Choosing the right running shoe.
Ready to buy some running shoes? Overwhelmed by the volume of information out there? Not a clue where to start? 😱 We get it. It can be highly confusing. But we can help!
As you may have guessed, picking a shoe based solely (sorry, shoe pun) on a review you found on the internet, or the recommendation of your best friend has limited value.
We all come in different shapes and sizes, and your feet and your needs are individual to you. That's why there are so many shoes!
I love to think of good running shoes as the equivalent of good wine. Just like a wine list gets broken down into broad categories such as red and white, and then further dissected into styles such as full-bodied or light, earthy or fruit-driven… so does the world of running shoes and run specialty.
In broad strokes, running shoes fit into two categories: neutral or stability. Think red or white, from our wine analogy.
Neutral shoes have no stabilizing features, which does not mean they don’t have structure, so they allow the foot to flex and move freely without any guidance. The majority of runners can wear neutral shoes.
Some examples of popular neutral shoes include the Brooks Ghost, New Balance 880, HOKA Clifton, Saucony Ride, On Cloud Swift, and ASICS Cumulus.
Stability running shoes help offset excessive pronation or the inward rolling of a runner's feet after impact with the ground.
While everyone pronates (this just means the ankle moves), some people pronate excessively, leading to knee pain or other injuries. Stability shoes help correct overpronation by adding a firmer medial post to the shoe.
Examples of stability shoes include the Brooks Adrenaline, New Balance 860, ASICS 2000, On Cloudflyer, and the Saucony Omni.
How do you know if you need a stability running shoe?
Unfortunately, it is not an exact science. You can start by looking at your feet in front of a mirror.
Some questions to consider when examining your feet are:
- Are your feet flat?
- Do they roll inward from the ankle bone?
- Would it be difficult to slide a finger under the arch when you are standing?
- Do you have knee pain?
If your answer is yes to a number of these questions, a stability shoe might be right for you.
So now that we have the Neutral vs. Stability running shoe question sorted out...we start to get into more nuances.
If you were choosing a bottle of wine, you would have to decide if you're in the mood for a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Pinot Noir, or a Chardonnay.
Beyond neutral and stability, we divide our shoes into several subcategories.
The shoes I mentioned above are what we call full-bodied trainers, kind of like a good Cabernet or Merlot (she says as she flogs the allegory to death). This category is the core of the running shoe world.
I call these the "Go-To Shoes.” You'll get lots of wear out of them; they are incredibly comfortable and are suitable for every distance as well as every level of runner. If you have no strong feelings one way or the other and don’t want to know any more about running shoes (other than whether they fit your feet), stop reading now and just head for the full-bodied shoes!
Alas, one size does not necessarily fit all. Perhaps you feel the need for more plush cushioning or want to go in the other direction with a lightweight shoe or a racing flat that feels fast and gives you a better response with the ground.
Establishing what you are doing in the shoe can help with that decision. Are you running 5k now and then, consistently getting out there for some easy 10k's, or maybe even committing to your first 42.2?
Again, this is kind of a “broad-strokes” analysis, but typically, the further you run, the more cushioning you desire.
Lightweight shoes make you feel exceptionally agile, but they don't do a lot to absorb impact. So if you're trying to avoid shin splints and sore feet, you might want a shoe with a bit more to it as far as cushioning is concerned.
To make matters even more confusing, in the past year, there has been a revolution in run specialty as carbon plate performance shoes hit the market in time for the (canceled) Tokyo Olympics. These shoes, which carry a premium price tag, have a thin carbon fiber plate in the shoe’s midsole make, surrounded by deluxe foams, which can assist in making a runner faster.
So there you have it! Easy right?
- First start with the correct category: Neutral or Stability
- Next, decide what activity you’ll be using the shoes for (hint: it’s okay - encouraged - to have more than one pair of running shoes for different types of training)
- Choose the subcategory you need:
- Racing flat; Fast and furious. Almost nothing there. $129.99-139.99
- Lightweight; A little cushioning, light and fast feel, $139.99-159.99
- Full-bodied; The bread and butter of the running shoe world. Good cushioning, comfortable and durable. $159.99-179.99
- Plush Cushioned; As the Mercedes is to the Honda Civic. Extra bells and whistles $199.99-220.
- Carbon Plate; Taking it to a whole other level. Plus, carbon and high-performance for setting new PRs or crushing your training. $225-325.
- Trail; designed for running off-road. A grippier outsole and reinforced upper. $149.99-189.99
The Runners Shop team is always happy to answer your questions and help you, in any way we can, to make your decision.
Trying the shoes on really is the best way to get a feel for things. Yes, COVID complicates things, but we can help narrow it down, and we are allowing (albeit limited) curb-side try-ons.
Let's get you into a pair of new kicks and out onto the roads!
Lynn and The Runners Shop Team.