Wondering how to choose the right running shoes? Well, you’re in the right place!
Running shoes are the most important gear for any runner.
Sure, you can run barefoot like hunters and gatherers, but imagine the look on other people’s faces as well as how your feet are gonna look afterward.
A good pair of running shoes will not only provide your foot protection from blisters and poking, but also protect your joints from osteoarthritis caused by repetitive impact on the joints.
This article will help you understand a little bit of the logic behind the types of running shoe but more importantly, help you choose the perfect pair for you.
What are Running Shoes?
You’re not gonna believe how many people believe that running with any pair of shoes is okay.
Running is an injury-prone sport. Some get it from slipping from a rock while trail running, some get muscle imbalances resulting in pain due to poor running mechanics exacerbated by the wrong footwear, and some get it gradually through repetitive impact on the joints.
Running shoes are shoes that are shaped and built for the activity of running. They are usually cushioned, angled to a rolling motion that supports running mechanics, and lightweight. A good pair of running shoes will lead to longevity in the sport.
5 Steps on Choosing the Right Running Shoes
1. Consider the Terrain
Are you gonna be running on uneven slippery rocks or an even pavement? Is the terrain dry, wet, muddy or filled with snow?
When choosing the right type of shoes, you first have to consider where you’re mostly gonna use them. If your route consists of slippery rocks, uneven surfaces, loose gravel, mud, or snow, then it is best to go with a trail running shoe with good stability.
Trail shoes have deep lugs (lugs are the groves in the sole of the shoe) that provide more traction to the ground that will prevent you from sliding from slippery rock, mud, or snow.
In contrast, if you’re running more on the road or any even pavement, a road running shoe is the best for you. Most of them are lighter and faster, thanks to lesser friction brought about by a more shallow lug (a lug is like the spikes of the shoe that provides traction). Think of shoes like the Nike Ultraboost 21.
If your route has a little bit of both, then you can find a shoe with moderately deep lugs that provide good traction but are still flexible and light. I consider my favorite budget-friendly shoe from Asics to belong in this category. I also made a full review about it if you’re interested.
2. Consider the Distance and Pace of Your Runs
If you’re serious about running, you also have to consider the distance and pace that you will be running in.
Generally speaking, cushioned running shoes are good for beginners looking to finish a half marathon race in one piece. These shoes offer an extra cushion that helps lessen the impact of your bodyweight hitting the ground. It’s also a good idea even for pro runners to train with a cushioned running shoe. This will allow longevity and injury prevention.
In contrast, athletes who want to be fast need lightweight running shoes. This type of shoe sacrifices things like an extra cushion in order to make the shoe lighter. Most of them are equipped with advanced technology that gives a higher rebound resulting in faster, more energy-efficient running. I like using this shoe for fast-paced running.
3. Analyze Your Running Gait
The foot lands differently for everyone. Some runners run with neutral feet, which is the best and safest way to run. It evenly distributes the impact throughout your lower extremity joints. These runners are fine with a more flexible neutral shoe.
Some runners, however, have an overpronated foot when landing. It is therefore ideal for these type of runners to run with a stability or motion control shoe.
Runners with supinated foot landing can use neutral shoes as well.
For this step, it is best to get an expert to analyze your running gait. Some stores have a treadmill and a running expert to help you out with this step. However, you can do this yourself by taking a video of your ankles’ posterior side while running on a treadmill and slowing the video down. Look for any indications of misalignment similar to the photo shown above.
If you don’t know the different types of running shoes, I suggest you read my article detailing the different types of shoes.
4. Pick, Test and Compare
Now that you’ve considered the terrain you’ll be mostly running in and had your running gait analyze by an expert, it’s time to pick, test and compare.
Some shoes have better cushions than others. Some have better rebound but less cushion. Find out what you feel comfortable running in.
What are your preferences? Do you like speed? Comfort? Easy to put on and off? Snug? This step is entirely up to you for as long as you’ve already chosen the type of running shoe.
Shoes also differ in heel-toe drop (the difference between the height of the heel and the height of the forefoot). The most common drop is 10mm. While minimalist shoes are somewhere around 4mm.
Generally speaking, shoes with a high drop kind of tips you forward while those with low ones feel more like you’re barefooted. Both offer unique qualities and it’s all a matter of preference.
For this step, don’t let others choose for you. And do not choose a running shoe solely based on the looks. Some shoes could be the best shoe for one athlete and the worst ones for you.
5. Find the Perfect Fit
Shoes have different measurements. Some are wide, some are narrow, some are slightly bigger than your actually size and some are a true size fit. It is best if you try on different sizes of the same shoe to find out what works best for you.
Pro tip: Try to see if they have a wide variation. This helps a lot for runners with wider feet.
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 your running journey