Find The Best Running Shoes For You

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Choosing a running shoe can be an overwhelming process.  Depending on where you shop, you could end up staring at a wall full of running shoes with phrases like “motion control,” “stability,” or “minimalist,” having no idea where to begin.

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Instead of trying to choose a shoe on your own, it’s always smart to visit a specialty running store where you can find the best running shoes for you based on your unique foot and gait. Although your friend might love a certain brand or style, what works for one person doesn’t always work for another.  The right shoe can save you a lot of aches and pains and help prevent injury, so it is definitely money well spent.  If you don’t have a specialty store in your area, take the time to research what’s available so that you are knowledgeable about your options before you shop.

Here are three important things to consider when shopping for running shoes:

Foot Type

Get to know your foot type, including whether you have a low, normal or high arch. If you aren’t sure about your arches, the “wet test” is an easy way to figure it out: Place your foot in a shallow pan of water, enough to get the entire bottom wet. Then step onto a paper bag or piece of paper, then pull your foot away and look at the imprint that remains. Here’s what your footprint will tell you:

  • Low arch: If you see almost the entire footprint, you have a low arch and it’s likely that your foot rolls in when you run or walk.  Depending on how significant it is, you probably need a stability or motion-control shoe.
  • Normal arch:  If you see about half of your arch, you are a normal pronator.  This is the most common foot type and you can probably wear a wide variety of shoes.
  • High arch:  If you see just the ball of your foot, a thin line on the outside of your foot and your heel, you have high arches.  In this case, it’s likely that your feet roll outward when walking or running. Look for a cushioned shoe with greater flexibility to help absorb shock more effectively. Insoles, inserted inside your shoes, can also help to support heels and arches. They can be bought separately by shoe size and needs.

Foot Pronation

Pronation describes how much the foot rolls in or out when it makes contact with the ground. There are three different types of pronation:

  • Overpronation occurs when the foot rolls excessively inward, which can lead to muscle strains in both your legs and feet. Overpronators also tend to have low arches. Look for stability or motion control shoes to help decrease excessive pronation.
  • Underpronation (supination) describes feet that roll outward when running or walking. Underpronators tend to have high arches or “pigeon toes.” Look for shoes with extra cushioning to help absorb the added impact on your foot strikes.
  • Normal pronation, which is most common, occurs when the foot pronates normally but not excessively. Look for stability shoes, which are more flexible than motion control shoes but still have good support.

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Running Surface

Once you’ve determined your foot type and pronation, consider the type of terrain you’ll run on most often.

  • Treadmill or road shoes are the most common type of running shoe available.  They are designed for running on hard, smooth surfaces such as sidewalks, roads and paved trails.
  • Trail shoes offer aggressive tread patterns that boost stability over uneven terrain.  They also provide stiffer soles and toe coverings to protect the foot from rocks, roots or any other dangers in your path.
  • Minimalist shoes and racing flats are lightweight and flexible and have very little padding or support. If you decide to try minimalist shoes, keep in mind that it takes time for your feet and muscles to adapt to this type of shoe.

When to Buy and When to Replace Your Running Shoes

Don’t think only those people who are running 50 miles a week will benefit from properly fitted running shoes.  Even casual runners can deal with injury from wearing shoes that are worn out or don’t fit properly.  A few important things to keep in mind:

  • When standing, there should be about a thumbnail gap between your longest toe and the toe box.  That means you might have to go up one-half size or more over the shoe size you typically wear, since feet tend to swell during exercise.
  • Don’t be afraid to run around the store (or even down the sidewalk) to get a good idea of how the shoe feels.  Also ask about the return/exchange policy in case you aren’t happy with your purchase.
  • The general recommendation is to replace your running shoes every 300-500 miles.  This number will vary from person to person, but it’s important to have an idea of how long you’ve been wearing your running shoes.  (Writing the date of purchase inside helps.) You might also notice new aches and pains (in the knees, hips, etc.) when your shoes start to wear out and it’s time to replace.

Taking the time to find your perfect running shoe helps prevent injury and will make your running experience even better.  Your body will thank you for it!

About the Author: Jen Mueller, M.Ed.

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Jen’s background is in business, but she left the corporate world to make a difference in people’s lives. She earned a master’s degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati and has worked as a fitness expert and community leader at, one of America’s most visited health and fitness websites for the past nine years.

Jen is an ACE-certified advanced health and fitness specialist with additional certifications in personal training, health coaching and prenatal fitness. A proud mom of four, she also loves to run and has completed numerous half and full marathons. Jen’s passion is coaching people to help them reach their fitness and health-related goals.



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