while running. This will give you a better idea of how they truly fit.
- Go to a specialty running store so you can get expert help with picking out shoes that will support and provide comfort for your feet.
- Better yet, come to us first, as we can make recommendations for footwear paired with custom orthotics for improved foot health.
Get Help Finding the Right Running Shoes
Does this all sound a bit overwhelming? Don’t worry, we can help. Give us a call today to learn more about the mechanics of running shoes or to have us provide a personalized recommendation for your needs.