Running is a refreshingly simple way to get your heart rate up and pumping. You can do it almost anywhere and don’t need much to get started (other than the motivation to go, of course). However, a functional and definitive pair of running shoes that address your specific and personal needs can improve your overall running experience.
Obviously, it is impossible to select the “best” pair of running shoes. And it can be very difficult to keep track of all the different brands, fabrics, sole materials, and colors.
So to boil it down to the basics, the best pair of kicks for you is determined by certain factors, including the size and shape of your feet, how frequently you run, and your training objectives. There are an incredible number of options available. We recommend trying on several pairs, either at your local running store, where staff can help you find the perfect fit or at home if you prefer to shop online.
Here are some pointers to get you started:
- Shop with a purpose – Think about what you want most from your shoes. Distance? Consider cushioning. Speed? Consider the weight and responsiveness. There’s more on these criteria later, but if your goal is to find a specific location, the following resources may be useful:
- Road running: Road or treadmill? Will you run on these surfaces more? Find shoes that are labeled “road running shoes.” These shoes are most likely cushioned enough to brace your muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments from the impact of a harder surface.
- Trail running: Should you prefer trail running, select a shoe designed for uneven terrain as you may encounter road bumps like stones and local flora. Shoes for trail running typically have anchored grippy soles, traction lugs, plus stiff heel collars to avoid rolled ankles. Weatherproofing may also be included for wet or slippery runs.
- Cross-training: If you want to cross-train, you should consider a different kind of shoe. Many prefer a shoe with a thin sole for strength training because too much cushioning can cause a rolled ankle when performing cross-body or large movements. Similarly, if you participate in activities that require many side-to-side motions (aerobics, tennis, basketball), search for shoes that combine stable support and cushioning.
- Road racing flats or track spikes: If you join races, try to consider investing in specialized running shoes. For example, track spikes improve traction, whereas road racing flats are usually very light. For improved performance, certain competition shoes now include carbon plates.
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- Try lots of shoes – If possible, get a fitting at a specialty running store. Try on various shoes before returning to the pairs that felt the most comfortable.
- Focus on fit – When you run, your feet expand and swell. Your feet should maintain a thumb’s width between your longest toe and the end of your shoe.
- Let comfort rule – Comfort is essential. If a shoe doesn’t feel right when you put it on for the first time, it’s unlikely to feel any better on the run.
When trying on shoes or testing an existing pair, these eight criteria can help you further judge and specifically cater to your needs:
- Cushioning: A shoe needs to be able to absorb or soften the impact. Try each shoe on and judge the quality and cushioning.
- Receptiveness: Receptiveness is “the force that moves you forward.” Consider how much you feel this effect and whether you like how it feels.
- Feel: Your stride should feel natural when you’re utilizing high-quality shoes. While keeping this in mind, remember what the “feel” of the shoes is.
- Floor Protection: Running shoes must shield your feet from the floor. Not protected so much that you cannot tell what the floor feels like so you can avoid injuries from uneven ground.
- Longevity: Consider the fit of your shoes and how they can change over a long time. It’s important to update your foot measurements to ensure you get the right size (no, do not assume your size). Women’s feet size change frequently from prenatal to postpartum, so female runners, please keep this in mind.
- Sole Support: Good running shoes should provide complete foot support without feeling uncomfortable and chafing, and it should feel just right underfoot. Evaluate the underfoot’s upper and sole separately to find that sweet spot.
- Weight: When choosing shoes, it is imperative to evaluate how heavy it “feels” on your feet instead of how objectively heavy it is.
- Style: Pick shoes that suit your style! Run in comfort and style.
The right shoes can make or break your relationship with the sport regardless of where you are on the running spectrum. The wrong pair can cause blisters, bruised toes, and even worse injuries.
Buying a pair of running shoes can be pricey and complicated, but a bit of research can get you farther and towards more comfortable mileage.