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  • Dr. Norbert Martin, DPT

What to Look for in a Good Pair of Running Shoes?

Updated: May 5, 2023


Running shoes and gear

Running is one of the most popular and accessible forms of exercise, with numerous benefits for your physical and mental health. But running also comes with some challenges, such as finding the right gear, especially the shoes.

Running shoes are more than just footwear. They can make or break your running experience, affecting your comfort, performance, and injury risk. That's why it's important to choose the best running shoes for your feet and goals.

But how do you know what to look for in a good pair of running shoes? With so many brands, models, and features available, it can be overwhelming to find the perfect fit. Don't worry, we've got you covered. In this article, we'll explain what to look for in a good pair of running shoes, from cushioning and support to fit and style. Plus, we'll give you some tips on how to find the right shoes for you.

So, whether you're a beginner or an experienced runner, a road warrior or a trailblazer, a sprinter or a marathoner, read on to learn how to choose the best running shoes for your needs.


Cushioning

One of the first things to consider when looking for a good pair of running shoes is the cushioning. Cushioning is the material under the midsole that absorbs the impact of each step and provides comfort and protection for your feet.

There are different types of cushioning materials, such as EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate), TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane), and Pebax (polyether block amide). Each material has its own characteristics in terms of weight, durability, responsiveness, and energy return.

The amount of cushioning you need depends on several factors, such as:

  1. Your running style: If you land on your heel (heel striker), you might need more cushioning in the rearfoot to reduce the impact. If you land on your forefoot (forefoot striker), you might need more cushioning in the forefoot to protect your toes.

  2. Your body weight: If you're heavier, you might need more cushioning to support your weight and prevent injuries. If you're lighter, you might need less cushioning to feel the ground better and run faster.

  3. Your preference: Some runners like to feel like they're running on clouds with maximum cushioning. Others like to feel the ground under their feet with minimal cushioning. It's up to you to find the balance that works best for you.

Some examples of running shoes with different levels of cushioning are:

  • Maximum cushioning: These shoes have thick midsoles that provide a lot of shock absorption and comfort. They're ideal for long-distance runners who want to reduce fatigue and stress on their joints. They're also good for runners who have foot problems or injuries that require extra protection. However, they tend to be heavier and less responsive than other shoes. An example of a maximum cushioned shoe is the Hoka One Bondi 7.

  • Moderate cushioning: These shoes have medium-thick midsoles that provide a balance between comfort and responsiveness. They're suitable for most runners who want a versatile shoe that can handle different distances and paces. They're also good for runners who have normal or neutral foot mechanics that don't require extra support or correction. An example of a moderately cushioned shoe is the Brooks Ghost 14.

  • Minimal cushioning: These shoes have thin midsoles that provide little shock absorption but more ground feel and flexibility. They're ideal for runners who want to improve their running form and efficiency by strengthening their foot muscles and tendons. They're also good for runners who have high arches or supinated feet that don't need extra support or correction. However, they require more adaptation and caution than other shoes, as they can increase the risk of injuries if not used properly. An example of a minimally cushioned shoe is the Nike Free RN 5.0.


Support

Another thing to consider when looking for a good pair of running shoes is the support. Support is the feature that helps control the motion of your foot and ankle during running.

There are different types of support, such as:

  • Arch support: This is the part of the shoe that supports the arch of your foot and prevents it from collapsing or overstretching. Arch support can help prevent or reduce foot pain and injuries, such as plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, and flat feet. Arch support can be built into the shoe or added as an insert or orthotic.

  • Stability support: This is the part of the shoe that helps prevent excessive inward rolling of your foot and ankle (overpronation). Overpronation can cause alignment problems and injuries, such as shin splints, knee pain, and IT band syndrome. Stability support can be provided by a firmer foam or a plastic piece in the midsole or heel of the shoe.

  • Motion control support: This is the part of the shoe that helps prevent severe inward rolling of your foot and ankle (overpronation). Overpronation can cause alignment problems and injuries, such as shin splints, knee pain, and IT band syndrome. Motion control support can be provided by a very firm foam or a plastic piece in the midsole or heel of the shoe.

The amount of support you need depends on several factors, such as:

  • Your foot shape: If you have a low arch (flat foot) or a high arch (cavus foot), you might need more support to prevent your foot from collapsing or overstretching. If you have a normal arch (neutral foot), you might need less support to allow your foot to move naturally.

  • Your gait: If you overpronate (your foot rolls inward too much), you might need more support to correct your foot motion and alignment. If you under pronate (your foot rolls outward too much) or have a neutral gait (your foot rolls slightly inward), you might need less support to avoid restricting your foot motion and alignment.

  • Your preference: Some runners like to have more support to feel more stable and secure. Others like to have less support to feel more free and more flexible. It's up to you to find the balance that works best for you.

Some examples of running shoes with different levels of support are:

  • Neutral shoes: These shoes have little or no support features and are designed for runners who have normal or neutral feet and gait. They're also suitable for runners who prefer a natural feel and movement. An example of a neutral shoe is the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run.

  • Stability shoes: These shoes have moderate support features and are designed for runners who have low or flat feet and overpronate mildly or moderately. They're also suitable for runners who prefer some stability and correction. An example of a stability shoe is the Saucony Ride 14.

  • Motion control shoes: These shoes have maximum support features and are designed for runners who have very low or flat feet and overpronate severely. They're also suitable for runners who prefer a lot of stability and correction. An example of a motion control shoe is the Asics Gel-Kayano 28.


Fit

The third thing to consider when looking for a good pair of running shoes is the fit. Fit is how well the shoe conforms to your foot shape and size.

A good fit is essential for comfort, performance, and injury prevention. A bad fit can cause blisters, bruises, numbness, pain, and other problems.

Here are some tips on how to find a good fit:

  1. Measure your feet: Your feet can change in size and shape over time due to factors such as age, weight, pregnancy, and injury. Therefore, it's important to measure your feet before buying new shoes. You can use a Brannock device at a shoe store or measure your feet at home with a ruler and paper. Make sure to measure both feet, as they might differ in size. Use the larger measurement to choose your shoe size.

  2. Shop in the evening: Your feet tend to swell throughout the day due to fluid retention, gravity, and activity. Therefore, it's better to shop for shoes in the evening when your feet are at their largest. This way, you can avoid buying shoes that are too tight or small.

  3. Try on different sizes: Shoe sizes can vary depending on the brand, model, and style. Therefore, don't rely on your usual size when buying new shoes. Try on different sizes and compare how they feel. The best size is the one that fits comfortably without being too loose or too tight.

  4. Leave some wiggle room: Your toes should have enough space to move and spread in the shoe. A good rule of thumb is to leave a thumb's width between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. This will prevent your toes from hitting the front of the shoe and causing injuries, such as black toenails or blisters.

  5. Check the width and volume: The shoe should fit snugly but not tightly around your foot. The width is the horizontal space across the ball of your foot. The volume is the vertical space between the top of your foot and the upper of the shoe. You can adjust the width and volume by using different lacing techniques or adding or removing insoles.

  6. Test the heel and ankle: The heel of the shoe should hold your heel securely without slipping or rubbing. The ankle collar of the shoe should wrap around your ankle comfortably without digging into your Achilles tendon or ankle bone. You can test the heel and ankle by walking, jogging, or running in the shoe and checking for any movement or irritation.


Style

The fourth thing to consider when looking for a good pair of running shoes is the style. Style is how the shoe looks and feels aesthetically.

Style might not seem as important as cushioning, support, or fit, but it can have an impact on your running experience. A good style can boost your confidence, motivation, and enjoyment of running. A bad style can make you feel self-conscious, bored, or unhappy with running.

Here are some tips on how to find a good style:

  • Choose a color that suits you: Running shoes come in a variety of colors, from bright and flashy to dark and subtle. You can choose a color that matches your personality, mood, or outfit. You can also choose a color that stands out or blends in with your environment. For example, you might want to wear a bright color if you run in low-light conditions or a dark color if you run on muddy trails.

  • Choose a design that appeals to you: Running shoes come in different designs, from sleek and simple to chunky and complex. You can choose a design that reflects your taste, preference, or goal. For example, you might want to wear a sleek design if you want to run fast or a chunky design if you want to run long.

  • Choose a brand that resonates with you: Running shoes come from different brands, each with its own history, reputation, and values. You can choose a brand that aligns with your beliefs, interests, or aspirations. For example, you might want to wear a brand that supports a cause you care about or a brand that sponsors an athlete you admire.


FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about running shoes:

Q: How often should I replace my running shoes?

A: It depends on how much you run and how well you take care of your shoes. A general guideline is to replace your running shoes every 300 to 500 miles or every 4 to 6 months. However, this can vary depending on your running style, body weight, terrain, and shoe quality. You can check for signs of wear and tear on your shoes, such as cracks, creases, uneven patterns, or reduced cushioning and support.



Q: Can I use the same running shoes for different activities?

A: It depends on what kind of activities you do and how often you do them. Running shoes are designed specifically for running and might not be suitable for other activities that require different movements or skills. For example, using running shoes for hiking might cause them to wear out faster or damage them due to rough terrain or water exposure. Using running shoes for cross-training might cause them to lose their shape or stability due to lateral or twisting motions. If you do different activities occasionally, you might be able to use the same running shoes without much problem. But if you do different activities regularly, you might want to invest in separate shoes for each activity.



Q: How can I prevent blisters from running shoes?

A: Blisters are caused by friction between your skin and your shoe or sock. To prevent blisters from running shoes, you can try these tips:

  • Wear socks that are made of moisture-wicking materials, such as synthetic fibers or wool. Avoid cotton socks that can retain sweat and cause chafing.

  • Wear shoes that fit properly and don't rub against your toes, heels, or sides of your feet. Make sure they're not too tight or too loose.

  • Apply lubricant or tape to areas that are prone to blistering, such as your toes, heels, or arches. This can reduce friction and irritation.


Final thoughts

Running shoes are an essential part of your running gear. They can affect your comfort, performance, and injury risk. That's why it's important to choose the best running shoes for your feet and goals.

To find a good pair of running shoes, you need to consider four main factors: cushioning, support, fit, and style. You also need to try on different shoes and test them out before buying them. And you need to replace them when they wear out or lose their effectiveness.

We hope this article has helped you learn what to look for in a good pair of running shoes. Now you're ready to hit the road or the trails with confidence and enjoyment.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. And if you're looking for more tips and advice on running, check out our other articles on our website.

Happy running!



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