There is no one shoe that is right for every runner, and there is no shoe that is guaranteed to eliminate injuries. But having the right type of shoe for your body type, foot shape and running style will help prevent injuries and will keep you running comfortably for longer.
The best way to find the right shoe for your feet is to go to a local running store and get professionally fitted. The best running stores will watch you run and analyze your gait and stride to put you in the proper shoe. Do not be intimidated by these running stores — they are there to help everyone from walkers to sprinters. They are not just for serious, elite athletes — they are for casual walkers, weekend warriors, elite runners and everyone in between.
If you do not have a running store in your area, or if you want to get an idea of what to expect when you go in, then this information will help you select a shoe.
There are four main types of shoes: neutral, stability, motion control and minimalist. Which type is right for you depends on your foot shape and how much you pronate when you run. Pronation is the movement of your foot as it comes in contact with the ground. When your foot strikes the ground, it "rolls" inward, which optimally distributes the force of impact and is critical to proper shock absorption. A slight rolling inward of the foot, about 15 percent, is considered normal pronation.
Neutral shoes are best for runners who have normal pronation. These runners also typically have a normal-shaped foot. That is, they do not have flat feet or high arches. This is the most common type of foot and is also the least susceptible to injury if the runner wears proper shoes.
Stability shoes are best for runners who have mild to moderate overpronation, which means that their feet roll inward more than 15 percent when they run. These runners typically have flat feet, which means there is no arch in the bottom of the foot. Stability shoes help decelerate the pronation of the foot through a medial post that reinforces the arch side of the midsole.
Motion-control shoes are best for runners with moderate to severe overpronation. These types of shoes have features like a stiffer heel or a design built on straighter lasts to counter overpronation. They also tend to have wider and flatter outsoles. Heavier runners who need extra support or durability may also consider motion-control shoes.
Barefoot running has become very popular over the past several years. Proponents argue that running barefoot allows runners to run with a more natural foot strike that causes less impact and thus results in fewer impact-related running injuries. However, running barefoot can be hard on the feet, especially when running on rough surfaces.
Wearing minimalist or barefoot shoes is an alternative to barefoot running that allows runners to run with a more natural running motion while still protecting their feet. These types of shoes do not provide any sort of pronation correction, so they are typically for people with neutral feet. If you are new to minimalist or barefoot shoes, start out slowly and gradually increase your use of them to avoid injuries.
When trying on running shoes, keep in mind that you typically want to go up by a half size to a full size. If you normally wear a size 7 shoe, your running shoes should likely be size 8. You want a full thumb's width between the end of your big toe and the top of the shoe. When you run, your feet slide forward slightly with every step. If your shoes are too small, your toes will hit the top of the shoe as you run, and you will develop black toenails and/or blisters.
You should replace your running shoes every 300-500 miles, depending on your size, weight, gait and shoe type. Keeping a running log is great, not only for tracking your progress and runs but also for keeping track of shoe mileage. In your running log, make a note of the date you started wearing a new pair of shoes and then keep track of your weekly running mileage. You'll be able to easily calculate when you've run 300-500 miles in those shoes.
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