Investing in an appropriate running shoe can spare you the inconvenience of injury and any medical bills that might have to follow. While a variety of styles and brands of running shoes exist on the market, buying a great pair can often hinge on the knowledge of your particular feet’s anatomy, your running style, and your exercise goals. Fortunately, the process of determining this information about your foot is easy and can be performed at home. Using this knowledge (also see our 8 Tips for Choosing Your Workout Shoes) while shopping can result in the purchase of a pair of shoes that both support your feet and fit correctly. With the right shoes on your feet, you’re free to explore the world at your own pace.
Like many other types of shoes, running shoes are subject to wear and tear, and this can happen faster when the shoes are used regularly. You can expect to need to replace running shoes sooner than shoes than you use to take a relaxed walk around the neighborhood. If you count the miles that you run for training or weight-loss purposes, try to buy a new pair of shoes every 450 miles. Wearing a pair of running shoes that has already covered 600 miles can compromise your feet and leave you susceptible to injury. When shopping, account for the motion your feet will experience while you’re exercising and size up: Your running shoe size should include an extra free half-inch in the toe box. For the best results, invest in two pairs of shoes and alternate between them when running.
Different types of running require specific types of shoes. Runners who are accustomed to exercising on tracks may find that their shoe needs differ as soon as they take up running on roads or on trails. In addition, beginners, intermediate, and advanced runners may also have varying needs. For example, a very active and advanced runner may want to invest in cross-trainers that combine features and will allow them to engage in different types of sports, while walkers who are considering the addition of running might need a shoe that is more rigid and heavier than those who only run. Previous running experience that has resulted in injuries or foot abnormalities, such as blisters, bunions, corns, or hammertoes, needs to also be taken into account when buying new shoes. To avoid compounding these injuries, consider where these injuries are located and choose the shoes that don’t further exacerbate them.
Road Running vs. Trail Running
Concrete is more than twice as hard as natural surfaces, such as those found on trails. For this reason, road running can be more demanding on the body and any protective gear that supports it. A good running shoe will be cushioned to absorb maximum impact. It should also provide great stability and easily bend at the area where the ball of the foot is located. Trail-running shoes should feature soles that support grips on rugged or uneven terrain. The tread patterns on these shoes should offer more variety and deeper lugs than those found on regular running shoes. Finally, trail-running shoes are generally stiffer from toe to heel to provide 360-degree protection.
Foot shape is an important factor in choosing the right running shoe. Arch height, in particular, should inform what type of shoe will help you experience a comfortable and supportive run. While a podiatrist or even a shoe seller can give you idea of what type of foot arch you have, a simple test can help you determine your arch height at home. Simply wet your feet and stand on a paper bag for about 60 seconds. When you step away, closely inspect the imprint that was left behind by your feet. A clear curve along the side of your foot and an area between your heel and toe that measures about half the width of your foot indicates a normal arch height and normal pronation. Low arches and overpronators don’t have curves and can see almost the entire outline of their foot on the paper. Those with high arches and who tend to underpronate have imprints with what seem to be a very thin band connecting the heel and foot.
The way your foot hits the ground and reacts to it defines your pronation. A normal pronator sees their heel hit the ground with the impact evenly reverberating up to the ball of the foot. An undepronator absorbs most of the impact on the sides of the foot, while an overpronator rolls too much of the impact to the inside of the foot. Each of these running styles influences the types of running shoes in which you should invest. Those who pronate normally can buy regular running shoes that support stability. Underpronators would do best with wearing extra-cushioned shoes to help counteract the excessive impact that their foot strikes take. Overpronators need to invest in motion-control shoes to help guide the foot to the right positions. Stability potential is important for all of these shoes; shoe heels that feature solid and stiff materials offer more stability than those that give easily under squeezes or pinches.
Foot strike will also inform the best running shoe for your needs. A large, semi-flared and cushioned heel will provide adequate support for a normal heel strike. Shoes that prevent overpronation by providing great arch support will significantly reduce injuries. If you find that your foot pronates, invest in a shoe that has a good amount of support in the mid-foot section of the shoe.