How To Choose A Running Shoe

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There is a lot more to buying running shoes than simply trying them on in the store. In order to get the trainers that will offer the best support and comfort during a run, you need to have a basic understanding of how biomechanics work.

In terms of running, biomechanics refers to the way in which your feet land on the ground as you move. Without taking biomechanics into account, you could end up feeling sore, fatigued and frustrated during or immediately following your runs. In turn, you may give up on running altogether. A few of the basics of using biomechanics to choose the right running shoes are highlighted below.


Pronation Definition

Pronation refers to the rolling motion that your foot makes before it becomes flat with the ground. As your foot lands on the ground, it generally lands on the outside portion of the heel. The accompanying rolling motion or pronation can have a dramatic effect on how successful a run is. The right trainers can correct pronation problems and make running a more fulfilling and effective experience for you.


Running Pronation Diagram











With overpronation, your foot rolls too far when you are running. A good way to check for this is by examining an old pair of running shoes. Position one old shoe on a flat surface and look at it from behind its heel. If it leans slightly inward, you suffer from over pronation.  An example diagram below shows the right foot with over pronation, neutral pronation, and under pronation.

Flat ArchMost over pronators have a flat foot arch type where you will see almost your entire footprint.  That is, a micro-second after footstrike, your arch collapses inward too much, resulting in excessive foot motion and increasing your risk of injuries. You need either stability shoes, which employ devices such as dual-density midsoles and supportive "posts" to reduce pronation and are best for mild to moderate overpronators, or motion-control shoes.


Normal Pronation

Normal Arch

If you have normal feet, you have a normal arch and have neutral pronation.  When choosing shoes, you can choose from a wide variety of running shoes, including ones made for neutral runners, cushioning or stability.   Don't pick running shoes that have a lot of motion control.



Under Pronation

Underpronation refers to feet that do not roll forward enough while running. Using the same test as above, you may notice that the shoe leans lightly outward. This strongly suggests that you suffer from underpronation.

High ArchMost under pronators have a high arch type (the least common foot type) where you will see just your heel, the ball of your foot, and a thin line on the outside of your foot.  This means you're likely an underpronator, or supinator, which can result in too much shock traveling up your legs, since your arch doesn't collapse enough to absorb it. Underpronators are best suited to neutral-cushioned shoes.



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.

Under Pronation is marked by wear along the outer edge of your shoe.








There are three types of running shoes as shown below.



Cushioned shoes are the most flexible and encourage natural pronation, with added cushioning and extra shock absorption. These shoes do not have stability or motion control features.  They're best for runners who are mild pronators.  Cushioning shoes are also good for neutral runners.  Cushions shoes are best for people who are under pronators (or high arch) and also those with a normal arch.



Stability shoes help decelerate basic pronation.  They're good for neutral runners or those who exhibit mild to moderate overpronation.  Stability shoes are great for feet with a moderately flat arch and for those with a normal arch.


Motion control

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 (or flat foot).




Many runners find the best fit comes from going up at least a half size for a little extra room in the toe box.   Aim for a thumb's width between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.  Remember that your foot will expand when running.  Sizing up will help you have room when you wear thicker cushioned running socks.



It pays to invest in good quality manufactured running shoes.  Put your trust in a proven brand name.    Running shoe companies such as Asics, Brooks Running, Mizuno, New Balance, Nike, and Saucony are great running shoe designers, have good quality, and have been in the running shoe business for awhile.



New Balance Running Shoe Diagram
















Look for shoes that offer upper mesh breathability.  Nylon and nylon mesh are durable materials most commonly used to reduce weight and boost breathability


Look for shoes that offer soft cushioned midsoles.  The midsole is the cushioning and stability layer between the upper and the outsoles.


Look for shoes that offer soft thick outsoles.  The outsole is the bottom part of the running shoe which absorbs the impact of the run



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.   Tip:  If you routinely run soft trails with no rocks, mud, etc., you can run in road running shoes.



Be afraid of commitment — running shoes are not meant to last.  One of the worst things you can do is to wear worn-out shoes.  If you start experiencing aches and pains, it's time for a new pair.  Many injuries occur because a runner continued to wear a shoe after it has been worn out.  Most injuries can be remedied with a simple change of shoe.   Running shoes are designed to handle about 400-500 miles or last about 4-5 months on average.   The higher your arch, the faster you'll wear out your shoes.



Which running shoes do you usually buy and how many miles can you get out of them?  





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