Figuring out how to pick the right running shoes may sound like a difficult challenge. The marketplace is flooded with many different models and brands. Wearing improper running shoes can trigger injuries to the legs, knees, and feet. Finding the ideal running shoes can significantly influence your running functionality and overall performance.
With so many options, it’s easy for the paradox of choice to set in quickly and make your decision more complicated than it needs to be. Luckily, if you devote some time to reading this article, you will eventually have a complete picture of what to consider before buying.
This article is a complete guide for beginners who want to pick running shoes for the first time and for professional runners who plan to change or upgrade their current running shoes. Just remember that buying comfortable and healthy running shoes is more important than finding the perfect pair right away! So be patient, and you’ll find a pair that works well for you in no time.
Why Is It Important to Pick the Right Running Shoes?
Experts indicate that wearing the perfect running shoes works miracles in protecting your feet against injuries and falls that running force causes.
Moreover, the better your shoes are, the better you will perform on the track. Among the most significant foot problems your running shoe prevents are blisters, hammer’s toe, bunions, Plantar fasciitis, Stress fractures, Achilles tendonitis, and corns. Also, picking and wearing the right running shoes can help you enjoy your running routine.
The foot is a vital part of the human body. Our ancient ancestors discovered that the foot is closely related to the body’s organs and functions, so the science of Reflexology appeared later. This science is based on the theory that the soles of the foot include an integrated map of all the body’s organs, and each organ is linked to a specific point in the soles of the foot. You might have heard the famous saying that the comfort of the body begins from the foot. Therefore, doctors recommend that you equip yourself with comfortable shoes when playing sports to prevent the foot from suffering pain and problems.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Your Running Shoes
Finding and investing in the right pair of running shoes should be simple and easy, but there are many running shoe brands and many different models that make buying the perfect shoe for you isn’t always that easy.
Below are some factors which should be considered when choosing running shoes. Of course, each element will mean something different to each person. For example, what you may rank as a number one priority may come lower down on someone else’s list.
1- Be Familair with the Lingo
When shopping for running shoes, it’s essential to know the parts. So here are some terms you’ll likely encounter:
Upper: The upper is the top part of the shoe that is designed to hold your shoe in place inside the shoe firmly. The upper of a running shoe is an essential part of the overall design. It needs to be durable to protect your feet from the elements while also being lightweight and breathable to stay comfortable during your run. Many running shoe feature uppers made from various materials, including mesh, synthetic leather, and suede.
Outsole: The part of a shoe that touches the ground is called the outsole. It is usually made of a strong rubber compound that is shaped to fit the foot. Different types of shoes, activities, and surfaces call for different types of outsoles.
Midsole: Between the sole and the upper is a layer of a soft material called the midsole. It gives stability, cushioning, and resistance to being squashed. Usually, it is made of ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), polyurethane (PU), or rubber.
Toe Box: The toe box is the front space of your shoe that hugs your toes. When looking for a new pair of shoes, it’s essential to ensure that the toe box is roomy enough so that your toes can move around and wiggle. If the toe box is too big or bulky, the shoe will be uncomfortable to wear. So, try on a few different pairs of shoes to find the perfect fit.
Lugs: Lugs are featured in the outsole of trail running shoes. It provides traction on unstable surfaces. The deeper the lugs are, the more traction the shoe can provide on trails.
Tongue: It is a separate strip on the upper. It helps you to put on the shoes and take them off.
Flex grooves: Flex grooves are cuts in the outsole that make a zone where the shoe can bend. The flex groove lets the shoe bend with your foot instead of against it when you bend your foot. This makes your feet, ankles, and knees feel better and puts less stress on them.
Heel-toe Drop (Heel Drop): The heel-to-toe drop (also known as Heel Drop) is the height difference between the cushioning under the heel and the cushioning under the forefoot. Most of the time, heel drop is measured in millimeters.
We’ve listed above the most common parts and related terms of running shoes. However, if you are enthusiastic about knowing more about all the different parts of running shoes, we made a thorough guide for you.
2- Get Running Shoes
That may sound clear, but many beginners get tennis or walking shoes and later experience foot pain and/or other injuries.
When running, you should wear a running shoe, not a walking shoes, cross-trainer, tennis shoes, or basketball sneakers. This is where our specialty running website helps by fitting you with a quality pair of running shoes.
Running shoes are developed mainly for running. All the technologies and features are designed to ensure the runner’s foot is covered and protected from impact and decrease the risk of injuries. So, if you are a running enthusiast and want to do a lot of running, choose a running sneaker to keep your feet happy.
3- What Feels Most Comfortable
Comfort is the most important thing to look for in a running shoe. So, I’ll say it again: get informed, but don’t think too much about this. Choosing the most comfortable shoe for the running you do is really all there is to it.
With many alternatives, it’s wise to find out which would work for you. Then select the pairs that fit you best.
4- Pick The Right Type of Running Shoes
The wide range of shoes you see in stores or online boils down to these types:
Motion Control Running Shoes: This type is dedicated to runners who overpronate due to having feet that roll inside their trainers during running. The shoe stops this problem due to its rigidness and sturdy construction, which raises stability to the maximum.
Cushioned Running Shoes: This type is for those who have high arches. The shoe is designed to give ample comfort through its cushy heels and soles.
Stability Running Shoes: This type is tailored to synthesize the previous two types. Stability shoes have foam or posts to help keep your foot from rolling too much inward or outward. That is to say, the shoe offers average cushioning along with stability.
Neutral Running Shoes: This shoe is made for runners with a neutral gait. As a result, it exhibits less cushioning than the previous ones.
5- Running Terrain
The surface you run on also impacts the wear and tear on your running sneakers. For example, if your shoes are typically used on springy, soft forest trails, there won’t be a significant sign of wear on your soles as the cushioning effect of the surface will ease the shock impact of your stride and minimize some of the pressure on your shoe. On the other hand, the cushioning system and tread will be worn down if you put on your running shoes for asphalt.
Below are the most common running terrains:
Road Running: Road running will not require intensified durability, so a road runner will shift his mind to other options, such as cushioning and lightweight.
Trail Running: Trails include muddy and rocky terrains, necessitating you to buy a shoe with utmost durability and grip. This type is made to suit the terrain on which runners tread, including rugged, soft terrains. In addition, it features a technology called Gore-Tex liners that ensures that the shoes roll up to the feet snugly. They also offer lugged rubber outsoles to maintain stability. The shoe is distinguished by its bouncy nature which quickly responds to shocks.
Treadmill Running: Treadmill running is somehow similar to road running. However, you can choose a less lightweight or less-cushioned shoe if it looks nice to you.
Track and Field: Running fast means that you need a super lightweight shoe with extra cushioning to make you hit unprecedented miles on that synthetic ground.
Sand: Running on sand or beaches is not as easy as it sounds, as running on dry sand can be an exasperating experience. Therefore, investing in a proper running shoe for beach rides is a crucial prerequisite to ensure your running journey won’t end up with several injuries.
Grass: Runners on grass usually experience low pressure on the rearfoot and forefoot, so investing in lightweight running shoes would be an excellent choice for grass runners.
Hybrid: If you want to experience running on both trail and road terrains, you will need a pair of hybrid running shoes. They have a combination of features of both trail and road running footwear.
Luckily, you can pick the right running shoes for every kind of surface. The market provides the best shoe for every terrain, from sturdy trail shoes for off-road running to very light racing shoes for high speeds. So you have to know what type of terrain you decide to run on when you pick your shoes.
6- Running Purposes
There are three common purposes most runners stick to:
Casual Running: If you run every once in a while, ranging from 5k to 10k per week, the chances are that most running sneakers will fit you perfectly, including less and ample cushioning.
Long-Distance Running: If you hit over extended distances, such as 30 miles per week, your feet need the most cushioning. A well-cushioned pair of trainers will keep you headed out and unaffected by the hard run.
Racing and Faster Running: Racers and fast runners are urged to get a light pair of shoes that will make them feel like they are wearing nothing on their feet. Performance running shoes are also a good fit.
7- Type of Foot Arch
Runners must know what arches they have, for there are three types of arches that contribute to the running sneakers a runner should buy. However, there is a test that will help you pick your type. It is called the wet test.
Soak your feet underwater. Get on a piece of paper and see the mark that your feet will form.
Low Arch: The paper shows almost your entire feet without curves. This type needs a stable shoe that is characterized by robustness and durability.
Normal Arch: The paper has a patent curve, half of the foot’s width, and a thick band between the heels and the toes. Runners who have neutral arches can freely wear lots of running shoes.
High Arch: The curve is obvious, and the band that connects the heels to the toes is slim. Those runners don’t need arch support as much as they need cushioning.
Running style naturally has a massive impact when picking the right running shoes. For example, there’s often a distinction between rearfoot and forefoot running.
Rearfoot running: rearfoot running is similar to walking motions as the heel is the first foot’s part that touches the ground when running. Nonetheless, all runners should consider the disadvantages:
- High shock impact on each step.
- Not ideal for quick runs, as the feet touch the surface well behind the body’s center of gravity, slowing down your speed rate.
- Lots of load in the calf and Achilles heel which may result in an inflammation of the Achilles.
- High eccentric pressure on the shin muscles which may cause shin splints.
Forefoot running: forefoot running style is undoubtedly the quickest, as the feet strike the ground below the center of gravity. Hence, the retraction motion of the lower leg is possible for an active run. In addition, overpronation is eliminated with this type of running style because of the pretension of muscles on hitting the surface.
An example of disadvantages is:
- Running on your tiptoes can lead to heel spurs.
9- Foot Shape and Biomechanics
Pronation is the natural movement of the foot when it hits the ground. This motion causes the foot to roll inwards and then back out again. Understanding pronation when choosing running shoes is crucial because you want to select a shoe that will support your pronation type. There are three types of pronation- supination, neutral, and overpronation.
Overpronation: Most of these runners have flat feet. They tend to strike with their heels and then roll inwardly. The ankles are not highly supportive, so they need stability sneakers.
Neutral: Runners with normal gaits hit the ground with their midfoot, followed by a slight foot movement inwards. They need a well-cushioned pair of shoes to help them feel comfortable.
Underpronation (supination): Those runners have a high arch which makes them strike with the outside of their foot and roll outward. They are recommended to have a shoe with neutral cushioning.
Knowing your foot shape during running is essential when picking the right running shoes. In addition, you need to make sure to get a suitable pair that can help you correct your foot posture when running.
10- Runner’s Weight
Bodyweight is essential in determining the right type of running shoes you should pick. Generally, the heavier runners are, the greater their shoe support should be.
Heavy male runners who weigh more than 85kgs should look for a shoe for heavyweight shoes that offer enough support. Meanwhile, heavy female runners with more than 75 kgs need to seek running shoes for heavyweight runners.
11- Type of Socks you Use
You should wear the same socks you wear for running while trying your shoes on before buying. The thickness of the socks contributes to the shoe grip and overall comfort. Choose specified running socks with padding and support for your arches. According to experts, cotton socks are not a good choice, for they glean moisture.
Read more: best running shoes for overpronators
12- Cushioning Level
Cushioning differs from one runner to another. Some people love to have a comfortable in-shoe feeling, while others love to feel a firm grip.
Max Cushion Running Shoes: Max cushion shoes are tailored to give a super plush experience with cutting-edge shock attenuation and durability. However, they are heavier than the other types of shoes, making them less flexible.
Mid-level Cushion Running Shoes: This shoe is lighter than max-cushioned shoes and similarly robust. It suits both short and long rides.
Light Cushion Running Shoes: This shoe beats them all when it comes to absorbing shocks. It is very feathery, which suits race runners. However, you must note that the cushioning system is reduced to the minimum to be the best choice for long and everyday runs.
13- Go For Fit, Not Size
Picking the right shoe size is also essential for keeping the total efficiency of the shoe. Your foot expands when contacting the ground because of the stress of your body weight.
If you pick a running shoe that is too small or fits precisely, the risk of stretching the stitches will be higher. This is why you have to purchase running footwear one size bigger than your actual size. In addition, there should be an extra space (approximately thumb’s width) between the seam of your shoe and the tip of your big toe. Your feet need this much room to roll without hitting the tip of your running sneaker.
Other Technical, Technological Factors to Consider:
Flexibility in a running sneaker is essential for runners. The room in your shoe where the ball of your foot and your toes rest has to be flexible enough to bend. Press the front back to check the flexibility when getting the shoe in your hands.
A flexible shoe front will boost your better mobility during running. This is because there will be less tension on the foot’s front as your feet strike the surface and then rotate up into the air once more.
Also, testing the midsole’s flexibility is vital to ensure that there is plenty of “bounce” when running. The foot bends naturally when you run to provide the best stability and support. The flexible running shoes will work together with your foot’s natural behaviors and make your running experience painless and straightforward.
15- Toe Spring
The shoe has to provide space for your foot’s natural “bounce.” Toe spring is used to pick running shoes related to the front’s upward curvature. This upward curve at the toe makes it less complicated for people to run without extra strain on the foot. Toe spring and flexibility go hand in hand, and it’s crucial to select running footwear that provides both.
16- Heel Cushion
Heel pain is a regular problem for many runners. The constant pressure on the heel of your foot, standing and running on your feet for long periods, and lack of proper stretches can cause undesirable pain. Today, most running shoes are designed with this in mind and provide enough padding at the heel. This padding usually takes up the shock put on the heel when your foot strikes the surface during running. It helps prevents injury in your heels and ease your movements.
Picking the proper heel cushion will depend on trial and error. Many types of heel supports are put in running shoes, each engineered to serve a specific need. For example, some shoes have more rounded and sturdy padding, while others are spongy and softer.
Remember that you may not pick a comfortable pair of running shoes. A lot of people use specialty insoles to make their trainers comfier. You may want to ask your orthopedic doctor if the insoles are a suitable option for your feet.
Durability will be highly crucial to determining how long you should run. It is governed by price and the materials used. The durability makes your shoe live for a long time, which will help you save money in the long term.
19- Heel-to-toe Drop
The drop is the height between the heels and the forefront. Therefore, you should consider an essential factor when selecting the perfect running sneakers.
0MM – 4MM Drop: Running shoes with a lower drop help your feet hit down on the midfoot or forefoot. This kind of drop is aggressive and frequently associated with running faster. A lower drop would probably be appropriate if you want to land on your forefoot or midfoot or plan on faster runs (a more aggressive style of running), such as during competitions or interval training.
6MM – 8MM Drop: If you plan to change how you run—sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly—or if you don’t like to make big changes in either direction, a drop in the middle may be best for you.
10MM – 14MM Drop: It should tell you that there is approximately half an inch more shoe below your heel than there is under your forefront, which supports your heel to strike the surface first. This drop range is often associated with a casual type of running. So if you practice more leisurely runnings where you’re not interested in race times, you may want a sneaker with a higher drop.
20- Refund Policy
When buying a new pair of running shoes, it’s important to check the returns policy before making your purchase. This is especially important if you’re unsure about the fit or think they might not be the right style for you. So, select a store that will allow you to return your ill-fitting running shoes. For instance, Amazon will enable runners to return their shoes within thirty days of the trial.
21- Test the Running Shoes
Don’t be tempted by the colors or designs when going into a local store or shopping online. Now that you’ve located the footwear that works best for you, please save your money and time and order them online.
First, check them out at a local running store. Walk in them, run a little, test the shoe well and get the one you want. Then, check them out online, as you can get the model you want at a lower price. Here are a few extra tests you can perform to ensure the shoe is good.
- Break Test: While having a running shoe in your hands, compress and collapse it together. The place at your foot’s ball would be, the shoe should typically bend. The footwear shouldn’t flatten or completely collapse, though. When this occurs or if the shoe doesn’t bend at all, there is either little or excessive support in the shoe.
- Twist Test: Have a shoe in your hands and twist it. If the shoe twists a little bit, it is suitable. If it does not twist or twist like you’re winging out a towel, it’s not the shoe you invest in.
Some expert runners recommend wearing a shoe with a reflective surface to warn people to avoid accidents when they run in darkness.
23- Buy a Double Pair
It is advisable to buy an extra pair of running shoes to rotate between the two to increase the lifespan of each one and make sure you get the ultimate performance. Experts urge runners to take off their shoes once they hit 300 miles to 500 miles.
Extra Tips for Buying Running shoes for Kids
- Measure the length and width of your child’s feet before searching for a shoe.
- Get a shoe that has multiple lengths and widths to suit your kid.
- Listen to your child and let him determine what you should purchase because brands differ in size.
- Let your child wear the same socks he will wear on terrain.
- You should bring arch supports while trying the shoe.
Top Running Shoe-Buying Mistakes
Wrong Size: Don’t try to guess your size because you might be mistaken. Try to calculate your exact size by using the wet test we mentioned.
Wrong Timing: Some studies claim that our feet can organically enlarge by up to 4% due to daily use. At the end of the day, your feet are a little bigger than in the morning.
So, if you buy your shoes in the morning, chances are they will feel firmer when the evening comes. To account for this when picking running shoes, it is recommended to buy running shoes in the afternoon or evening.
Being Deceived into Style: Appearance might contradict reality sometimes. Don’t be tempted to buy what looks excellent with lovely colors, and think about what will truly give you the service you need.
Getting What’s Cheap: Indeed, it is not only about price, but consider the fact that high-end material will surely be more durable than a cheap one.
Trying a Shoe Without Socks: As mentioned before, the thickness of the socks is a critical factor that will affect the size of your shoes. So, wear the same socks you wear for running when purchasing your shoe.
What is the most crucial factor to consider when buying running shoes?
The most important factor in running shoes is comfort and fit. This means that every little discomfort issue in a shoe is amplified when running, which increases your risk for injury. Therefore, it’s important to find shoes that fit well and are comfortable to avoid these issues.
Does brand matter?
Buying a trendy model that has just hit the market sounds enticing. However, you should seek durability, cushioning, and lightweight first. Your brand will be great only if it gives you the comfort you need.
Why do running shoes cost so much?
It seems like running shoes cost a lot of money, but the cost per run is actually relatively low. This is because runners are susceptible to injuries, so buying a good pair of running shoes can help prevent those injuries. This makes up for the higher price tag and ultimately results in a lower overall cost per run.
Calculate the budget you need to have when buying your running shoes. For example, the budget might range between 50-200 USD. If you want something affordable, try to buy an old model or a model that doesn’t have vibrant colors or a stylish design, or you can wait until the time when shops offer discounts on running sneakers.
There are many running shoe features engineered to improve the comfort and performance of runners wherever they are training. These features include the running shoe outsole, the midsole, the upper heel-to-toe drop, the medial post, and the heel counter.
Knowing the specified terms will make you think like an expert and enable you to pick the right shoe without being deceived by sellers. That is why we tackled this topic in a specific article.
Is a waterproof feature necessary in running shoes?
The waterproof membrane is essential for running in rainy and freezing weather. It protects your feet against coldness and water. However, note that a waterproof shoe lacks ventilation and takes time to dry off. So, it would help on short runs but will suffocate your feet during long ones.
Does the squat test help decide what running shoes I need?
The squat test might be a great way to figure out what shoes you need if you’re a runner. You stand with your feet hip-width apart and squat down as if you’re going to sit in a chair. If your heels come off the ground, that means you need more cushioning in the heel of your running shoes. Likewise, if your toes come off the ground, you need more cushioning in front of your running shoes.
Although this test is excellent for runners, it’s not so great for people who aren’t runners. In fact, if you’re not a runner, there’s a good chance that doing this test will result in a completely wrong shoe selection! So unless you’re sure about what you’re doing, it’s best to avoid this test altogether.
Can I use the same pair of running shoes all the time?
It’s important to rotate your running shoes to prevent injuries. Just like you wouldn’t wear the same pair of jeans every day for a week, you shouldn’t wear the same pair of running shoes every day either. Doing so can cause issues such as Plantar Fasciitis and Shin Splints.
There are several reasons why rotating your shoes is beneficial. For one, it gives each shoe time to air out and dry properly between uses. This prevents bacteria from building up inside the shoe and helps reduce odor. Rotating also allows the shoe cushioning to rebound, providing more support and comfort with each use.
Finally, rotating helps keep your muscles guessing—which can help prevent overuse injuries. When you do the same thing all the time (in this case, run in the same pair of shoes), your muscles get used to that position and don’t have to work as hard during activity, which can lead to injury down the road.
What does ‘Zero drop’ mean?
Regarding running shoes, “zero drop” is a term you’ll likely see come up quite often. But what does it mean? Simply put, zero-drop means that the height difference between the cushioning under the heel and cushioning under the forefoot is zero.
How long should a pair of running shoes last?
It is important to replace your running shoes every 300-500 miles. This will ensure that you are getting the most out of your shoes and that you are avoiding injuries. In addition, it is a good idea to have an annual gait analysis done by your podiatrist so that they can check for any abnormalities in your stride.
What is cushioning?
Cushioning is a critical component of running shoes. It can be found in different areas of the shoe. The most common type of cushioning is foam, which is usually located in the heel and midsole. Cushioning helps to absorb shock and protect your feet from impact. It’s important to find the right level of cushioning for your needs, as too much or too little can cause problems.
There are different brands and types of athletic shoes (such as Adidas, Reebok, Nike, New Balance, Hoka, etc.) on the market today. You can buy anything from shoes with built-in “shocks” to shoes pumped with air. But when you are shopping for a new pair, make sure that the chosen trainers are most suitable for your feet and your athletic exercises.
This article gave you all the tips and tricks to help you choose the running shoe that will fit you like a pair of gloves. Ensure you apply all these recommendations and know your foot and gait type to get the perfect kick. Finally, share the article with your friends who have recently told you that they are searching for new proper running shoes to help them find their good pals.