24 Sep How do I choose a running shoe?
Whether you are a beginner, restarting your training, or your favorite shoe has been discontinued, all runners need to choose a shoe from time to time. We want to help you make the best choice, and give you an idea of what features you should consider when deciding upon a running shoe for general training.
There are three things people generally base their shoe decisions upon: fit, function, and aesthetic. You should prioritize your decision based on fit and function; aesthetic is the last factor that you should consider when choosing a shoe. Fit and function are key in preventing injury, ensuring comfort, and therefore maximizing performance, so we’ll break down the elements of these two factors below. We’ll leave the aesthetic choice up to you, with one warning not to let an aesthetic choice alter your choice of fit or function.
- Forefoot — You want to make sure that you have a good amount of room in the forefoot so that your toes lie flat. The toe box should correspond to the morphology of your foot.
- If your toes are scrunched together, pushed on the ends, or you’re getting blisters on the inside of your big toe or the outside of your pinky toe, you should move to a wider toe box.
- Heel — We want a heel counter that doesn’t come up too high (to create friction in the achilles), we don’t want it too low, and we don’t want the heel to slip.
- Your heel should fit nice and tight, but comfortably. If your heel slips or develops blisters, that shoe clearly isn’t a good fit for you.
- Lacing — You shouldn’t have too much compressive pressure or any hot spots when you lace your shoes.
- Check that there is no uncomfortable rubbing, tightness, or even numbness/tingling (though this is rare in modern shoes) that results from the shoe lacing.
- When you stand on the sole of the shoe, do you have enough space?
- If you have a wider foot, this may be an issue. Make sure your foot isn’t overriding past the midsole on the edge of the shoe!
- How much cushion does the shoe have?
- Generally, you can aim for less cushion if you don’t run very much; if you run often, you may want higher cushion to prevent wearing out your shoes too quickly. However, your preferred running surfaces can play a role too – see the section on minimalist vs maximal shoes below.
- Posting is dense foam used in some shoes, usually grey or a darker color, found spanning a few inches on the inside of the heel. Its function is motion control, to limit pronation of the foot as you come into the ground.
- Most runners do fine with cushion shoes without posting, but if you have flatter feet, lower arches, or your knees tend to round in and collapse a bit, you may want to look into posting, and running stores can guide you to find these options.
Minimalist vs maximal
- Many shoes are made very thin with little midsole, while others are made very beefy (e.g. Hoka styles).
- Generally speaking, a lighter, lower-profile and more minimal style may be fine if you do a lot of running on soft surfaces (grass, trails, etc.) and don’t need quite as much cushion. A maximal shoe can be useful if you run on a lot of hard surfaces (concrete and asphalt) to have more space between your foot and the hard ground.
- Heel drop is the amount of vertical drop between the cushioning of the heel midsole and the forefoot.
- A more neutral shoe (with less drop) may be generally better for the achilles tendon. However, it can be hard to change if you have been in an high 8 mm heel drop shoe for your whole life. Be careful of a drastic change in heel drop measures – going from a higher heel drop to 0 could lead to injury!
The simplicity of running is a great attribute of the sport, in addition to the many mental and physical health benefits. All that’s needed are your shoes, which makes it easy to get started with running, or to commit yourself to consistent training for a new goal. However, the choice of shoe is important and should be made according to each runner’s specific needs. We hope that this post has helped you to understand the key differences between shoe types, and better understand what shoe will fit you best. This post focused on the choice of a general training shoe, but if you want to hear more about track spikes or road racing shoes, let us know in the comments. If you have any questions or comments on other characteristics that you take into account, leave a comment below and we can continue the conversation!