Finding a good pair of shoes is arguably the most important component of your running. It’s not a decision that you should make lightly, and be prepared for an investment (anywhere from $50 on clearance to $120+). Whether you are a new runner or have been running awhile, these tips will help you find the perfect match for your feet!
1. Go to a running store.
We always suggest to support local stores, but if for some reason you can’t find one, at least go to a running-specific store, like Road Runner Sports or Fleet Feet Sports. Never go to a discount or department store for your running shoes (unless they happen to have your brand and style on sale or something). Any running-specific store will ask you some questions, check out your form and then have you try on a few different pairs of shoes. You should be able to run around in them and see how they feel. Take as much time as you need – don’t rush this decision.
2. Go to the store prepared.
This means go at the end of the day, when your feet are a little swollen (like they would be during a run), and bring your own socks. Bring any orthotics with you, or put in the insoles that you plan to use, if at all.
3. How much padding do you want?
Some people love cushioning, while others prefer a more minimalist design. While most brands have options that are in between both – some cushioned options, some lower drop options – there are brands known for each. Hoka is a brand known for cushioning, and Vibrams are super minimalist.
You may be asking, “what the heck does “drop” even mean?” It’s basically the difference in height between the ball of your foot and your heel. The difference in running shoes used to be between 12-15mm, but now most shoes are somewhere between 4-10mm, with some even advertising no drop (0-4mm). If you decide to do a lower drop than you might be used to, go for less mileage and take it easy while your achilles and calf get adjusted to the difference.
4. Do you have any “special needs”?
Some of us (many of us) pronate while we run, which means our foot rolls inward when it hits the ground. Over time, this can lead to injury, so if this is something that your foot does, you will want a shoe with support. While a running shoe expert will watch you run in a neutral shoe and check your foot strike, if you look at the bottom of a pair of shoes you wear often, and the inside is more worn than the outside, you likely pronate. If the outside is more worn than the inside, you may supinate (roll your foot outward).
Other “special needs” include a high arch or a flat foot.
5. The fit.
Personally, I go anywhere from a half size to a full size bigger because I like to have room in the toe box (about a thumb’s width). Even if you don’t want that much space, your toes should not touch the front of the shoe. The shoe should be snug, but comfortable around your foot. Your foot should not slide around or feel constricted.
6. Ignore the colors/design.
The way the shoe looks should not be more important than the way the shoe feels. Think function, not fashion. That being said, you can usually get both. Shoe companies usually make a particular shoe in multiple colors, so if the store doesn’t have any colors you like, try checking another store or online.
7. Don’t (always) listen to your friends.
While your friend may have found the perfect pair for her, that doesn’t mean it’s the perfect pair for you. By all means, ask friends for brand recommendations, but keep in mind that you may have entirely different needs and that brand may not work for you.
Now that I’ve picked the perfect pair, how often do I need to replace them?
Generally speaking, every 300-500 miles, depending on how quickly you wear them down. If you run a few miles a few times a week, it’s about every 4-6 months.
Feature Photo Credit: LifeFitness