Picking a great pair of running shoes can definitely be confusing. You walk into your local run shop, spy the wall of endless options and your eyes just glaze over. Some runners tend to go for looks and style, while forgetting the importance of fit and function. But most running shoes will feel like you are walking on a cloud when you're trying them on in the store, so that doesn't seem to help much either in your decision making process. The real test of whether you chose well or not comes much later when you've put in some solid miles on the road or trails. Do they feel like an extension of your foot, or are they causing aches and pains that make your running time less enjoyable? Ultimately you'll find that choosing the right shoe for you has more to do with your running form and physical characteristics, than just buying the latest and greatest product with all the high-tech bells and whistles.
But fear not, you can simplify your buying experience with this easy process and expert tips.
Three Step Shoe Buying Process:
1. What surface will you be running on?
Road Shoes are designed for pavement and packed surfaces, with varying levels of cushioning to provide shock absorption and minimize the risk of injury.
Trail Shoes are designed for mud, roots, and rocks, with a deep tread pattern that offers more stability and ankle support to run on uneven terrain.
Racing Flats are designed for speed, and thus are very light with less cushioning.
2. What type of shoe do you need?
Neutral Shoes: This category makes up a large percentage of the marketplace, and they are designed for mild pronators or runners who supinate. These type of shoes will provide you with some shock absorption and medial support.
Stability Shoes: These models contain technology such as medial posts that are designed to correct overpronation. Overpronation occurs when the ankle rolls excessively inward with each step, which can increase your chance of injury.
Motion Control Shoes: These shoes are designed for the severe overpronator. They use heavy duty support to correct overpronation by adjusting the foot into a more neutral alignment. They offer special features such as stiffer heels or straighter lasts to counter overpronation.
3. Take your shoes out for a spin.
Finally, the most important thing to remember when buying your new running shoes is to ensure that you’re getting the right fit and functionality for you. Pick a specialty running store like Charm City Run, where an expert salesperson can watch you run and help select a pair of shoes that fit your feet and running style.
Top Tips for the Perfect Fit
Try on shoes at the end of the day. Your feet normally swell throughout the day. This tip will help you avoid buying shoes that are too small (a common mistake).
Bring your old running shoes with you. Checking the wear pattern on the bottom of your soles can help determine your running mechanics, and thus help select the best type of shoe for you.
Get your foot accurately measured. Your feet can change over time, while shoe sizes will vary between manufacturers, and even from model to another within the same brand.
Always wear the socks you run in to try on new shoes. That way you can make a realistic evaluation of how well the shoe will fit your feet.
If you wear orthotics, bring them along. They will impact the fit of a shoe as well.
Running shoes should be replaced every 300 to 500 miles (3 or 4 months for regular runners). Keep track of the date that you bought them in your training log, so that you can buy a new pair before you start experiencing nagging aches and pains that could cause some downtime from your training.
Ready Find Your Perfect Fit?
Visit a Charm City Run shop near you to start the fit process using Dr. Tim’s top tips!
About the Author: Dr. Timothy Moore
Timothy J. Moore, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., M.C.H.E.S., is a health and fitness consultant with over 30 years of experience, having worked with top organizations such as the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic and US Fitness Holdings.As a Former Division I athlete and track coach at the University of Maryland, Dr. Tim has coached collegiate All-Americans, top professionals, and world champion senior competitors, as well as life coaching clients that include celebrity entertainers and Fortune 500 executives.Dr. Tim has also served on the Personal Trainer Exam Committee for the American Council on Exercise, as the Fitness Editor for Shape magazine, and as a consultant to sporting goods companies such as Reebok.While features on Dr. Tim have appeared in People magazine and USA Today, as well as on television's Good Morning America.Finally, for his work in the industry Dr. Tim was honored by being named to the prestigious Who’s Who in the World.