There are so many things to cover when it comes to choosing the perfect running shoe and even then it is very easy to have missed something. I will Try to cover as much as I can in order to help you choose the best shoe for you.
What you need to know first
Even after constructing this guide, this cannot and will not work for everybody. Not one guide could. That is how the human body is constructed. Without going to a specialist, there is nothing you can read on the internet to guarantee you will find the correct running shoe for you. It simply is impossible. I would definitely recommend seeing a specialist, which most shoe stores will offer you for free in hopes that you will buy a shoe they recommend from their store.
Knowing your Feet
Before you can determine which shoes would be the perfect running shoes for you, you need to be able to look down at your feet and actually know how your own feet work. Sounds simple right? It really is once you know what to look for. You may have heard or read somewhere about a person’s gait. Basically, it is how a person walks or moves forward. Gait can be very difficult to cover all factors involved but we’re going to give it our best shot.
Determining Arch of your foot and what it means
Every person’s foot arch is going to be different. To keep it real simple. When you are standing, how much of your feet is on the ground will be how much arch you have.
A good way of determining this is dipping your foot into water and stepping on a brown paper bag or cement and looking at your foot print. The more of the foot print you see, the flatter foot you have.
This is because most people with each of these foot types move in a certain way. Before I go into what each arch means, you should learn about the term, pronation.
Pronation- is how much your foot rolls inward when you run. Ideally, you do not want your feet to pronate because when pronation occurs, its extra foot-motion and it can cause extra pressure on your feet and joints.
Low Arches– When you have low arches your foot is usually extremely flexible. This leads to a process called “over-pronation.” Basically what this means is that when you walk or run, the motion of your foot turns inward heavily. This causes a lot more force on your feet and joints when running and increases the likelihood on injury if not addressed. You will definitely want good stability shoes if you have low archs. Stability shoes are designed with many support functions to prevent the rolling inward of the foot. Even better than stability shoes, will be motion-control shoes. These are the most advanced and best form of stability shoes. They almost completely control how the motion of your foot operates.
Medium Archs– This is the most common type of foot. If you have a medium foot it means you pronate at a normal level. You will want to look for some stability shoes as well, or at least some stability features. An example would be the Hoka One One Clifton shoe. It’s technically a neutral shoe with a lot of cushion that offers quite a bit of stability. Its why it’s such a great shoe for so many. This is the kind of foot motion I create and I can typically run in either neutral or stability shoes. I have run in so many different kinds of shoes now my preference has widened up because my feet are used to different forms of running.
High Archs– High arched feet are typically not very flexible and since your mid-foot doesn’t hit the ground, other parts of your feet will take in the absorption instead. This is why it is extremely important for high arches to find shoes with cushioned midsoles specifically. It will alleviate a lot of the pressure by balanced out where the foot makes contact when running. High arches should look at neutral running shoes specifically.[alert-announce]The Arch of the foot does not always determine how the foot rolls inward[/alert-announce]
This is a very important key thing to note and it is one of the reasons it is so hard to find the perfect running shoe. Just because you have a flat arch does not always mean you over-pronate. Foot-motion can be controlled some-what. There are cases where flat feet do not pronate at all and do not need any extra stability. They would do great in light-weight, light-cushioned neutral shoes(depending on the runner). This is why its always best to see a specialist if you are new to running and trying to figure out which shoes are best for you or why a certain pair is giving you aches and pains.
Types of Running Shoes
There are so determining factors in choosing the perfect running shoe. Lets start with the different types of shoes. I give will a short and easy description for each of the following just so you have a general idea what each of them mean.
Stability-This shoe is for those that over-pronate some-what. Typically this is the case for most people. This shoe often uses many features to ensure your foot motion doesn’t drift inward.
Neutral– This shoe is for those that do no pronate. Their foot motion is fine on their own. This shoe is able to focus on other features such as cushion and do not have to sacrifice as much in weight typically.
Motion-Control- Consider motion control shoes as “Super” Stability shoes. They are made to ensure you stop your natural movement of your foot because it over-pronates much too far which is not good for your body. The process is not nearly as bad as it sounds and its mighty helpful.
Now any of these shoes may contain certain features that you find helpful. Lets dig into some shoe features that you may find in any given shoe so you can really find your perfect running shoe.
Cushion– Cushioned shoes are always nice. They offer ample cushion for the foot and takes some of the stress away. Often, the most cushion the shoe has the less flexible it is.
Minimalist-This is a bit of a dying type of shoe. Though it still has its hype and plenty of fans, so it isn’t going out yet. Basically this type of shoe offers minimum support. The theory is it lets your foot run in its natural form. If you are looking to get into this type of shoe/running, you need to take certain steps first. I would advise anybody looking into this sort of running to slowly transition into it. There are a lot of shoes that can help with this. Look for shoes with less cushion and that have a lower level to the ground.
Trail– Trail shoes are made for trails. Simple really. They are typically made with thicker threads and sometimes offer some sort of spikes as well. Their traction is much better than traditional running shoes and offer more support for the foot. You need more traction, more durability, and more support for much rougher terrain. Believe me.
Lightweight-These shoes are simply extremely light. Most running shoes weigh a minimum of 11 ounces or so for Men and about 2 ounces less for women’s shoes. This tag on a shoe typically means its a lighter version. Most running shoes I would consider “lightweight” have to be under 9 ounces at the very least. There are plenty of shoes that weigh closer to 7-7.5 ounces which is quite a bit of difference. Just keep in mind, lightweight shoes typically are not as durable.
How Much Cushion do I need in a Shoe?
There are 2 to 3 core factors when determining how much cushion you would like in your shoe.
- Body Frame– Are you a science junky? If you’re not, you may not know that when you run, you apply up to 5 TIMES your own weight. So even if you are a light-weight runner you are still putting a lot of force on your feet. Keep in mind all this force is going to affect your feet, your knees, joints, and even back. The higher body mass index you have, the more cushion that is recommended. If you are like me, being just a 5″4 runner weighing 130 pounds, you do not need too much cushion. However, If you are a 6″4 230 pound runner, you are going to want some max cushioned shoes such as the Gel-Kayano 21 or the Clifton Hoka One One.
- Use– Running shoes are used for all sorts of activities from simple casual wear to warrior dashes to incredible 100 mile runs. If you intend to use running shoes very lightly, you probably do not need quite as much cushion. If you are intending to race at high speeds with them, you may want to sacrifice cushion to boost performance. However, if you are training for a marathon, you will want some cushion to keep you upright the entire time. By the end of the race, you definitely don’t want to take such a hard beating. Cushion will help. I would recommend lighter-cushioned shoes for those looking for performance such as short-distance racers as well as very casual users. I would recommend medium-heavy cushioned shoes for long-distance runners or extreme runners. How much would probably be determined by your BMI.
- Preference– This may be a surprising factor to throw in to how to choose the correct running shoe specifically for you. However, if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. You know your body and what you want more than anything. Some runners simply like it a certain way. Maybe you are a toe-striker that likes a lot of fore-foot cushion. Maybe you are a heel-striker long distance runner that loves the feel of max-cushioned shoes. Everybody runs differently and there are still other factors that you will need to consider before choosing the correct running shoe.
Conclusion in How to Choose the Perfect Running Shoe
By now you should have a good idea of what to look for. You need to know your foot type and what you are going to use the shoe for. If you want the the perfect running shoe for you, you are going to want to determine your specific needs. If you want performance, you will likely have to sacrifice some support for light-weight and flexibility. If you simply want a shoe for longer healthier runs for a better life-style, you will want to look at some of our better cushioned shoes. Please just keep in mind, running is an art form. Until you figure out what is best for you, you may want to experiment a bit. Wearing different types of shoes will strengthen up different parts of the foot and body. Just be careful not to push too hard. Know your limits and stay safe.
I hope many find this helpful. If you have any more questions about what you should do, you are free to ask me anything you’d like. Though, keep in mind, a specialist will always be one of your best options to take.