How to Choose the Best Running Shoes

From the WebMD Archives

If you’re an avid runner, you should invest in good running shoes. Choosing the right shoes has less to do with the brand and more to do with the individual fit. Learn about the factors that make running shoes a great fit for you.

Foot Types

Flat feet. If you don’t have a prominent arch, you probably have flat feet. The arch is the gap between the ball of your foot and the heel when you’re standing. Flat feet offer greater flexibility, so you need shoes that control your motion. You want to have strong heel support and sturdy foam for the middle of your foot.‌

High arches. If you have a significant gap between your feet and the floor, your feet tend to be more rigid. You need a flexible running shoe with arch support that cushions the middle of your foot on the impact of each stride.‌

Neutral feet. If your feet are neutral, then the arch of your foot probably falls between being high and flat. Most standard shoes fit your feet, and you don’t need any specific additional support based on your arch.

Parts of a Shoe

When you shop for running shoes, you may hear people talk about the different shoe parts and your unique needs. You can use these terms to describe how the shoe feels on your foot and identify what you do and don’t like. Shoe parts include: 

  • Heel counter: the strong support material that wraps around the back of your heel to offer stability 
  • Upper shoe: the top part of the shoe where the laces tighten around your foot 
  • Outer sole: the very bottom layer of your shoe where you find the tread 
  • Midsole: the parts of your shoe between the tread and upper shoe, which offers the most shock absorption for your foot‌
  • Toe box: the portion of the shoe where your toes fit

Choosing New Shoes

When you shop for new running shoes, take your old ones with you. Talk to the salesperson about what you like and don’t like about your shoes. Share any discomfort or any injuries you’ve sustained during your runs. If you have shoe inserts, ankle braces, or other running gear you use, bring those items, too.‌

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Expect to try on several pairs of shoes before deciding on your favorite pair. Try different brands and types of shoes to see what you like and don’t like about them. Walk around with your socks and inserts on. It takes around ten minutes to make sure that nothing is poking your foot or rubbing in a way that irritates you. You can tell that shoes are a good fit if they:

  • Bend at the ball of your foot near your toes
  • Leave some space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe
  • Don’t allow your heel to move up and down as you step‌
  • Stabilize your foot so it doesn’t slide ‌

Replace your shoes. Running shoes can last a long time, but for best results, you need to replace them every 300 to 500 miles. If you don’t keep track of your miles, plan to replace them once per year. If they begin to show patterns of uneven wear, replace them sooner.‌

Another reason to replace running shoes is if you suddenly experience aches, pain, or discomfort. This can be a sign that your shoes no longer fit well or that their shock absorption is no longer effective. If your aches and pains are persistent, talk to your doctor about your concerns.

Types of Running Shoes

There are three general categories of running shoes. Before you assess the individual features of a shoe, think about what your running goals are and how your foot is designed. What kind of support do you need from a running shoe?‌

Stability shoes. These shoes are best if you have an average arch with only minor control problems. They offer your heel added stability and the ball of your foot added flexibility.‌

Motion control shoe. If you have flat feet, these shoes are your best option. When you have flat feet, you tend to roll your feet inward more significantly than is normal. Motion control shoes help you maintain correct pronation during a run. They usually have more rigid plastic or fiberglass lining and high-density foam.‌‌

Cushioning shoes. High arches need the added support offered with cushioning shoes. These shoes also help if you tend to roll your feet outward more than is normal, which is common among people with high arches. They are lightweight and not as rigid as other shoes.

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Shoe Features to Avoid

Just as there are things you want to look for in a shoe, there are also things you want to avoid. These include:‌

  • Too much cushioning overall
  • Cushion that is higher at the heel and lower at the toes
  • Additional arch support inserts‌
  • Cushioning that is too soft 
WebMD Feature Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 30, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

American College of Sports Medicine: “Selecting Running Shoes.”

Nationwide Children’s Hospital: “How to Choose Running Shoes.”

UConn Health: “Finding the Right Running Shoe.”

© 2005 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

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