Running shoes are continually evolving and there are plenty of folks willing to share their expertise! There is no "perfect" or "best" shoe on the market. Everyone's feet are different in shape and function differently. All I can hope to offer you are shoe basics to help you step in the right direction. Remember, my favorite shoe may not work at all for you, so it's important to do the shopping research before you make a purchase blunder.
First, you need to know your foot biomechanics. That's how your feet work. Knowing the biomechanics of your feet will help you better understand what type of running shoe is right for you. Running shoe styles are more than just fancy esthetics, each model of shoe within each brand is built for specific foot types. A visit to your local podiatrist is a great start for a complete foot evaluation. If time doesn't permit a full biomechanical exam, call your local running store and make sure their best "shoe guy" is working when you are planning to go shopping. There is always one salesman who has been fitting shoes for years and can help you.
More information is helpful when finding the right shoe for you. Tell the podiatrist or salesman of your running plans. Are you looking to complete a marathon or maintain a weekly running base? Offer as much information as you can about your running. This will truly help you obtain the right pair of shoes to meet your goal!
When you have your feet evaluated, your goal is to leave with the following knowledge:
- Is the arch for each foot flat, normal or high?
- Are there additional biomechanical concerns based on my foot type? If so, what are they and the effect toward running?
- Is there a need to wear orthotics with my shoes?
- What type of shoe will best suit your foot type - neutral, stability, motion control?
- What is the correct size of my feet (this includes length and width)?
Write down all of the details of your foot type. There is a lot to remember and it is helpful having this information handy with you whenever you shop for running shoes.
So what are the types of running shoes? Below is a listing of shoe types and basic foot types:
- Neutral: Underpronator /biomechanically efficient
- Stability: Mild to moderate pronation
- Motion Control: Moderate to severe overpronator/heavier weight runners
- Light Weight Racer: Biomechanically efficient runner or race day shoe
Keep in mind, if you wear orthotics as prescribed by your Podiatrist, the above shoe selection may vary based on the amount of biomechanical correction the orthotic provides. Make sure you know the correct category of shoes that will work with your orthotic.
With an understanding of your foot biomechanics, it's time to shop! I recommend you purchase your shoes at a local running store where you are professionally fitted for shoes. Shop later in the day when typically your foot is most swollen. Picking a shoe off the wall in a large sporting good store is not recommended unless you understand running shoes and know your foot type. If you consider the amount of pressure created with each foot strike, how could you not have your feet fitted by a specialist who knows the running shoes available on the market? Remember, you only have two feet - for your life!
During your visit to the running store, take some time to get to know the staff and get to know the sales associate. Ask the following questions:
- How long have they worked at the store?
- What is their running background?
- What is the best shoe? Now this is the question of the day! If the associate states a particular brand is the best, buyer beware! The best shoe is one that is the correct category of shoe and the pair that feels the best on your feet.
- Was the sales associate answering your questions?
- Did they check the measurement of your feet both width and length? (Did you receive the same sizing as from your foot evaluation?)
- What is the store return policy for running shoes? This is very important. Most running stores offer a 30 day return policy on shoes so know your running stores return policy. Keep your receipt and the shoe box. This will help in exchanging or returning your shoes.
Try on all of the brands in the store in the model that is appropriate for your foot type. Walk around the store, run on the store treadmill, heck, go ahead and take the shoes for a test run outside of the store! The main thing is you need to Take Your Time. A good running store will let you take as much time as you like in making your decision. If at any point you feel rushed, shop elsewhere. Finding the right shoes are paramount to your running success.
Expect to spend around $90 to $150 on up based on the shoe. If your budget allows, consider purchasing two pair of shoes to alternate. Running shoes typically last from 300 to 500 miles or approximately six months. If you are not sure how much life is left in your running shoes, have the shoes evaluated at the running store by an experienced shoe associate. If you begin to develop foot pain or pain in the shin area, it could very well be a simple action of replacing your shoes. Of course, if the pain continues more than five to seven days, it's time to see the Podiatrist so listen to your feet!
Once you have purchased your shoes, to keep track of the life of the shoe, discreetly write the date on the outside heel area. Do not write the date on the inside of the shoe as the marking will wear off as you run in the shoes. The date helps you keep track of the length of time for the shoes. Remember 500 miles or 6 months; whichever comes first!
Now what do you do with your worn out running shoes? Consider donating your shoes to charity or be green and recycle your shoes! Donated running shoes are cleaned and if usable are allocated to charitable organizations for distribution. You can locate local donation locations online by searching under running shoe donation or you can check with your local running store or running club. What a great way to give back to the community or the environment!