There are two basic types of running shoes: road running shoes and trail running shoes. Most people are just going to need road running shoes, which are good for things like pavement and other packed surfaces with only mild irregularities. You only really need trail running shoes if you are going to be running in very irregular off-road situations with roots, rocks and other things getting in your way.
More important, though, is fit; so if you think you need a trail running shoe but can’t find one that fits your foot properly, go with a road running. There is usually a wider selection of them.
You may think you know your shoe size, but sizing your feet is way more complicated than you may think. It is made even more difficult by the fact that sizes can vary by shoe brand and even sometimes from one shoe model to another within a brand. That is why it is always best to buy running shoes from a physical store rather than online, unless you are rebuying the exact pair of shoes you bought and loved before.
Also, many people have two different sized feet. You should measure your feet with a Brannock device, the flat metal tool you see at the shoe store, to get the best starting size. Measure both feet and. If they are two different sizes, and…
- the size difference is less than a half a size, fit the larger of the two.
- the size difference is greater than a half a size, you might be better off getting two different sized shoes to avoid any foot injuries. This might involve buying two pairs of shoes.
Another thing many people don’t realize is that you aren’t necessarily stuck buying a gender specific shoe. The only real difference is that men’s shoes tend to be wider than women’s shoes. If you are a man with narrow feet, you might try women’s shoes, and if you are a woman with wider feet, you might try men’s shoes and see if you can find a better fit there.
One of the things you have to know before picking out a running shoe is what kind of arch you have:
- a high arch;
- a normal arch;
- a low or flat arch.
There are a few ways to determine this. One of the easiest is to see what kind of a footprint you leave. When you step out of the shower or pool, for example, take a look at the mark your feet leave. A high arch will leave a print that is very narrow and curved or sometimes doesn’t even have a connection between the heel and ball of the foot. A flat foot will show a print that is wide and straight and show no or almost no missing part at the arch. A normal arch print will look somewhere between those two, the way we picture a perfect footprint.
Pronation is another thing that is important to know about if you are serious about finding the right running shoe for you. Pronation describes the movement of our foot when it impacts the ground as we run. During normal pronation, which usually happens with people who have normal arches, our heel hits first and then our foot very slightly rolls inward and the arch flattens to absorb the impact. Unfortunately, not everyone has the perfect foot.
Those who have high arches tend to be underpronators meaning that their foot rolls outward instead of inward. Those who have flat feet are usually overpronators meaning that their foot rolls too much inward.
What Does it All Mean?
If you determine that you have a normal arch and normal pronation, you have the most options but should stick with a shoe that is made for stability. You should also choose a shoe that has a semi-curved shape as shown by looking at the bottom of the shoe.
If you find that you have high arches, which probably means you also underpronate, you should pick a Cushioned running shoe that is curved.
If you have flat feet, which almost inevitably means that you are an overpronator, you need a Motion Control running shoe that is straight in shape.
There is more to shoe fit than just knowing your size. As stated before, always try on running shoes. It is best to try them on late in the day when your feet are at their largest. Bring orthotics if you use them and wear or bring the socks you will be wearing while running. Always try on both shoes because you could have two different sized feet. Then try to walk or even run around a little in the shoes to see how they feel.
If the size you have on feels fine, try a half size larger. One of the biggest mistakes people make is buying shoes that are too small, and they end up with blisters. Keep trying larger sizes until one feels obviously too large. The one before that is usually the one that is your best size. To verify this, check how much room there is between your big toe and the front of the shoe. There should be about a half an inch.
The right shoe for you should feel good right away. It is just a myth that you will have to break shoes in before they feel good.
How Often Do I Need New Running Shoes?
You will typically need new running shoes every 300 to 500 miles of running, which is about 3 to 4 months for regular runners. You need to keep an eye on the soles of your shoes to determine if it is getting close to time to replace them. They will look compressed and worn when it is time.
Unfortunately, the uppers of your shoes might still look pretty pristine by the time it is time to replace your running shoes so don’t look at those as a determining factor. You will probably feel awful throwing out what looks like good shoes, but the soles are what is really important. You don’t want to risk an injury because your shoes have worn out.