When it comes to selecting running shoes, function trumps fashion. The right shoe protects you from injury, maximizes your effort, and keeps you coming back to the track or trail day after day.
The best running shoes are not the style and brand recommended by your friend. Though their shoes may be just right for them, they aren’t guaranteed to be right for your feet. Without the correct shoe, injuries such as plantar fasciitis and shin splints are more likely to strike.
Consider the shape of your foot, proper sizing, and your gait – plus how the shoe feels to you – to determine the best running shoes to match your goals.
You have a unique shape to your arch and foot that falls into one of three categories: high arches, neutral arches, or flat feet. The shape of your foot influences your gait pattern, too. If you tend toward a high arch, your foot turns out when you’re running, in an action known as supination. If your arch is flat, you tend to roll inward – or overpronate. Neutral arches put you in a stable running position that neither turns out nor in.
For those with flatter arches, a strong stability shoe helps prevent overpronation. Neutral runners can tolerate a wide variety of shoes but often benefit from a shoe with mild to moderate stability. Those who supinate should choose a shoe with a little extra cushioning, especially in the midsole.
The look of your arch gives a clue as to the type of shoe you should choose, but so does the way your foot strikes the ground. Quality running stores offer a gait analysis, in which the staff can watch you run outside or on a treadmill to notice if you tend to overpronate or supinate. Dr. Rambacher can also watch the way your foot strikes the ground.
You’ll be happiest in running shoes that are a little bit larger than your dress or street shoes. Aim for a fit that allows for about ¼ to ½ inch of room in the toe. The best time to try on shoes is later in the day, or even after a run. Your feet swell when you’ve been on them – you want your running shoes to accommodate for this.
Room in the toe box shouldn’t mean your heel slips a lot, which can cause blisters and instability. Make sure your heel fits snugly, so you have a subtle movement that doesn’t irritate.
Choose a shoe that allows for a little side-to-side movement at your forefoot and that isn’t too tight – indicating it’s too narrow for you. If you feel your pinky toe touching the inside edge of the shoe, it’s likely too tight.
Try lots of brands
Each brand of running shoe has a model that addresses arch tendencies and gait styles. Try different brands to see how the materials they use, their construction, and flexibility. Avoid falling for trends, too. Minimal shoes – such as barefoot styles – may be right for some runners, but aren’t the key to running injury-free and fast for everyone.
Running shoes are an investment. Arm yourself with knowledge about your feet, and visit your local running specialty store to try on several models. Exercise patience; it’ll pay off in faster race times and more comfortable feet.