One look at the shoe wall in any sporting goods store will tell you that there are a seemingly endless number of companies, styles, colors, and options available for running shoes. For a new runner or someone who is looking to change from their current shoe, the choices can be overwhelming.
Of course, the easiest way to pick the best pair of running shoes for you is to head to your local running store and let their professionals guide you through the fitting process. The employees have the experience, running knowledge, and training to make sure you get the perfect pair, so relying on them is usually a safe bet. However, not all runners have a local running store at their disposal. If you need some help in selecting a new pair of running shoes, here are some factors to consider:
- History: How long have you been running? Are your joints and muscles acclimated to the impact, or are you a new runner? New runners may find they need a little more cushioning as they build up mileage.
- Location: Are you running predominantly on the roads, trails, or track? Different shoes are made for each purpose.
- Body Type: Running exerts an impact of 3-5 times your body weight on your bones and muscles each time you hit the ground. Therefore, larger runners may feel more comfortable in a shoe with more cushioning to protect the body from impact, while smaller runners may not require as much support.
- Mileage: How much do you run each week? Again, the impact to your body should be accounted for in determining the amount of cushioning you’ll need. Higher mileage runners may prefer to do their long runs in more cushioned shoes, while using lighter flats for speed workouts or shorter efforts.
- Arch Type: Do you have low, medium, or high arches? To find out, 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, with low arches having little to no curve. 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 Width: Avoid the dreaded blisters by making sure to buy shoes that are wide enough for your feet! Your feet swell when you run long distances, so purchase your shoes an extra half or full size larger than you normally wear to account for this. Go for a toebox that feels nice and roomy – this will help avoid the dreaded toenail loss!
- Pronation: Does your foot roll to the inside, outside, or stay straight while you run? Overpronation (the foot rolling in at the ankles) is extremely common among runners and often indicates a need 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.
No matter which shoe you choose, make sure to purchase from a local running store or 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!