Running is a pretty simple sport, with the proper shoes and some comfortable clothing you can pretty much take your sport anywhere. One of the keys to keeping the routine simple is having the right shoes. Your running shoes should be something that you put on and do not question if they are going to work well for you. You should invest more thought into your running goals rather than what you are putting on your feet. This is why we suggest getting fitted properly at your local running store. When getting fitted it is important to get the right type of shoe for your gate, for your foot shape and for your personal preferences and needs. Here are some things to take into consideration when choosing shoes.
Stability or Neutral Shoe?
In the modern shoe era, there aren’t always strictly stability or neutral shoe options, but it is still important to know whether you overpronate or supinate when you run as this does impact what shoe you are put in. If you tend to overpronate, wearing a more structured shoe can help with efficiency, lower leg health and longevity of the shoe. On the other side, some individuals supinate which means they do not need any added structure in their shoes to keep their legs feeling happy and fresh. In fact if a neutral runner is put into a stability shoe, chances are it is going to hurt their feet more than help. What does all this mean? Let’s take a look.
Pronation is a position of the ankle and foot during foot-strike in running and walking. Everyone pronates, but some individuals pronate more or less than others. There are three common categories of pronation: neutral pronation, over-pronation, and under-pronation (or “supination”).
Neutral Pronation begins when the outside of the heel (calcaneus) strikes the ground and weight shifts forward to the metatarsals (bones between the ankle and toes) in the forefoot during the push off phase. The ankle will remain stable; it does not roll in or out. You will find your weight shifts smoothly along the second toe as you push off.
Shoe type: Neutral shoe
Overpronation describes when the outside of the heel strikes the ground and weight shifts forward toward the big toe (hallux). The arch of the foot will appear to “drop,” and the ankle will tend to shift inward. This usually causes the shin bone or tibia to shift inward as well. This can result in knee pain and other problems such as plantar-fasciitis, shin splints, or lower back pain.
Shoe Type: Stability shoe (A shoe with a medial post, guide rail or “ground contact stability”)
Supination begins when the lateral side of the heel strikes the ground and weight shifts forward to the metatarsals, but the foot does not return to the neutral position. Instead, the weight remains on the outside of the foot. In many cases, this can cause the knee to track to the outside, creating the potential for knee pain.
Shoe Type: Neutral shoe or shoe with “ground contact stability” or a wider base.
Running Footwear Sizing: “I wear what size?”
First thing to remember when buying shoes is that comfort comes first. That means we shop without thinking about what size something is. We hate to break it to you, but most of the time the shoes you buy for work or going out on the weekends are going to be smaller than what you run in. For instance, your dress heels may be a size 9 but don’t be surprised when your sales associate tells you need a size 10. Usually you want about a half to a full thumb width at the end of your shoe to avoid blisters, lost toenails and numb feet. If you think you can feel your toe at the end of the shoe instore, just imagine how it is going to feel 45 min down the road when your feet slightly swell as you run.
Width is another thing to consider. Certain shoe models and brands cater to different widths of feet. Wide feet (or high volume feet) can’t live in the same shoes as an average foot size.
Here is a key to width sizing.
Women’s shoes: Standard width is B width, Wide width is D width, Extra Wide is 2E width. Women’s shoes are 1.5 sizes and 1 width different.
For example: a Women’s 8.5 Wide = Men’s 7 Standard
Men’s shoes: Standard width is D width, Wide is 2E width and Extra Wide is 4E width
How long should shoes last?
This is a very important topic that even seasoned runners do not follow. Replacing your shoes often enough is incredibly important to your leg health. Most running shoes have a life of 300-500 miles (~6 months if you are running 20 mpw) depending on the weight and gate of runner and type of shoe they are wearing. Surpassing that 500 mark doesn’t mean your legs or shoes will self-destruct but it means that you are essentially in a car running with a flat tire. Here are some tips on getting the most life out of your shoes
Alternate two pairs. Usually when alternating shoes the foam will last a little longer than if you are wearing the same shoes each day. Just like your legs, the sole of the shoes needs some recovery time too. Generally if you are alternating back and forth, that foam and “spring” in your shoes tend to last a little longer.
Do not go and buy a shoe that is multiple versions old. Yes, typing in the shoe you want online and finding that a Nike Pegasus 29 (Nike is currently on the 36) is only $40 from somewhere in the depths of page 30 on google, but that $40 shoe isn’t going to last that long. Usually old models are sitting somewhere in a hot warehouse where the cushion is breaking down over time. It may feel okay for run one, but probably not many after that. Next time you go to your local running specialty store, be thankful they are selling you the newest product at the highest quality.
Don’t keep your shoes in the car. Heat and running shoes don’t mix well. Unless your shoe is mostly polyurethane (We are talking about you Adidas), your shoes are not meant to bake in the sun.
Wear your running shoes for running only. Your running shoes are not meant for post run grocery store stops, days at the zoo or pushing around weights in the gym. They should be worn for running and just running to keep them alive the longest.
The bottom line is finding something that works for you and don’t rely on what works for everyone else. We recommend taking a trip to your local running store to get fit and see what options are out there. A shameless plug for shopping local but we love our friends and partners at Fleet Feet Sports and believe that being fit properly makes a difference. Keep the feet happy and keep running smart.