Whether you’re a seasoned marathon runner or a recently-converted couch potato, you’ve likely been overwhelmed by the sheer number of running shoes available on the market today. A simple quest for new kicks can spiral into an all-day affair if you aren’t sure what to look for, and one size definitely doesn’t fit all.
Fortunately, narrowing down your top picks doesn’t have to be a chore! With this quick guide, you’ll be able to:
- Understand the distinguishing characteristics of major athletic brands.
- Determine which shoes are best suited for your workout preferences (long-distance running, sprinting, speed walking, etc.)
- Select a shoe that will make you feel like Cinderella (but in a totally cool and tough way, of course).
Ready to take the first step?
1. Assess Your Gait
Your gait—also referred to as “pronation”—refers to the way your foot rolls from heel to toe when you take a step. A neutral or normal pronation is identified when your foot doesn’t roll too far to the inside or outside of your foot as you run.
If you notice that your foot tends to roll to the inside during your foot strike, you may have overpronation. This is common with people who have low arches or flat feet. On the opposite side of the spectrum is underpronation, which occurs when your foot rolls to the outside during your stride.
If you have a weathered pair of running shoes, you can assess your gait in seconds by simply checking the wear pattern.
2. Pick a Basic Shoe Type
Once you understand your running style, you can select from one of the major categories of running shoes based on the type of support you need. According to RunningShoesGuru, neutral shoes feature a gentle, built-in arch for those with few pronation issues and normal arches. A few brands that excel in this category include the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36, ASICS Gel Nimbus 22, and the Brooks Ghost 12.
If you tend to overpronate, stability or motion control shoes are designed with extra rigidity to gently correct your gait. Some choice stability shoes include the Saucony Omni Iso 2 and the Asics GT 1000 8. For runners who tend to underpronate, a highly cushioned shoe can help support the arches while allowing for plenty of flexibility. The New Balance Fresh Foam More and the Brooks Glycerin 17 are both highly-rated cushioned running shoes you may want to check out.
3. Recognize a Great Fit
Now that you have an idea of what type of shoe you need, it’s recommended to go to a store that specializes in running shoes rather than taking your chances at a non-specialized store. The assistants will be able to offer their expert advice and help you narrow down your options.
Once you find a pair that appeals to you, make sure that:
- There’s about a thumbnail’s length of extra space between your toes and the toe box.
- The heel and arch fit snugly without being too tight (blisters are no fun).
- The toe box allows for a bit of wiggle room for optimal flexibility.
- Your ankle doesn’t rub against the fabric of the shoe.
- The fabric on the upper part of the shoe doesn’t bunch up, stretch, or bulge.
Lastly, and possibly most importantly, never settle for a shoe that offers less support than you need because you like the way they look. You’ll be far more likely to appreciate a running shoe that fits well rather than one that goes perfectly with your running shorts!