Effective and accessible for individuals of all ages, running is one of the best workouts to work into your schedule. All it takes is a good pair of shoes to start taking those first steps towards better health.
Just make sure you buy the best running shoes possible and not the first pair you find off the rack.
Running seems like a low-impact sport, but surprisingly, the majority of runners get injured every year. While many aches and pains come from poor form and overuse, the wrong shoe can play a huge role in how you feel after a run.
When you get serious about running, it’s time to upgrade your shoes so you don’t feel the strain. We’ll walk you through how to find running shoes that have the perfect fit and form to suit your needs as an athlete.
Understand Your Running Gait
Runners differ in how their feet strike the ground from end-to-end and side-to-side.
Your running gait falls within three general categories to describe your foot’s side-to-side movement:
The average running gait is neutral. In this motion, your foot usually hits on the outer heel and rolls to the middle of the ball of your foot. Runners with a normal foot arch commonly have this gait and will often experience fewer injuries because of the improved shock absorption.
Supination is common for individuals with high foot arches. As you run, your feet supinate when they roll along the outer edge through a stride.
Pronation is the opposite of supination. Your feet pronate when they roll to the inside edge. It’s common for many runners to pronate to at least a minor degree, even if they have a generally neutral gait.
Runners roll through their stride differently, so you may prefer a different foot position in the shoe depending on your style. Most runners are heel strikers, while a small percentage connect with their midsole or toe first.
Being aware of your running form can clue you in to which running shoe is best for you. A beneficial spec to look at when comparing new running shoes online is the heel-to-toe drop. The measure refers to the difference between the shoe’s rise of the heel and the rise of the toe, creating a “drop” from back to front.
Running shoes will have a heel-to-toe drop between 0-12 mm. Because most runners hit the ground heel-first, running shoes often have generous cushioning in the heel and a greater heel-to-toe drop than a standard sneaker.
The heel-to-toe drop will affect your stride, and it can leave you prone to injury if you get a new style that you aren’t ready for. Still, there is no specific recommendation for the heel-to-toe drop or any other spec for that matter. No matter your running gait or stride, it all comes down to comfort and fit.
Get the Right Fit
A good running shoe should absorb pressure as needed, support your foot, and keep your running motion stable. It should be snug in the right places but allow enough range of motion to keep your foot comfortable.
Look for a shoe that’s snug in the heel, with an ankle collar that keeps your foot from slipping in the shoe. You want your ankle to have a healthy amount of movement, but the shoe needs to stay secure.
The toe box should be a little looser, giving you enough space to move your toes side-to-side and up. When you tighten your laces, the shoe should wrap and hug your foot from the heel to the midsole without causing too much pressure at any point.
Your gait will also factor into the right fit, as well as the unique arch of your foot. A shoe may fit well but improper arch support can affect stability, shock absorption, and your stride.
Some higher-quality running shoes like Nike’s Air Max 97 offer adjustable inserts to make up for foot shape variations. That level of thoughtfulness speaks to another essential point when looking for the best running shoes: making sure you buy actual running shoes.
Get Running Specific Shoes
Running shoe designs fit the natural running motion and provide maneuverability that allows for longer workout sessions. The heel-to-toe rocker shape rolls with a normal running stride, absorbing pressure and helping you run pain-free. The lightweight yet grippy sole and grooved shape up the toe spring provide a more comfortable, flexible feel that lets you run longer.
Neutral and Stability Shoes
Running shoes are commonly defined as neutral or stability models. Stability shoes have supportive features like high-density foams and wide soles to compensate for the effects of over-pronation or supination. Neutral shoes respond to your natural running form.
Neutral shoes are often the best starting point for your first pair of running shoes. If you need extra support, you can start to experiment with other styles. Don’t go overboard with corrective shoes that change your running motion, as you could easily injure yourself from running in an awkward position.
Test Several Pairs
It’s crucial to test drive running shoes whenever possible. If buying shoes online, look for a “last”, a foot shape that serves as the model for shoe designs. Find one that matches your foot profile, and you will have a better chance of getting the right fit.
Speaking of fit, shoe size can vary, so read reviews to see if you should size up or down. The ideal method is to test shoes in a shoe store and compare them side-by-side. It lets you feel the motion of each shoe, and you may be able to have a running shoe pro give you a gait analysis to find the right fit.
Find the Best Running Shoes the Right Way
You run for health, and any injury is an undeniable step in the wrong direction. Avoid the pain of running by investing your time and money in the best running shoes for your needs. With a comfortable shoe designed for your running routine, you’ll see the results in your energy levels and overall well-being.
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