One of the many beauties of running is that it is an activity that requires minimal equipment. Strap on a pair of shoes, throw on some shorts and a shirt and hit the open road! However, despite the minimal equipment, choosing the proper pair of shoes for you as an individual runner is imperative. You can help avoid shin splints, plantar fascia, and other common overuse injuries by wearing proper footwear. As there are a variety of factors to keep in mind when looking for the proper pair of running shoes, here is a quick guide to send you running comfortably down the proper path:
What kind of foot strike do you have?
This may be the most important factor to keep in mind when shoe shopping. If you don’t have access to gait/foot strike analysis tech on your treadmill (let’s be honest, who does?) and don’t have a high-level running store nearby, you can check your foot strike by simply checking the wear pattern on the bottom of your old running shoes. What you’re looking for are signs that you are either a neutral foot striker, over-pronator, or under-pronator (also known as supinator). Neutral foot strikers will see even wear patterns just to the outside of the center of the heel on their shoes as well as the center of their forefoot. Over-pronators (runners who land heavily on the inside of their feet and roll outwards in stride) will see heavy wear patterns on the inside of the shoes at the heel and forefoot. Finally, under-pronators (landing heavily on the outside of the foot and rolling inwards) will see the heaviest wear patterns on the outside of their shoes at the heel and forefoot.
What is your ideal shoe category?
Once you’ve identified your foot strike, it’s a simple route to your shoe category. Most stores will sell shoes in two main categories, neutral and support/stability control. Support/stability control shoes are designed to aid supination for over-pronators while neutral shoes are best for under-pronators to allow for a certain amount of natural over-pronation. Neutral foot strikers should also stick to neutral or minimal shoes. DON’T WORRY, all shoe categories have option for more padding and “cushiness,” those are not just resigned for support/stability shoes.
What surface do you run on and for what type of training?
Different shoes are designed for different running surfaces, concrete/pavement, dirt/grass, or trail running. Most of the shoes you’ll find in a store function primarily for concrete/pavement but if you’re someone that loves heading into the woods and hitting the trails you may want something with a bit heartier tread and more stack height, which is the thickness of sole material beneath your foot, and lateral structural support, stronger, firmer materials to promote ankle stability. For most runners, shoes serve one function and one function only, mileage. You want a training shoe that will hold up to every step of your weekly miles. However, as you continue to progress you may be looking for speed trainers and racing flats, each with their own specific function. Step #1 in buying shoes is deciding what the function of the shoe you are looking for is.
What size/width foot do you have and what is your preferred comfort and style?
Be sure to get this right. Running in a shoe that is too small or too narrow is a recipe for disaster. That is to say, TRY THEM ON! Comfort is certainly important so once you find a shoe that works for you and you find comfortable try to stick with them for as long as possible. In terms of design and the style factor, enjoy having a pair of shoes that are examples of function versus fashion. If you do have a chance for a bit of flair with that function though, go for it!
What’s your price range?
This one is pretty straight forward. Don’t assume that more expensive = better, but also don’t be afraid to spend a bit more on a good pair of shoes since you don’t need to replace them more than 3 times per year on average. They should last you 300-500 miles if taken care of which can be up to 4 months of consistent running.
Now that you have all the information that you need to buy the perfect pair of running shoes, get on out there, grab your shoes, and hit the road!