When you're shopping for a new pair of running shoes, it's comforting to know that there are endless options out there, but sometimes all those choices can feel like both a blessing and a curse. They all claim to be the best and they all look tempting, but how do you really know which pair is going to be the best for your feet?
By the way, don't underestimate the importance of finding a good running shoe. It doesn't matter if you're the occasional runner who's trying to shed a few pounds or you're a devoted marathoner — a good pair of shoes provides the foundation for your movement and overall fitness. Michael Olzinski, MSc, Purplepatch endurance coach and Equinox run coach, told POPSUGAR, "The body is a powerful unit, and given the right tools, it can accomplish some pretty incredible things." So let's breakdown what makes a running shoe great, because the sooner you can get the right pair on your feet, the sooner you can reach your fitness goals.
Mike's first suggestion is that you find shoes that "address your running needs for terrain and usage." Think about how often you'll be running and what kind of surface you'll be running on, like treadmill, trails, asphalt, etc., and then you can look for a profile that fits your needs. They should "feel very comfortable and fit the general shape of your foot," Mike added.
We also chatted with Westin Galloway, global product line manager for Performance Run and Asics, about the basics of a solid running shoe. "The two most important characteristics to look for in a running shoe are fit and underfoot comfort," he told POPSUGAR. "Everyone has a different foot, so what works for your family member or coworker will not necessarily work for you."
Westin said your shoe should have a snug fit yet also "let your foot expand in all the right places." You want your toes to have a little extra room "for swelling and expansion." Underfoot comfort is crucial: "When you run, your body has to deal with three to four times your body weight each step, so if your shoes are not substantial enough and do not have enough cushioning, then they will not last very long," Westin advised. They should have enough support on the bottom to where you feel like you could wear them around all day long.
"There are two main types of running shoes — neutral (shoes without additional stability) and stability (shoes that help prevent overpronation)," Westin told POPSUGAR. Pronation means your foot rolls inward when you run, so if this is something you struggle with, you should look for the latter.
Although foot strike is something to consider when you're getting a new pair of shoes, Mike advises that you don't get too caught up in it. "I believe that foot strike is something that should be looked at as a chain of movement that goes between the foot and the hip, so I wouldn't try to address that with a shoe," he said. In other words, expect your shoes to work with your feet, not correct the way they function.
If you're looking for some last-minute advice on your way out the door, Westin said, "Comfort is king. If you are not going to be comfortable in your new shoes over a long period of time, you are not going to choose them over and over to go work out." Here's Mike's suggestion: "I would also recommend starting with a pretty neutral shoe, so that you can truly figure out what kind of runner you are." Then from there you can make adjustments to your shoes if needed.
Do some research on what's out there and don't be afraid to ask an expert to take a look at your stride. In fact, it might be a great idea to start at a specialty shoe store. They can help you figure out which shoe is best for you — and then the real shopping fun can begin.