Not all feet are created equal, which means not all running shoes are created equal either. Here's what to keep in mind when choosing the right running shoes for you.
Know your feet.
Do you have flat feet? High arches? Or "neutral" tootsies? Understanding the shape of your own feet is the first step in choosing the right running shoes.
Competitor.com provides the lowdown: "Flat feet tend to have fallen arches, making them flexible and prone to overpronation, an inward rolling motion. Neutral feet are the most biomechanically sound variety, putting them somewhere in the middle. High-arched feet are essentially the polar opposite of flat feet. When the arches are particularly defined, the feet end up being rigid, leading to supination, or landing on the outside edges of the feet."
Understand your running style.
REI says you need to know the type of running you do and your running style. Regarding type, think road running, trail running, or cross training. In terms of your running style, we're talking about how your feet land as you run, which is related to the shape of your feet. For example, does your foot "pronate," or roll inward, as you land?
If you're a regular runner, the best way to get a sense of your running style is by looking at the wear on your existing shoes. REI has a good graphic to guide you.
Trust what your feet are telling you.
Interestingly, some experts are starting to suggest that focusing too much on feet shape and running style isn't as effective as simply listening to your own body. Why? Since our body has its own natural way of moving, trying to "correct" something (such as overpronation) might lead to more injuries, not fewer.
This article from The New York Times delves deeper into these studies and highlights an important recommendation: comfort trumps everything else. Try on several different pairs of running shoes, run around the store a little bit, and see which ones feel best.
As you try on running shoes, remember these tips from WebMD. First, measure your foot regularly since the size of your foot changes as you grow older. Shop towards the end of the day (feet swell as the day wears on; you want to get shoes that fit your feet when they are at their largest), bring your own socks, and allow for extra room near the toes.
Have some fun.
If you love those hot pink running shoes (and they feel great), then why not? You're working your butt off, so allow yourself to get shoes that make a statement or that reflect your own individual style. (And if you prefer a more refined look, that's perfectly OK, too.)
If you can afford it, get two pairs of running shoes.
This article from Verywell makes a convincing argument for having two pairs of running shoes: "If you run almost every day, it is beneficial to give your shoes a rest in between runs. Your shoes will last longer when you give them a day or two to decompress and dry out between workouts."
Remember to replace your running shoes.
Are you still wearing the same running shoes from a year ago? That's not good. Once running shoes wear out, they won't give your feet the comfort and support they need, which can lead to injury and/or discomfort that takes the joy out of running.
REI says a good pair of running shoes should last 400-500 miles of running. For a regular runner, this means you'll need to replace shoes three to four times a year. Keep in mind, however, that this is a ballpark recommendation. Your weight, your running style, where you run, etc. will affect how worn out your shoes get. Some other sites, like WebMD, recommend a more conservative estimate: 350-400 miles. Bottom line: you will need to replace them. Yes, it's an investment, but a good one. Don't skimp!
By the way, don't throw away those running shoes—recycle them. This article provides three good options that can give your running shoes a second life.
Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Running Shoes
A great starting point when finding the perfect running shoe for your feet is to check the flex of the shoe. Hold the heel and press the top of the shoe towards the floor. Find where shoes bends and creases and make sure it is along the same lines of where your foot naturally flexes as well. Properly aligning this part of your foot and your running shoe can avoid arch and heel pain as well as calf strain.
It’s important to find the right balance between allowing enough wiggle room in your shoes, and a shoe that is too small. Your heel and around your instep are both areas that should feel snug but not tight. You should have some heel movement and be able to slide your foot out of your shoe when it is laced but not tied, but it should not feel uncomfortable. Any pressure on your instep is an indication that your foot needs more room. However, if a shoe fits great but there is pressure from under the laces, try an alternative shoe lacing method before completely disregarding the sneaker.
Avoid common mistakes when buying sneakers for running by taking them for a quick jog. A good running store will allow you to text them outside or on their treadmill, as the only way you can really gauge how your foot will feel is by running in them. Be sure to try on various sizes, as many brands can run differently, and even a new style could size differently. Even buying at the wrong time of day could affect your shoe size! After you wake up, your feet can swell until 4pm in the afternoon, so it’s always best to shop for sneakers in the evening.
Don’t forget to ask for deals before purchasing. Often running stores will give discounts to members of local running clubs, and your local Jersey Strong advertising partner may be running a discount when you show your Jersey Strong key tag!
Looking for the best personal training studio in Central Jersey? Look no further: Jersey Strong has everything you need and more.
Need more help? Runner's World has a handy shoe finder calculator. It takes into account your weight, height, arch height, running style, expertise, and so forth.
Are you a runner? Do you have a favorite running shoe? What other tips can you recommend when choosing the right running shoes? Share in the comments!