Choosing the right running shoe is imperative to tackling those tricky courses, hitting your PR at a race, and avoiding those pesky blisters on a steady jog. There are so many options to choose from when looking to purchase the perfect running shoe.

Follow the 5 simple steps below to choose a running shoe that is right for you!

Race Running Shoes
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Step 1: What Category Running Shoe Are You Looking For?

There are so many different types of running shoes to choose from when looking to purchase a new pair of kicks.

The first step in choosing the right shoe, is identifying what kind of running you are looking to do. For instance, are you running on soft muddy trails? Are you in a marathon road race? Are you looking for a pair of running shoes to wear on casual short jogs? According to Runner’s Blueprint, the surface you are running on has great influence on which running shoe is the right shoe for you to choose.

Marathon/Long Road Racing

If you are anticipating running high mileage on pavement, it is imperative that you are selecting a shoe that will protect your feet, joints, and even spine. Choosing the right running shoe is essential to having an enjoyable and successful training and racing experience.

Marathon and long road racing requires a heavily cushioned running shoe. Excessive pounding of the pavement can cause great damage to a runner. It is necessary in these instances to utilize protective shoes with cushion. Cushion absorbs the shock from the impact of foot to ground every step of the way.

5K/Short Road Racing

Unlike long distance running shoes requiring more cushion, when choosing short distance or 5k-geared running shoes, flexibility is the answer.

Since the runner does not have harsh impact for a long duration, the focus when choosing the right running shoe should be on finding an appropriate lightweight running shoe with flexibility.

Lightweight running shoes are indeed lighter in weight with flexible cushioning. Lightweight shoes allows the end user to feel like they can run faster, as there is less weight on the foot. In addition the runner experiences less fatigue as compared to wearing heavily cushioned running shoes. The right running shoe for short distance runs should feel like you do not have any shoes on at all.

Trail Running

Trail running is completely separate in itself in regards to choosing the right shoes. Shoes for this type of running are specifically designed to shield your feet from the varying types of rugged terrains on trails.

The right shoes for a trail run should have deep treads in order to give a sense of traction and stability for surfaces that may be less than ideal. They also should have a low profile so the runner can quickly adjust to changing surfaces at a decreased rate of injury. In addition, when choosing the right shoe for train running, the running shoe should have a tough outer sole and quality upper that shields the running shoe from being damaged by the trail’s conditions, keeping your feet protected.

Road/Trail Combination

When road or trail simply isn’t enough for some runners, they find themselves training to tackle both! For the over-ambitious running junkies, choosing the right running shoe involves finding a shoe that can allow for both surfaces.

Stability running shoes are the answer. These shoes provide a combination of cushioning and flexibility. They allow for the perfect blend of both support and motion, allowing for you to have comfort in knowing that you can safely run through the trails, prior to hitting the pavement.

Casual Jog

When utilizing running shoes for the occasional casual jog, the choice in shoe is ultimately left up to the consumer. Of course it is important to chose a running shoe that is protective for your running habits. However, there is more flexibility in selecting runner’s comfort over other features simply due to the low mileage and impact.

Many casual joggers argue that a lightweight shoe is best, though others prefer the stability and pillow-like feel when jogging in high cushioned shoes. The right running shoe for these runs come in a variety of styles and models.

Step 2: Measuring Your Foot for Running Shoes

Choosing the proper fitting running shoe is of the utmost importance. Even the quality of a shoe will not matter if the size is incorrect.

Running shoes that are not fitted properly will at best be uncomfortable and at worst cause permanent damage to your feet. A shoe should fit snug on the heal as well as the mid foot. The toe box of the shoe should allow the toes for plenty of wiggle room.

Thumb Test

A simple way to measure a running shoe for proper fit is to commence a standing position and check the length and width by pressing your thumb down next to the ball of your foot as well as around your toes. The fit should allow for a half to a full thumbs width of space in both these areas.

Brannock Device

A Brannock Device can be used to determine a more precise measurement to ensure a pain-free run, as suggested by Livestrong. This device will measure the exact size of your foot.

Unfortunately most runners do not have easy access to a measuring tool like this. In this case a simple ruler will work as well.

Ruler Method

Running Warehouse suggests to measure the length of your foot with the ruler by placing zero on the ruler perpendicular to a wall. Make sure you wear socks similar to the socks you will chose to run in while taking these measurements. Place your foot on the ruler so your heel is against the wall. Record the point where your longest toe ends on each foot. Use your larger foot to base your shoe size on for the most comfortable fit.

Please keep in mind shoe size does not follow a set formula. Use an inches-to-shoe size conversion chart to determine your shoe size based upon your measurements.

Your foot length is important in choosing the proper size of running shoe but so is finding your foot width. Again, this can be done with a simple ruler if a Brannock Devise is not accessible. While the ruler is still against the wall place your foot upon the ruler. Shift the ruler until the widest part of your foot is being measured. Input this measurement into a shoe size chart. This will allow you to find the proper width of running shoe based on your shoe size and your foot’s measured width in inches.

Finding the right fit allows you to choose the right running shoe so that you can have happy and healthy feet!

Brannock Shoe Measuring
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Step 3: Identifying your Running Foot Strike

Did you know that the way that your foot hits the ground on impact has a direct correlation with your running efficiency?

The way everyone’s foot “strikes” the ground when running (or walking for that matter) is unique. There are 3 foot strike tendencies that can be easily identified, as discussed by Foot Scientific. In turn, this should have an impact on choosing the right running shoe for you.

Pronation

The first of the 3 foot strikes is identified as “Pronation”. Pronation is noted when a runner’s foot rolls slightly inwards on strike with the ground. Pronation occurs when runners flatten their arch of their foot on each hit, resulting in the inwards roll.

Runners that are guilty of pronating, wear down the insides of the sole in their running shoes.

Corrective measures can be taken in order to correct pronation. Choosing the right running shoe can lead to instilling these corrective measures.

Supination

The second of the 3 foot strikes is called “Supination”. Supination is the exact opposite of Pronation. Instead of having flat arches, the arches on your feet would be quite high. When striking the ground, there is little to no shock absorption and high impact on the ball and heel of the foot. In turn, the foot will roll outwards.

Supination will result in wearing down of the outwards part of the running shoe’s sole.

Like Pronation, corrective measures for Supination can solve the outwards roll. One of the best means of beginning the process of fixing this habit is through choosing the right running shoes.

Neutral

Neutral is the most efficient and safe way to run when striking the ground. This is the most effective foot strike habit. There is proper movement of arch, ball and heel with equal impact across all.

It is of utmost importance to ensure that you are maintaining this neutral foot strike. The best way to do so, is to be sure to have the right running shoe that only enhances this habit.

Running Foot Strike
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Step 4: Finding the Right Running Shoe Features

A good running shoe not only offers high quality materials with a comfortable fit but also includes many desired features to enhance the running experience.

Various Lacing Systems

The US National Library of Medicine identifies that a great feature for foot health when running includes shoes having a various lacing system. This helps to provide a better fit for each individual runner. Different shoe lacing patterns influences the runner’s movement. These variable systems allow for unique lacing techniques that can also offer the runner an additional opportunity to improve both shoe fit and shoe comfort.

Removable Insoles

Another feature that may runners enjoy are removable insoles. Hibbett Sports states that the option to remove a running shoe’s insole allows for cleaning of not only the insole itself but the interior of the shoe as well. It is easy to replace a removable insole if it does start to break down before the remainder of the shoe.

Synthetic Uppers

Unfortunately it is not as easy to replace a running shoe’s upper. Today’s running shoe companies often feature synthetic leather and high-tech mesh materials when constructing the upper of the shoe. The combination of these types of materials provide much better durability for a longer lasting running shoe. The modern day synthetic materials have a greater breath-ability to them as well.

Reflective Materials

Reflective materials are utilized as a common feature in many modern running shoes. The higher reflect-ability of a running shoe, the safer the shoe is for nighttime running. This safety feature allows you to take reflectors with you at all times without having to attach additional reflectors to the shoe separately.

EVA (Ethyl Vinyl Acetate)

Best Walking Shoe Reviews further discusses the importance of an EVA (Ethyl Vinyl Acetate) mid-sole that is found in most running shoes produced today. Various manufacturers have their own type of EVA mid-sole that is combined with unique brand technology to reduce the weight of the running shoe.

Not only does an EVA mid-sole reduce the weight of the shoe, it does this while increasing the cushioning and shock absorption capabilities of the shoe as well. The EVA feature gives the foot-bed its integrity and support.

The modern day running shoe is much different than a shoe produced in past decades. The technology Incorporated into today’s running shoe allows for many features that were unimaginable even just a few years ago.

These features help enhance the running experience by providing not only a better quality running shoe but also a safer running shoe to thousands and thousands of runners each day.

All of these features, including aesthetic ones such as colors, styles and patterns, allow each runner to choose a running shoe that fits not only their individual feet but their unique personalities as well!

Step 5: Choosing the Right Running Shoe

After deciding what category running shoe you are looking for, correctly measuring your foot, identified your foot strike, and found the right features, you can begin to narrow down your options for which running shoe is right for you.

There are a number of different brands and models with each shoe demonstrating the latest trends of features. When faced with the final decision of choosing the right running shoe for you, keep in mind all of the above steps to find a shoe that fits YOUR needs!

Last but certainly not least, be sure that you are able to “Test run” your running shoe of choice before purchasing! If this is not possible, check the return policy on running shoes with the shoe’s supplier. Nothing is worse than choosing what is seemingly the “right running shoe” and having them feel less than ideal when running!

Run on!

I love my Nike Lunaracers, but not everyone will have the same experience that I have when wearing that shoe. What it ultimately comes down to is finding a shoe that allows you to run your best and run comfortably.

– Anthony Cinotti, Western New York Elite Runner