Whether you’re just starting out, or you’re a veteran runner, you know how important it is to know how to choose running shoes that are right for you. There are so many things to consider, from how much you can afford to spend, to how beat-up your old running shoes are, and where they’re worn the most. If it’s time for a new pair of running shoes, keep reading. Here are 7 tips on how to choose running shoes that are perfect for you, and your unique size, stride, and style.
One of the most important tips on how to choose running shoes is all about timing — you’ll want to plan your shopping trip for the end of the day, when your feet are at their biggest from the bit of swelling they do as the day wears on. If you shop in the morning, you might end up with shoes that are too small.
Bear in mind that running shoes last, on average, about 500 miles. If you run 3 miles a day, 6 days a week, that’s about 20 miles a week, or 1,000 miles a year, so you’ll want to replace your shoes about every 6 months. Be sure to budget for this, and to plan to spend about $50 - $150 on a pair of shoes.
I was surprised when my salesperson asked to see the shoes I was currently wearing when I went to buy a new pair of running shoes. But it makes sense. Looking at the type of shoe I run in, plus the wear patterns, helped her determine how much support I need, and where.
Do you run on flat, smooth pavement, or over rocky, pitted trails? The type of surface you run on — road or trail — will be key in choosing the right running shoe. There are a few differences between road shoes and trail running shoes, so it’s important to consider where you’ll be running; trail shoes offer more traction, cushioning, and protection.
If you don’t know your shoe size, get measured at the store. You may discover, like I did, that one foot is slightly larger than the other, or that you don’t wear the size you always thought you did. I wear a 7½ in heels, but a 7 in most running shoes.
Do you have high, flat, or normal arches? If you don’t know, there’s an easy way to find out. The next time you get out of the shower and step on the bath-mat, look at the footprints you leave. If the footprints are very narrow, or even disconnected between the ball and heel of the print, you have high arches. If the footprints are wide, with little difference between the ball and heel, you have a very flat arch. If you have a print in between, you have a “normal” arch.
That sounds a little kinky, but it’s not. Pronation is the slight outward roll of your foot when you run, right after your heel strikes the ground. That outward roll motion is normal and healthy, helping to lessen the impact of running on your joints. But if you tend to roll our more or less than the norm, you set yourself up for knee, back, or hip injuries, so it’s important to choose running shoes that correct your pronation. A salesperson will be able to tell if you over or under pronate by watching you run a little; some shops even offer video analysis of your running style to determine how much you pronate, and if you require correction.
As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider when choosing running shoes, far more complex than color or brand! That’s why it’s so important to shop for shoes where you have access to a pro, like at REI or Dick’s Sporting Goods… at least until you know what you need. A pro will help you choose the right shoe, considering all of these points, from pronation to budget.
Now that you’ve seen my list, are you ready to shop, or a little intimidated? If you’re feeling unsure, remember, there are lots of helpful pros who want to help you choose just the right shoe — and all they need is about 20 – 30 minutes of your time to help you find the running shoe of your dreams… for me, that’s the Brooks PureFlow in a size 7½. If you’ve gone shoe-shopping recently, what did you find out? What’s your perfect running shoe?