Tips for Choosing Running Shoes
Picking out the right running shoes for your needs is not the hardest thing in the world, but it often requires more thought than many people realize. Your shoes play a huge role in how your feet hit the ground and in how long you can run. In many ways, your ability to go the extra mile is very reliant on how well your shoes match your running needs. This illustrates how important it is to have the right shoes standing between your feet and the pavement or trail. Understanding the different categories of running shoes and how they apply to different types of terrain is essential when selecting running shoes.
The Major Builds of Running Shoes
The first thing you need to consider when buying running shoes is the build of the shoe. Not all shoes are built the same and some shoes are built specifically for one type of running. The three major builds found in running shoes can be best described as neutral, control and stability shoes.
Neutral Running Shoes
Neutral running shoes do not provide you with any type of directional outward support that guides your foot. They are built mostly for people with high arches on their feet, but can also be used by people with flat feet or low arches for certain types of running. Neutral shoes can often be lighter than other types of shoes, so that's something to keep in mind if weight is a factor for you.
Control shoes are designed for people with very low arches or completely flat feet. They are designed to help provide a greater level of shock absorption for foot strikes and they help keep feet stable. Flat feet can sometimes be difficult to keep on track and can land in awkward ways with each footfall. Control shoes allow the user to keep their feet steady and to place their feet on the ground correctly while running.
Stability shoes could be described as a "middle ground" between control and neutral shoes. They are designed with medium-sized arches in mind. A big feature of these shoes is that they direct your feet to the ground in a very subtle way. They help ensure the right parts of your feet are hitting the ground to help avoid joint stress over long runs.
A less common form of running shoe that is gaining popularity is known as the "barefoot" or "minimalist" running shoe. A minimalist shoe is essentially a neutral running shoe that is stripped down to the bare minimum materials. These shoes are very light and fit very tightly to your skin. It is not uncommon to see people running without socks on while they wear these shoes. These shoes are designed to encourage people to run with a more natural gait and to land with a forefront strike. The idea here is that the shoes make a heel strike far too painful, so runners need to use a forefoot strike.
Finding the Right Shoe for You
Keeping this information in mind, it's important to figure out which shoe you're best suited for. Your feet will play a huge role in this decision, but so will your running style. The aforementioned "builds" of running shoes are generally designed with a mid-foot or heel strike in mind. If you have flat feet and are interested in trying out forefoot strike running, then you could absolutely try neutral or "barefoot" running shoes. The shape and arch of your feet should only be used as a general guideline for figuring out which of these shoes are for you. In the end, the final decision should be based off of your intended running style as well.
Keep the durability of your shoes in mind when you want to run on trails. Trail running shoes have a whole host of extra specifications that you should keep in mind. They should have a cement shank to help support your feet while still providing a "spring" or "give" to your step. These shoes will also be inherently heavier than other types of shoes due to the stronger materials required. Also, you should never buy a "waterproof" running shoe. Waterproofing may be advertised as a benefit for trail running, but all it will do is cause your feet to sweat and soak the inside of your shoe. This can lead to the growth of bacteria and can make your shoes take longer to dry out.
Deliberation is Key
It's smart to try out a bunch of running shoes to see what works best for you. However, trying out dozens of shoes to find the right one can be a time-consuming and costly process. Taking the time to learn about the shoes before you make your purchase can go a long way toward helping you find the right shoe quickly.