“Running Shoes? We’ll discuss how to narrow down your traditional running shoe choices. Read now!”
While most running shoes feel comfortable when you’re standing in a sports store, the true test is after several miles on the trail or asphalt. You’ll quickly realize that your perfect shoe has more to do with the shape of your foot and your running style than it does with the logo stitched on the side.
Road Runners or Trail Runners?
Road running shoes are designed for pavement and occasional forays onto packed surfaces with slight irregularities (fire roads, nature trails, wood-chip paths). Light and flexible, they’re made to cushion or stabilize feet during repetitive strides on hard, even surfaces.
Trail running shoes are essentially beefed-up running shoes designed for off-road routes. They are enhanced with aggressive outsoles for solid traction and fortified to offer stability, support and underfoot protection. If you routinely encounter roots, rocks, mud, critter holes or other obstacles during runs, choose trail runners.
Tip: If you can’t find a trail shoe with the right fit for your running mechanics, it’s better to go with a road-running shoe.
Know Your Feet
Foot size: If you’re unsure of your shoe size or if one foot is larger than the other, it’s best to have your feet measured at REI or other shoe retailer with a Brannock device. (That’s the flat metal tool with sliders that measure the length, width and the toe-to-ball length of the foot.) Whenever possible, try the shoe on to see if it fits. Shoe lasts (which determines shoe sizes, described below) vary by manufacturer and even from one shoe model to another. You may need a half-size or even a full size smaller or larger than you think.
Most men wear a D-width shoe; most women wear a B-width. You don’t have to wear a shoe of your gender—the lasts are basically the same. Men: Try a women’s shoe if you have a narrow foot. Women: Try a men’s shoe if you have a larger or wider foot. If the shoe fits, wear it!
Arch shape: As you get out of the tub, shower or pool, take a look at the footprint you leave on the bathmat or cement. The shape of your footprint will indicate the type of arch you have. Your arch shape affects the way your foot moves as you run.
Biomechanics of Running
Your foot shape is closely related to its movement as you walk or run. With every stride, your heel typically strikes the ground first. It rolls slightly inward and the arch flattens to cushion the impact. Your foot then rolls slightly to the outside and stiffens to create a springboard to propel your next step.
As runners, however, we each experience different levels of these sideways motions as we stride. The key characteristics:
Pronation is the foot’s natural inward roll following a heel strike. Basic (neutral) pronation helps absorb impact, relieving pressure on knees and joints. It is a normal trait of neutral, biomechanically efficient runners.
Overpronation is an exaggerated form of the foot’s natural inward roll. It is a common trait that affects the majority of runners, leaving them at risk of knee pain and injury. Overpronators need stability or motion control shoes.
Supination (also called under-pronation) is an outward rolling of the foot resulting in insufficient impact reduction at landing. Relatively few runners supinate, but those who do need shoes with plenty of cushioning and flexibility.
How can you be sure which running style is yours? A podiatrist or physical therapist could undoubtedly tell you, but a simpler answer is probably in your closet. If you own a well-used pair of running shoes, check the wear pattern on the soles.
A neutral stride is indicated by shoe wear centralized to the ball of the foot and a small portion of the heel.
Overpronation is identified by wear patterns along the inside edge of your shoe.
Supination is marked by wear along the outer edge of your shoe.
Types of Running Shoes
Cushioning shoes provide elevated shock absorption and minimal medial (arch side) support. They’re best for runners who are mild pronators or supinators. Cushioning shoes are also good for neutral runners during off-pavement runs. Reason: Minor irregularities in surfaces such as dirt roads give feet a little variety from the repetitive, same-spot strikes they typically experience on hard surfaces.
Stability shoes help decelerate basic pronation. They’re good for neutral runners or those who exhibit mild to moderate overpronation. They often include a “post” (see Shoe Construction 101, below) in the midsole.
Motion control shoes offer features such as stiffer heels or a design built on straighter lasts to counter overpronation. They’re best for runners who exhibit moderate to severe overpronation.
More at Running Shoes: How to Choose