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Are you buying a new pair of running shoes? Then you must be wondering how to choose the right one. Like you, I have been confronted with a plethora of choices and having no clue what each feature meant.
I used to choose my running shoes based on what’s on sale, or what’s most popular. I had no idea that running shoes are more than just looks and each one is designed to cater to the different needs and preferences of a runner.
But after thorough research and jumping from one running specialty store to another, I was able to find a system that you can use to choose the right running shoes.
Ahead, we will go into detail on every step and I will give you a thorough guide on how to do each step. At the end of this article, you will be able to choose the right running shoes with confidence.
1. Understand the shoe terminologies
Have you ever bought a shoe online or a running specialty store? Chances are, you may have seen ‘stack height’, ‘heel-to-toe drop’, and ‘pronation’ but do you know what each of those meant? If not, don’t worry! You can refer to this table below to know exactly what they mean.
|Stack height||Stack height is the term used for the height of material between your foot and the ground. Some refer to it as the cushioning material in the shoe.||The Brooks Ghost 13 has a stack height of 32mm in the heel / 20mm in the forefoot|
|Heel-to-toe drop||The heel-to-toe drop is the difference between the stack height in the heel and in the forefoot. It is also known as ‘offset’ and ‘drop’.||12mm Heel-to-toe drop|
|Pronation||The amount of inward roll that happens in your foot. Pronation is classified into neutral, overpronation and underpronation||Neutral is 15 degrees of roll|
Overpronation is more than 15 degrees
Underpronation is less
|Support level||The amount of support that the shoe has to keep your foot pronation neutral||Neutral: Does not provide support at all|
Stability: Prevents inward rolling of the foot
Motion control: Provides the most stability
Related: Understanding Heel-to-toe Drop: What It Is and Why Is It Important
2. Choose the right shoe type
Now that you understand the terminologies, it’s time to choose the right shoe type and there are 3 things that you will base this decision upon. The running surface you’ll mostly run on, the support level that your foot needs, and the type of running that you’ll usually do.
Running Surface: Road or Trail?
There are two running surfaces that you might choose to run in, the road and trail, and each have a specific shoe that caters to the needs of each running surface.
Road running shoes are generally lighter than trail running shoes. They have lesser lug depth and usually have a softer cushion to absorb the impact from the pavement better.
Trail running shoes is are generally a little heavier and have deeper lugs to provide more traction on trails. They are also generally firmer and are equipped with stability and protective features.
I personally have a pair of both types of shoes because I run on the road and trail. It’s nice to have both in your running shoe rotation so you have more versatility in terms of the running surface.
Support Level: Neutral or Stability?
To know whether you need a neutral or stability shoe, you need to know how your foot pronates when you run. To do this, you can go to a running shop that offers a free running gait analysis.
If you don’t have access to one, you can follow the guide in this article.
Basically, you’re trying to find out if your foot is in neutral, underpronation, or overpronation while running.
Overpronated runners need a stability shoe. In contrast, neutral and underpronated runners won’t be needing the extra stability so a neutral running shoe is fine.
To understand more about the topic, read my article titled ‘Neutral Vs. Stability Running Shoes: What’s the difference?‘.
By the way, if you found out that you’re an overpronated runner and are in need of stability running shoes, I highly recommend the Brooks Adrenaline GTS as a daily trainer. I’ve been running with it for a while and I love it. You can check the price on Amazon.
What Type of Running Do You Usually Do?
Now, depending on the type of running you’re usually doing, there are different types of shoes that are fit for it. It can be a light shoe if you are more interested in running fast for short distances, a well-cushioned shoe if you’re more of an everyday recreational runner, or a special type of shoe to help you win marathon races.
Here’s a table that summarizes what you should look for depending on the type of running you’re gonna do as well as a few shoe recommendations that are good for the activity.
|Running Type||Running shoe||What to look for|
|Easy run/recreational running||1. Saucony Ride 14|
2. Brooks Glycerine 19
3. Adidas Ultraboost 21
|Look for soft running shoes that can provide good cushioning and help reduce the impact on your legs|
|Long-distance/mid-distance||1. Hoka Clifton 7|
2. Brooks Ghost 13
3. Nike Vomero 14
|Look for a balance of cushioning and responsiveness to help provide shock absorption without sacrificing the bounce.|
|Tempo Day||1. ASICS EvoRide 2|
2. Brooks Hyperion Tempo
3. NB FuelCell Rebel V2
|Look for lightweight and responsive running shoes to help you go fast on tempo days.|
|Threshold||1. Nike Epic React Flyknit 2|
2. ASICS Noosa Tri 13
3. Saucony Endorphin Speed
|Look for lightweight and responsive running shoes to help you go fast on threshold days.|
|Interval||1. Brooks Hyperion Tempo|
2. Nike Zoom FLy 3
3. New Balance FuelCell Elite
|Look for light, responsive and springy shoes.|
|Racing||1. ASICS Metaracer|
2. Brooks Hyperion Elite 2
3. Saucony Endorphin Pro
|Look for a very light and responsive shoe that propels you forward to help increase your speed.|
You can use this same table in building your running shoe rotation.
3. Get the right fit
The fit of your running shoes is one of the most important things that you have to nail down because running shoes that don’t fit you properly can lead to discomfort and even blisters.
Generally, running shoes should be half size bigger than your casual shoes to account for the swelling that happens when you run.
When you fit a running shoe, you have to take note of these 5 things
- The shoe must have at least half a thumb’s allowance from your longest toe to the top of the shoe
- It must feel snug on the heel and the midfoot area
- There should be very little to know movement in the heel
- Your foot must not slide around inside the shoe
- The eyelets must be in neutral position
It is also best if you fit your running shoes in the afternoon.
If you’re buying online, your approach may be a little different since you can’t fit the running shoes before you buy. However, I’ve tried time and time again that measuring your foot in cm and using the conversion chart works magic.
First, place the heel of your foot against the wall and draw an outline of your foot on a piece of paper.
Second, measure your longer foot from the heel to the longest toe. Add 1.5cm to the total length of your foot.
Lastly, measure to the manufacturer’s conversion chart. It is most likely a little bigger than your casual shoe size.
If you want a more thorough guide to buying shoes online, I made a complete guide about it, make sure to check it out.
4. Try multiple shoes out
Before you buy the shoes that you like, try on different shoe models, different brands, different heel-toe drop, and stack heights. This is to find out which running shoe is most comfortable for you.
Walk around the store or run with it if the store has a treadmill. You’re going to be spending a lot of miles in it and the last thing you want is that you’ll feel uncomfortable when you run.
Choose the most comfortable running shoes rather than the best looking. Running is a very repetitive sport. Any minor discomfort will eventually lead to something bigger after a few miles.
5. Buy it
Once you’ve decided what shoe is best for you, there’s one last thing left to do, buy it.
Different people have different preferences for running shoes. Find the shoe that is most comfortable to you instead of what your peers recommend. Shoes that have worked for them may not work for you.
Choosing the perfect running shoe is a combination of art and science. Follow these 5 simple steps and you’re on your way to the right running shoe.