How Do I Choose A Running Shoe?

Runners are often overwhelmed by the amount of shoes there are to choose from, and have a difficult time finding the ones that will benefit them the most. When choosing a type of running shoe it is important to take into account the shape of your foot and your running mechanics. It is also important to identify the type of surface you will be performing most of your running on (trail, pavement, etc).

Types of Feet

Before buying a pair of running shoes, it’s important to understand your foot! First, identify characteristics about your foot that impact the way a shoe fits. This information may be easy to find since you may have figured these things out simply from buying shoes your whole life. Take note of whether your foot is more narrow or wide, and where you would prefer the shoe to be snug or looser fitting. Next, take a look at your arch height in standing, and determine whether they are low to the ground, very high, or if they sit somewhere in the middle. Finally, as you are running try to think about which part of your foot hits the ground first with every step – the heel, the middle of your foot, or the toes. This information determines where you have a “heel or rearfoot strike”, “midfoot strike”, or “forefoot strike”.

Choosing a Shoe

Often times, different brands of shoes are known for a certain type of fit. For example, Nikes are usually more of a narrow shoe. If you previously determined that you are going to prefer a wider shoe, you may want to look at other brands. Figuring out general characteristics of different brands of shoes prior to purchasing may be helpful to narrow down the choices. Another way to quickly narrow down shoe choices would be to determine where you run most often, since certain shoes are best for trail running while others hold up better when running on pavement.

Running shoes can then be broken down into three main categories: cushioned, motion controlled, and stability. During a lower leg evaluation, shows are usually recommended to runners based on their amount of “pronation”, or amount of inward roll of the foot while running. Cushioned shoes are often recommended to runners who have high arches and a decreased amount of pronation. Since this type of shoe has more cushioning under the arches it allows for a greater amount shock absorption that is lost due to the lack of pronation. Motion controlled shoes are exactly the opposite of a cushioned shoe. This type of shoe is often recommended to runners who have more of a “flat foot” or lower arch and over-pronate while running. Motion controlled shoes have a harder material under the arch, which helps to decrease the amount of pronation while running. Finally, stability running shoes are given to runners who have medium arches, and have a mixture of qualities of both the cushioned and motion controlled shoes. Since a majority of runners have medium height arches, most people typically fall into this category.

What Happens If I Pick The Wrong Shoe For My Foot?

Although it seems as though choosing the perfect running shoe may be as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack, do not worry! Understanding the characteristics and mechanics of your foot definitely help to guide you toward a shoe that will be most comfortable, however, research has shown that even if you wear a shoe that goes against the guidelines for your foot you are at no higher risk of causing harm to your foot or body compared to runners who wear the “correct” shoe for their foot type. Running injuries are much more likely to occur from improper training or from transitioning into a new type of shoe or footstrike too quickly. It is important to consult with your physical therapist prior to making these changes in order to determine a transitioning and training program that will work best.

For more information on shoe fit contact Total Performance Physical Therapy today.

We’re Hiring!
We have immediate openings for multiple positions. Everything from Physical Therapists to Admin Roles.

Scroll to Top