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How to find the perfect running shoe for you

Sarah Wassner Flynn is a New York City-based writer. She's contributed to magazines such as CosmoGIRL!, National Geographic Kids, Runner's World, Women's Health, Prevention and MetroSports New York. She is also the author of The Book of ...

Born to run? Best shoes for you

No two feet are alike -- not even your own! That is why it's key to find the shoes made just for you -- and your unique feet. Here is a guide for what to look for the next time you buy a pair of running shoes.


Is there such thing as the perfect pair of athletic shoes? There can be – if you know what to look for.

Many exercise-related injuries and pain result directly from the wrong pair of shoes – after all, like a bra or a pair of glasses, your sneakers need to fit your exact measurements and specifications. So simply snapping up a pair of sneakers because they are on sale is not always the best approach. Instead, use this guide to figure out exactly what your feet need in terms of running shoes to endure exercise pain-free.

SHOES WITH SUPPORT

Running and walking shoes should be like good friends: Always there when you need them and providing unconditional support. But if you are experiencing ankle, knee or lower back pain during or after exercise, chances are your shoes are not holding up their end of the support bargain.

Check out the bottoms of your current pair: Is the tread worn down more on the inside of the sole than on the outside? If so, then you are probably an overpronator -- which means your feet tend to turn in when running or walking. If you notice more wear on the outside of the sole, you are a supinator, which means your feet supinate, or turn out.

Shoes with extra support systems will work to stabilize wayward feet and prevent injuries to your ankles, knees and lower back. If you have low arches or flat feet, you need a supportive shoe. Inserts like Spenco's PolySorb Walker/Runner Insoles can add that extra stability.
Try on this shoe: The adidas Supernova Control 9, offers a nice blend of cushioning and reinforced stability via adidas' Torsion System, which focuses on midfoot arch protection.

SHOES WITH CUSHION

No doubt, your sneakers should be the most comfy pair of shoes you own. That is because a good pair of running or walking shoes will have a soft, yet strong midsection that acts as pillow-like protection from the shock your entire body absorbs each time you take a step. If your shins or knees ache after exercise, you will probably benefit from a more cushioned shoe. (Pregnant? Your feet will change throughout pregnancy -- get the facts on footcare during each trimester.)

Try on a few pairs and pick the one that feels the most comfortable – yet supportive. However, you don't want them to feel like slippers (soles that are too soft lack durability), but they should not pinch or suffocate your feet, either.
Try on this shoe: The Saucony Progrid 5 Triumph Cushion Running Shoe has a heel that absorbs impact, dissipates shock and sets the foot up for a smooth transition with every step.

SHOES TOUGH ENOUGH FOR THE TRAILS

Rather hit the woods than the roads? If you are a fan of trail running or hiking, it is best to lace up with a pair of shoes suited for the great outdoors. Many sports gear companies, like New Balance, adidas and even outdoor outfitters like Teva and The North Face offer the more rugged of trail shoes.

You can usually tell a trail shoe from a regular running shoe because of its darker color (most come in gray tones, to disguise the dirt) and bulkier soles, equipped to handle a variety of terrain. And thanks to waterproof outer materials, you can run or jog come rain, snow, or shine.
Try on this shoe: The environmentally-friendly New Balance Women's WT874 Tennis Shoe features a memory-foam sockliner and an inner lacing system that help locks your foot in place. As a nod to the eco-conscious, the upper overlays and mesh are made with 30 percent recycled material.

Regardless of your pace, running-specific shoes – as opposed to those billed for walkers or cross-trainers – will provide you with the cushion and support you need when pounding the pavement, trail or treadmill. They are made to last and have the best shock absorption on the market.

So when it is time to get in your miles, do your joints and muscles a favor and lace up your running shoes – and leave the cross-trainers at home.




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