Before Buying Running Shoes, Educate Yourself
Buying running shoes is an intimidating proposition for the new runner. It’s tempting to go to a big box sporting goods store or a discount shoe retailer and pick out the prettiest pair of shoes you find, or get the same pair as your running buddy.
That’s not a good strategy. Running shoes come in different types, for different terrains, and with different features. Much like you wouldn’t buy any old tires for your car (you wouldn’t, right? There’s the size of the wheel, the type of driving you do…), you wouldn’t buy running shoes without knowing what type you need. Usually, your friendly neighborhood specialty running store can help. So when you’re buying running shoes, here are some things your running pro will want to discuss.
Put simply, pronation is how your foot rolls when you run or walk. Underpronators (supinators) like me tend to have their feet roll outward, while overpronators’ feet roll inward. Normal pronators don’t have these problems. When you’re buying running shoes at a specialty running store, the salesperson can suggest the right types of shoes to counteract the effects of your pronation patterns.
High arches are great for ballet, but not so much for running. Flat-footed runners aren’t in a great position, either. Ideally, your salesperson will want to see what your feet look like before recommending a running shoe. In some cases, you may need insoles to ensure you’re running comfortably.
How does your foot strike the ground? You’ll either be landing on your toe, mid-foot, or heel when you run. At the running store, your salesperson will want to see how you run to determine how your foot strikes the ground. This definitely comes into play when you’re buying running shoes, because some brands are better than others.
How far do you plan to run each week? If you’re a new runner or a low-mileage runner, your shoe needs will be different than someone who regularly logs 50-mile weeks.
Ok, yeah, no one wants to give an exact figure to someone they’ve just met. Most likely, you won’t have to. But the heavier you are, the more cushioning you’ll need in your running shoes. (But being heavy doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be steered toward the cushioned running shoes; I’m a Hobbit and need the cushioning because of my underpronating, high-arched, toe-striking, hard-running habits.)
While you don’t need special shoes if you run mainly on roads and treadmills, if you’re planning to do a lot of trail running or obstacle and mud runs, you’ll want to consider buying running shoes for those purposes.
You’re going to hear a lot about shoe types when you’re buying running shoes. There are three main types of running shoes: stability, motion control, and neutral. (I’m leaving out minimalist shoes because, if you’re a new runner, you’ll probably want to do your own research. It’s a controversial movement, with its own pros and cons.)
Neutral running shoes offer the minimum amount of support. They’re often recommended to high-arched harriers like me because our feet are more rigid.
Stability shoes are ideal for medium-arched runners, which are 80 percent of the population. These shoes provide medium support because your feet are more flexible.
Flat-footed runners benefit the most from motion control running shoes. These offer the maximum level of support, since your foot is very flexible.
Confused? Don’t be. Next time you’re buying running shoes (or when you’re buying, if this is your first trip!), you already know how to speak Running Shoe (it feels like its own language sometimes). You’re less likely to get injured if you buy the right shoes, so know what you’re getting into and find a specialty running store that can fit you with the best running shoes for your feet.