How to Choose Running Shoes

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on November 02, 2022
5 min read

Different types of shoes are available for various physical activities. One type of shoe is not enough to perform multiple activities. It’s important to choose the right type, fit, and design to suit your feet and level of activity. 

If you’re a runner or athlete, running shoes are ideal for you. But buying branded or expensive shoes won’t necessarily help. For the best running shoes, you’ll need to consider several factors, like your foot type, gait, and comfort. The wrong shoes can make your feet uncomfortable, affect your muscles and joints, and increase your risk of injuries and foot problems.

Read on to learn how to find the right shoe, run comfortably, and prevent pain and injury.

Running shoes are footwear specially designed for runners and athletes to prevent injuries and improve athletic performance. If you’re a runner or athlete, they’ll help you perform physical activities comfortably without hurting yourself. You can choose from a wide range of styles and sizes of running shoes.

Wearing the right type of shoe for a particular activity will help you keep your feet, joints, and muscles healthy. That's because each activity affects your body differently. For example, when you run, your foot touches the ground, carries about three times your body weight, and then pushes off. So, the impact on your feet is greater when running than when walking, which is why you need different shoes for running. 

Good running shoes absorb and reduce the impact on your feet. They're light in weight to allow for quick movement. They have more cushioning near the heel and toes than regular shoes for better shock absorption. Additionally, they have a breathable mesh. This allows air to flow so that your feet remain cool and dry during high-intensity activity. Running shoes have stiff soles and thick heel wedges for cushioning. Running shoes also offer more stability and motion control than regular shoes to keep your feet safe during activity. 

Regular walking shoes are not as light or breathable as running shoes. But they're designed to be more flexible and provide your feet arch support for shock absorption.

To find the best running shoes, you must consider your foot type and gait, which is your walking or running style.

Foot type. Your foot has an arch, which is the curved area in the middle of your foot between your heel and the ball. Based on the arch, there are three types of feet:

  • Flat or low-arched feet. You have a fallen arch or no arch on your foot, and your entire foot touches the ground. 
  • Normal or medium-arched feet. You have a slightly raised arch in the middle. Medium-arched feet are moderately flexible.
  • High-arched feet. You have less flexible and more rigid feet with a high arch. The middle part of your foot is higher off the ground than your heel and the ball of your foot.

Low- and high-arched feet can be more prone to injuries. But wearing the right shoe can make a huge difference.

Gait type. Gait refers to how your foot touches and pushes off the ground when walking or running. There are three types of gait:

  • Neutral. If you have a neutral gait, your ankle remains straight or rolls slightly inward when your foot touches the ground.
  • Overpronation. Overpronation is when your ankle rolls inward and the heel goes outward as your foot touches the ground, affecting the impact. It happens with low-arched or flat feet.
  • Underpronation or supination. Underpronation is when your ankle rolls slightly outward when your foot touches the ground. It happens with high-arched feet.

Determining your foot type and gait. You can analyze your gait by looking at the wear and tear on the bottom of your shoes. If there’s more damage on the inner side of the shoe, you have a low arch and overpronation. More damage on the outer side indicates a high arch and foot supination. You have a neutral gait if the damage is equally distributed.

Your foot type and gait can greatly affect impact or shock absorption, especially while running. Choosing the right type of running shoe can help improve impact or shock absorption.

There are four types of running shoes you can choose from. They include: 

Stability shoes. If you have normal-arched feet, stability shoes are ideal for you. They're also recommended for people with low- or flat-arched feet with overpronation when running. These shoes have high-density foam and arch support on the side to provide extra stability. It also stabilizes the ball of your foot and makes the front of your foot flexible.

Motion control shoes. These are great for flat-arched, heavy runners and those with moderate to severe overpronation. Motion control shoes have parts made with rigid materials high-density foam, plastic, or fiberglass. The rigidity stops your heel from rolling outward and prevents overpronation. The arch area in these shoes is packed to make the outer soles flat. It helps increase stability and evenly distribute the impact.

Cushioning shoes. These shoes are ideal if you have medium- or high-arched feet and supination. They're flexible shoes with less rigidity. They have cushioning in the middle for shock absorption and are made of light materials.

Minimalist shoes. Minimalist shoes are light and flexible. They're suitable for people who practice barefoot running. They're ideal for those who land on their toes and the ball of their foot rather than the heel. But seek guidance before using them to avoid injuries.

Here are some tips to choose the best running shoes for you:

  • Measure your foot from your longest toe to the ankle. Now, add your thumbnail’s width to the length to get your perfect shoe size. Check both your feet, as they may have different lengths.
  • Your foot is slightly larger or fuller during the latter part of the day. Try on running shoes at the end of the day to get a better fit. 
  • Make sure your running shoes match the shape and width of your feet. If you have foot problems like bunions, look for slightly larger breathable shoes to avoid foot pain and discomfort.
  • It’s best to try on running shoes to see if they're comfortable. During trials, wear the socks or shoe orthotics you would wear when running.
  • Stand up, raise your heels, and walk around in the shoes to make sure they're comfortable and provide the required support.
  • The types of running shoes may not be labeled. Do some research or ask the shopkeeper to find the right type for your feet and gait.

These tips will help you find the best running shoe to run comfortably without the risk of pain and injury.