Complete Guide to Choosing the Best Running Shoes for You
The best running shoes for you are the ones that keep you healthy and achieving your health and fitness goals. If you run or work out, then you need the right shoes. This guide will help you find your best running shoes based on your unique needs.
STEP 1: FIND YOUR FOOT TYPE
Foot types fall into low, average and high arches. Find your arch height at home in three easy steps:
- Place your feet into a shallow pan of water and get the bottom of your feet wet.
- Step onto a piece of cardboard or something similar with your wet feet.
- Pull your feet away to reveal your arch shape.
Now is an excellent time to take a picture of your footprints before they dry. Compare the image to the descriptions below to find your arch type and which running shoe types may be best for you:
- Low arch: You have a low arch if you see almost the entire footprint. Your foot may roll inward when you run or walk. You may need a stability or motion-control shoe if the rolling is significant.
- Normal arch: You have normal arches if you see about half of your footprint. You can probably wear a wide variety of shoes.
- High arch: You have high arches if you only see the ball of your foot, a thin line on the outside of your foot and your heel. Your feet may roll outward when walking or running. Look for a cushioned shoe with greater flexibility to help absorb shock. Aftermarket insoles inside your shoes can also help support heels and arches.
STEP 2: DETERMINE YOUR PRONATION TYPE
Pronation is a common running term that describes how much the foot rolls inward or outward when it makes contact with the ground. There are three different types of pronation:
1. Overpronation occurs when the foot rolls excessively inward. This can lead to muscle strains in your legs and feet. People who overpronate also tend to have low arches. Do your shoes show wear around your big toe and inside sole at the balls of your feet? If so, you may overpronate.
Look for stability or motion control shoes to help decrease excessive pronation.
2. Underpronation (supination) describes feet that roll outward when running or walking. People who supinate tend to be adults with high arches or “pigeon toes.” Supination is rarer than overpronation. You will know you supinate if your shoes tend to wear along the outside edges.
Look for shoes with extra cushioning—more on that below.
3. Basic pronation occurs when the foot does not excessively pronate.
Look for stability or neutral support shoes. They are more flexible than motion control shoes but still support a healthy stride.
STEP 3: DECIDE WHERE YOU RUN MOST
Which surface you spend most of your time running will determine what shoe category is best for you. Running shoes fall into three broad categories:
- Treadmill or road running shoes are best if you run on hard, smooth surfaces such as sidewalks, roads or paved trails. Road running shoes have smooth soles since traction is not an issue like it is for trail running. Most people will be happy with this type of shoe.
- Trail running shoes are best if you spend significant time running on trails. They will protect your feet on uneven surfaces covered in rocks and roots. You will often find waterproof running shoes in this category. Their soles feature traction knobs to help you deal with trail obstacles and uneven surfaces. However, they are not as comfortable for running on paved surfaces due to stiffer soles.
- Minimalist running shoes and racing flats are lightweight and flexible. They have minimal padding or support. Keep in mind that it takes time for your feet and muscles to adapt to this type of shoe.
You should have a general idea of which types of running shoes might be best for you by now. It’s time to consider which specific shoe features are available and suitable for you.
FEATURES OF YOUR BEST RUNNING SHOES
Shopping for running shoes can seem overwhelming. Let’s walk through the basic features of a running shoe to help you further decide which running shoes will be best for you.
RUNNING SHOE CUSHION
Most beginner runners wonder if running shoes offer more cushion to make their runs more comfortable. Running shoes are guaranteed to make your run more comfortable and healthy. Running shoe cushion is determined by the foam used in the shoe.
More foam may seem to offer more cushion; however, this is not always the case. Foam thickness does affect running shoe cushioning, but the foam’s density also plays an important role. Some people want to feel like they are running on pillows, while others prefer to feel the trail beneath every stride. Running shoe cushioning has a wide range:
- Shoes with the most cushioning (maximalist) often have thickly padded midsoles. Shoes with this type of cushioning are an excellent choice if you prefer a more plush feeling. Steer clear of this amount of cushioning if you want to feel more connected to your running surface and your running technique.
- Shoes with less cushioning than maximalist cushion type shoes are known as moderately cushioned. Moderately cushioned shoes sit between maximalist cushioned shoes and minimally cushioned shoes. Shoes in this category will work for most people. They are a great place to start your search for your best running shoes.
- Minimally cushioned shoes are typically for more advanced runners who want to feel connected to their running surface and have flawless technique. They are lightweight and feel fast, but you will feel the pounding of running more.
- There is also a category of shoes known as “barefoot.” These shoes attempt to mimic the sensation of running barefoot. You should only try these shoes if you have a particular need or reason, as you can quickly become injured trying these types of running shoes.
RUNNING SHOE DROP
Running shoe drop is the difference between cushioning in the shoe’s heel and the shoe’s toe. Running shoe drop affects how your foot encounters the ground.
Traditional running shoes have 10mm or more of drop. This is an excellent place to start your search for the best running shoes for you. Lower drop shoes promote landing on the midfoot versus heel striking. Start slow if you are moving to lower drop shoes to reduce the risk of injury.
RUNNING SHOE SUPPORT LEVELS
Running shoes offer different levels of support depending on individual needs. Running shoe support differs from running shoe cushioning. Support refers to how the shoe guides your foot through your running gait. There are three support categories:
- Neutral running shoes are for people whose feet do not roll significantly inward or outward during their running stride.
- Stability running shoes are a good starting place when buying your next pair of running shoes. They are good running shoes for people who overpronate.
- Motion control running shoes are for people who significantly overpronate. The stability features closely control your running gait. Motion control shoes can work wonders for people who need them but can be a wrong choice if you only have minor overpronation issues.
SUSTAINABILITY AND RUNNING SHOES
You no longer need to choose between high-quality running shoes that will last hundreds of kilometers and environmental sustainability. Decreasing environmental impacts benefits everyone—especially runners. Cleaner air, less garbage and cleaner oceans all make for better running conditions everyone can enjoy.
Running shoes can now be made from recycled ocean waste to suit the needs of even the most demanding athlete. Shoes with recycling in mind get a second life instead of ending up in a landfill.
When it’s time to replace your old running equipment like running shoes and hoodies, consider sustainable products like the adidas x Stella McCartney Collection. Even the best adidas running shoes now have sustainability in mind.
Curious if it’s time to replace your old running shoes? Read through the FAQ to learn what affects how long running shoes should last.
Running Shoes FAQ
Yes. Heavier runners put more stress on their shoes than lighter ones. This is because heavier runners exert more force through their shoes.
Did you know?
When you run, each step can carry the equivalent pressure of up to five times your bodyweight.
Yes. Running is not the only thing that ages running shoes either. Weather and oxidation also play their part. Cushioning and stability features will weaken even if you do not run in your shoes. Running in shoes that are past their prime can lead to injury and should be replaced.
Yes. A runner with a fast running technique puts less stress on running shoes. A runner with a different style may pound the ground with their entire body weight going through their shoes. This force puts a lot of extra strain on the shoes and ages them quicker.
Improving your running technique will keep you healthy and save you money in the long run since you won’t need to replace your shoes so often!
Yes. Hard surfaces like pavement and sidewalk put the most stress on running shoes. Soft trails put less stress on running shoes. However, trails present different hazards (such as sharp rocks and sticks) that can cause other issues for your shoes. Choose a shoe that suits your running surfaces.
Maybe. Your foot expands as it makes contact with the ground. The cause of this is the force of your body weight going through your shoe. You run the risk of stretching the seams of your shoe if your shoe is too small.
There should be a thumb’s width between the tip of your big toe and the seam of your best running shoes. Your foot needs this much space to roll without hitting the end of your shoe. It’s best to buy shoes in the late afternoon when your feet have already swollen.
Proper lacing technique is key to running shoe fit. It stops your foot from sliding around in the slightly too-large shoes and holds your heel in the correct position. Correctly laced running shoes keep your feet from chafing on the seams and prevents unnecessary blisters.
The type of running shoe you choose has the most significant influence on the shoe’s lifespan. Choose the shoe that best fits your unique running style. Know the benefits and drawbacks of each shoe type.
Lightweight, neutral shoes may only be wearable for a few hundred kilometers or less, but they will feel fast. Sturdy trail running shoes with solid stability features and stiff soles to protect your feet will last far longer. However, they likely won’t feel as nimble as their lighter counterparts like road running shoes or minimalist shoes.
Most people will be thrilled with road running shoes with stability features that suit their arch and pronation type. See above about how to find your arch and pronation type to find your best running shoes.
It depends. Running shoes degrade over time and with use. Continuing to run in shoes that no longer correctly support your feet or running style can lead to injury. Here are some signs it’s time to replace your running shoes:
- You notice new aches and pains in your feet, ankles, knees or hips. Soreness in these areas may indicate you need to treat yourself to a new pair of running shoes. However, don’t rule out that you may be overdoing your running workouts.
- The treads on the bottom of your shoes are gone. Immediately replace your shoes, or you could injure yourself.
- You have run 450 – 800 kilometers in your running shoes. Most running shoes begin to degrade with this amount of use. Use the adidas Running app built-in shoe tracker to know when it’s time to replace your running shoes.