The Best Running Shoes For You

An experienced runner shares her hints and tips for choosing the perfect pair for your needs.

I go through a lot of running shoes. I’m a healthy living blogger and my readers often ask what brand and style I’m rocking at my races. While I’m happy to share my favorite picks with them, my recommendations come with a big caveat: What works for me may not work for you.

Why? There are many types of feet, a variety of running gaits, and a shoe to satisfy every running need. What works for me as a road runner with a medium arch and a neutral running form won’t be comfortable for a trail runner with a high arch that causes her foot to pronate inwards.

If you have no idea what all this talk of “arches” and “pronation” mean, have no fear. It’s actually quite simple. In the neutral running rate, your foot strikes the ground at the perfect angle (slightly inward), which distributes the force of the strike ideally across your foot. As a result, your ankle, knee, and hips also stay in ideal alignment. On the other hand, overpronation means that the arch of the foot collapses and rolls too far inward, which throws out this alignment of your ankle, knee, and hips, causing pain. Underpronation means your foot doesn’t roll inward enough, causing you to run on the outside of your foot and push off with your little toes.

If you’re prone to injuries like shin splints, a more cushioned shoe may be helpful.

Different gaits require different types of cushioning and support. For example, runners who overpronate often need a shoe with a great deal of support to prevent that excessive inward roll. And the shoe’s cushioning helps absorb the shock of your foot strike. If you’re prone to injuries like shin splints, a more cushioned shoe may be helpful. Different brands use different types of cushioning (such as gel, plastic, or foam), each of which is best suited to specific kinds of runners.

There are so many shoe options that investing in a quality shoe can feel overwhelming. I always tell people to head over to a specialty running store, where an expert can watch you run, analyze your gait, and discuss what type of support and cushioning may work best for your unique foot.

Be sure to discuss what type of running you do: are you training on the road, the treadmill, or a trail? You want to get the right shoe for your situation. Trail shoes, for example, typically have a tougher tread for gripping. And don’t be shy about talking cost. While you should be prepared to spend money for a decent pair of running shoes, there are many quality budget choices available. Shoe companies release new models once a year; the older models are often quite similar and a lot cheaper.

How often do you need to replace your running shoes? Hard pounding, especially on the pavement, wears down the cushioning and other protection you need to prevent injuries and pain. Shoe manufacturers design their footwear to last  from 300 to 500 miles. You know it’s time to replace your shoe if your shins, ankles, and knees start aching, or if the tread is wearing away.

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