How to Choose the Right Running Shoes

Updated on December 11, 2017
bdegiulio profile image

I have always had an interest in health and fitness and for over thirty years have been running the roads of western Massachusetts.

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Seems like a simple enough thing to do? Right? Well, not exactly. Running is a pretty simple sport that requires very little in the way of equipment. That's part of the beauty of it. Slap on your running shoes and you’re off. But what happens if your shoes aren't just right for your feet? The wrong running shoes can actually do more harm than good and lead to injuries. This is why it is vital that you understand the differences between shoe types and learn which type is right for you.

Shoe Types

Let's take a look at the six basic shoe types.

Cushioned

Cushioned shoes are generally best for runners who have moderate to high arches. Runners with high arches tend to require more mid-sole cushioning and less arch support. Typically, runners with higher arches do not overpronate and are biomechanically more efficient runners.

Cushioned shoes are built with what is referred to as a curved last. The “lasting” refers to the inside shape of the shoe. Shoes made with this last tend to curve from the heel inward toward the toes and are designed to mimic the shape of a foot that has high arches.

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Stability

Stability shoes are designed for those runners who need more medial arch support. These shoes are normally better suited to runners who need extra support and are mild to moderate overpronators. Typically runners who require stability shoes have low to flat arches.

Pronation is the term that is used to describe the rotational movement of the foot as it rolls inward and the arch collapses. Overpronation means that the foot is rolling too much and the arch is collapsing to the point where it is not providing support to the foot. Conversely, supination is when the foot does not roll inward at all but rolls toward the outside of the foot. Both of these conditions require a running shoe with features to help protect the foot

Stability shoes are generally built with a straighter to neutral last and this reflects the fact that the foot is not as curved due to the lower arch.

Motion Control

Motion Control shoes were designed for the moderate to severe overpronator. These shoes will have more rear foot control to them in addition to extra medial arch support. Motion Control shoes are usually necessary for heavier runners who need that extra support and durability. Runners who require Motion Control shoes will have flat feet with almost no visible arch.

Motion Control shoes are built on what is called a straight last. A straight lasted shoe will have little to no curve in the shoe from the heel to the toe and will provide greater medial arch support.

Racing

Racing shoes typically have very little support and are very light weight. Many runners use them only for racing. This type of shoe is really only for those runners who are bio-mechanically efficient and for whom a lighter shoe will make a difference. If you are a competitive runner and are looking for that slight edge then maybe a racing shoe is for you.

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Performance Training

A Performance Training shoe is a lighter, well-balanced shoe that can be used for racing, speed training, or daily training. These shoes are typically worn by the more efficient runner who is training at a fast pace. While not as light as the pure racing shoe they are also not as heavy as the average training shoe. If you are an overpronator be careful using this type of shoe for your daily training as they typically are not as supportive as the Motion Control and Stability Shoes.

Trail

If you run off road on trails then you should definitely consider a trail shoe. These shoes will have better traction to deal with the various conditions found on trails. Some models will also have varying degrees of water-resistant features which will come in handy when running through those mountain creeks or in adverse weather conditions. Trail shoes are typically a little heavier than your average training shoes due to their hefty outer-soles.

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Now that we know a little more about the differences in shoe types we need to figure out which type is best for us. In order to do this we need to take a good look at our feet. There are basically three different foot types and each one is based on the height of your arches.

For a fun and simple method to determine your foot type we’re going to take what’s called the “wet test”. For this test you will need a shallow pan or bucket large enough to fit your foot, water, and a brown paper bag. Simply pour enough water into your pan or bucket to wet the bottom of your foot. Step into the pan and then onto the brown paper bag. Your wet foot should leave an impression on the bag so that you can see the shape of your foot. Using this simple test will help you to determine whether you have a high arch, a normal medium arch, or a low flat arch. Knowing your foot shape can now steer you to a shoe that is geared toward your foot type.

What is your foot type?

See results
Very High Arch---------High Arch-----------Normal Arch------------Flat Feet
Very High Arch---------High Arch-----------Normal Arch------------Flat Feet | Source

To select a shoe type now simply match your foot shape to the corresponding shoe type. If you have a low flat arch (flat feet) you will want a shoe with greater stability and motion control to provide arch support. Having flat feet generally means that you are an overpronator (excessive inward rolling) and as such will require shoes with extra support and motion control features to minimize the excessive rolling and collapse of your arch.

If you have a very high arch then you may want a shoe with superior cushioning. High arched runners will tend to fall into the normal or supinator category. In running supination means that your foot is rolling to the outside as opposed to a more normal roll to the inside. High arches tend to result in more impact shock traveling up the leg as opposed to being absorbed by the foot so this is why you will want a cushioned shoe with no added stability or motion control features.

For a normal arch you have a few options. Some pronation or rolling inward of the arch is actually a good thing as this helps to absorb some of the impact shock. With a more normal foot type and normal amount of pronation you can probably get away with either a stability shoe with a moderate amount of support or even a neutral cushioned shoe with no added support if you happen to be a lightweight runner.

Excellent Video demonstrating the wet test

If you are selecting running shoes for the first time it is always a good idea to shop at a running specialty shop where you can get expert advice. The sport of running requires very little in the way of equipment but the one thing that is crucial to a successful running career is good shoes that suit your foot and running style. Now is not the time to skimp. Good luck and stay healthy out there.

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Bill De Giulio

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      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        5 years ago from Massachusetts

        Thank you. You know walking is great exercise also so good for you for getting out there. I loved the comment about being chased :) Thank you for the vote and for sharing with your friend. Have a great day.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        5 years ago from USA

        Excellent information. Well written and presented. Admittedly, the only way I'd probably run is if someone was chasing me, and then again I may be just as likely to fall down and play dead. But I do walk. I am emailing this to a friend who is serious into running -- triathalons, marathons, etc. Voted up and more!

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        5 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi rajan. That's great that you walk. All that matters is that you get out there, good for you. As always I very much appreciate the support as well as the vote, share, etc. A great weekend to you also.

      • rajan jolly profile image

        Rajan Singh Jolly 

        5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

        Very useful info for runners, Bill. I'm going to check out my foot type though I don't run that often now. More into walking.

        Voted up, useful and sharing it, my friend.

        Have a great weekend.

      • Teresa Schultz profile image

        Teresa Schultz 

        5 years ago from East London, in South Africa

        Happy New Year to you too :)

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        5 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Teresa. Nice to see you again. I too suffered through problems when I was younger with incorrect shoes and today I also wear custom orthotics. Sometimes we learn things the hard way. Hope this finds you well and healthy. Thanks so much for stopping by and happy New year.

      • Teresa Schultz profile image

        Teresa Schultz 

        5 years ago from East London, in South Africa

        What excellent advice - and so nicely displayed - in portions not too large for each sort of shoe or bit of information - wish I could do that, I go on and on sometimes, only remembering to make paragraphs, and not enough sub headings - although I think I'm getting better at it.

        It is very important than one wear running shoes suited to one's feet or running style, and your hub so nicely highlights this. I had an ilio tibial band syndrome problem and pain (but I didn't know what it was at the time) for months as a teenager when I was covering about 40km or so a week in training sessions, before a sports shoe shop owner picked up that I over-pronated a bit, and showed me which were the correct running shoes to buy - but the damage had already been done and I needed orthotics made specifically for my feet, to insert into my running shoes, and it took me weeks of blisters and pain to get used to them. People should be sure of the correct running shoe for themselves (or for their children) right from the start!

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        5 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi forlanda. I am familiar with the minimalist shoes and the trend toward this type of running. I have tried them on and so far do not think that I could run in them. Maybe it's something that takes time?

        I will have to pick up the book "Born to Run", sounds interesting. There must be something to this minimalist theory as all the running shoe companies are joining the trend.

        Great input. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        5 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Ruth. There is nothing like trail and error to find the right shoe. Now that you know it will be an easy choice next time. It's amazing that our feet will tell us when something is not right.

        Good luck with the running and thank you for stopping by to read and comment. Have a great day.

      • forlanda profile image

        Juancho Forlanda 

        5 years ago from US of A

        This is the current view on shoes. But most recently there's a movement to go barefoot running. The idea is that the foot really requires more freedom when landing on the ground. That is why there are so many bones down there. When you put shoes on, the shoe restricts the foot's ability to adapt and land properly.

        Try running with a nicely padded shoe and ou'll find that you tend to land a bit heavier on the heel. Now run barefoot and you'll see how you run...you tend to land on your forefoot to soften the landing. This is just an example of how shoes affect your running.

        Some say that ever nice the hoe got fancier, there was an increase in the number of people having lot injuries.

        There is a book titled "born to Run" by McDougle. It does a good job explaining some of these ideas.

        Even the big name shoe makers are joining in the barefoot type running shoes. Nike has the Nike Free. It as very minimal support to allow the foot to bend freely. Vibram has the five finger shoe. It looks weird but it is as lose as possible to running barefoot, and yet still have foot protection.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        5 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Christy. Thank you for stopping by to read and comment. The options are many and it can be a daunting choice trying to figure out which shoe is right for you. I struggled for years when I first started running.

        Many thanks again for the vote and share. Bill

      • healthwealthmusic profile image

        Ruth R. Martin 

        5 years ago from Everywhere Online ~ Fingerlakes ~ Upstate New York

        Never knew there was so any specific different kinds of running shoes. I thought that any sports/sneaker type of shoe that is comfortable should do fine for running. I recsntly starting running about 2 miles several times a week. I have tried two different shoes and I have discovered that I can run easily with the one pair, but the other pair makes me work harder and I feel like I'm out of shape when I run in them. I'm guessing those are just not right for my feet :/

      • ChristyWrites profile image

        Christy Birmingham 

        5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

        What a useful hub bdegiulio. I do not see this one being a zzzz hub at all! The running shoe wall at stores is daunting with so many kinds and here you outline the kinds very well. Thank-you. Vote up, useful, informative, and sharing.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        5 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Bill. Thanks for stopping by. I feel very fortunate and blessed to be able to still run. A great weekend to you also.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        5 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Carol. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. Biking and walking are great exercise, great job getting out there. Thank you for your continued support and the vote and share. Have a great weekend.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        5 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Great info for would-be runners. My running days are over, but your info is right on! Good job Bill, and have a great weekend.

      • carol7777 profile image

        carol stanley 

        5 years ago from Arizona

        Though we don't do a lot of running these days..mostly biking and walking. Very complete and excellent for the serious runner. Voting up and sharing.

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