If you haven’t gone for a run since gym class, finding the right shoes for running can seem impossible. There are dozens of major brands and thousands of styles to choose from, and without the right information it can be hard to know what a good choice is. Many running stores have salespeople who are happy to help you find a great shoe, but you will soon be able to find the perfect pair on your own, online or in-store, and know what questions to consider if you get stuck.
Choosing a Type of Running Shoe
Opt for a pair of road shoes if you plan to run mainly on pavement. Choosing a shoe that matches the location you will be running in most often will make it easier on your feet. Road shoes are great for asphalt, tracks, treadmills, and busy trails without many obstacles.
- In many ways, road shoes are the most well-rounded type of running shoe.
- If you go to a specialty store, most of the shoes a sales representative will show you are road shoes. They are a great choice for beginning runners.
Get a pair of trail shoes if you will spend most runs off-road. Trail shoes are sturdier and better grip on slippery, uneven terrain. These shoes are less transferable to the road than road shoes are to trails, as the size of the rubber outsoles can make it difficult to run on pavement.
- Be realistic about where you will be running. If you would love to run on beautiful trails but the closest ones are a long drive away, it may be better to begin with a pair of road shoes.
Grab some road racing shoes if you are serious about races. These shoes are not designed for regular use. Instead, they are lightweight and breathable to maximize performance during races on asphalt. Unless you are already well-prepared for races, it may be best to stick with road or trail shoes.
- If you are going to be competing in a race, don’t feel bad if you don’t have a separate pair of racing shoes. Many 5k, 10k, and half marathon runners compete in the same shoes the train in.
Steer clear of spiked shoes unless you are jumping into races. These shoes are designed for racers on tracks and cross country courses. Wearing them on asphalt can damage both the pavement and the shoe, and they offer very little support. You should avoid them until you are participating in these kinds of races.
- Most runners who compete in track or cross country races have a pair of trainers in addition to spiked racing shoes.
Selecting Shoe Features
Try shoes with stability features for an arch that is not high or low. Stability features include a support structure called a medial post for your arch in addition to a mild amount of cushioning for your midsole region. These features gently brace the foot all around, as well as helping to absorb the shock of running.
- Stability features are designed to lessen the foot’s ability to turn in when you run, which can cause strain and leg pain.
Choose shoes with neutral features if you have particularly high arches. Neutral features will give you the maximum amount of mid-sole cushioning to keep your legs from taking the amount of shock absorbed when you hit the ground with just your toes and heels.
- Shoes that are considered neutral often do not have a medial post, as the high arch means the feet are more likely to turn outward toward the outside edge than turn in.
Pick shoes with motion control features if you have low or flat arches. This style of shoe is especially designed to provide a great deal of support on the arch and keep your feet secure when you run, because having low arches can cause your feet turn in when you run.
- Motion control features include a sturdy medial post that extends almost the full length of your feet to prevent your feet from turning in or out as a result of low arches.
Select a shoe with breathable fabric if you live somewhere hot. Some shoes trap heat in with your feet and can lead to sweating, smelly shoes, and worst of all, foot fungus. With a breathable fabric, you can avoid all that.
- The socks you wear while running also have a big impact on your feet’s ability to get airflow, so this feature is not necessary unless your climate makes it necessary.
Go with waterproof shoes if you plan to run in the rain or cross streams. Your shoes will most likely not be breathable, but they will keep your feet dry. If you live somewhere that rains most of the year, getting waterproof shoes will ensure that your feet don’t get soaked every time you run through a puddle.
Pick a shoe with a wide toe box if you prefer to have breathing room. Choosing a shoe with a wide toe box allows you to have the feeling of breathable toes without getting a shoe that is too wide for your feet.
- Trying out this feature is important for those who have wide feet when it comes to street shoes but aren’t sure about running shoes.
Getting the Right Fit
Use a measuring device to determine the size and width of your feet. Many people do not know their exact shoe size, or even if they do, purchase shoes that are too big or too small. Running shoes need to have a perfect fit, and choosing a pair begins with measuring your feet.
- You can find a measuring device in most shoe stores, but you can also find the length and width of your feet at home using a pen and paper.
- Your feet may be slightly different sizes. This is relatively common, and you should wear the size of shoe that fits your larger foot if it is the case.
Try on each pair of shoes if you are purchasing in-store. This may seem obvious, but the only way to know whether a shoe fits is to put it on your foot. If you are buying online, read reviews to see how other people describe the fit and feel of the shoe.
- You can always call a local store to see if they have a shoe in stock if you find a pair you like online and want to try it on.
- Online shoppers also have the option to order a pair and try them on before deciding whether or not to send them back.
Measure the distance between your big toe and the tip of the shoe. The distance should be between 3⁄8 inch (0.95 cm) to 1⁄2 inch (1.3 cm), which happens to be just about the width of your thumb. This distance is important for making sure the shoes are exactly the right size.
- Different companies have different size standards, so checking this distance will ensure they fit just right.
Test run each shoe on a treadmill, in the store, or around the block. Just trying a running shoe on and sitting on the bench in the store won’t tell you how the shoe feels in motion. The store may have a treadmill you can use to try them out. Otherwise ask to run around the block to get a sense for the shoe.
- You can ask a salesperson or a friend to watch you run and see if it looks like your feet are well-supported and not turning inwards or outwards.
- Wear one shoe on your left foot and another on your right to break a tie. When it comes down to two or three, the pressure can mount, and tiebreakers become important. If you take a quick jog and one side feels more natural, that shoe may be a better choice.