Selecting the perfect pair of running shoes can sometimes seem as challenging as sprinting a marathon. It’s not just about finding a shoe that fits your foot. Instead, it should be about understanding your foot type; analyzing your running style; and knowing what key features to look for. Need a little guidance in one or more of those areas? Keep reading for our Houston podiatrist’s expert tips on how to pick a running shoe that checks all those boxes, and more! 

How to Pick a Running Shoe learn how to pick a running shoe from this line of shoe styles

Choosing the right running shoe is essential. It’s not just about esthetics. Rather, your shoe choice can significantly impact your performance and help prevent injury. So, where should you begin the process? Before you step into any pair of shoes, it’s important to understand your foot type. Start by looking at your arch, since it plays a significant role in your running mechanics. 

There are 3 main arch types: low, ‘normal’ and high arches.  Low arches (also called flat feet) are caused by overpronation, where your foot rolls inward excessively. Normal arches typically lead to neutral pronation and high arches tend to cause under-pronation, or an insufficient roll of your foot as you move. 

Identifying your arch type is easier than you think. To get started, wet your foot and step on a piece of paper. If you see almost your entire foot print, you’ve likely got a flat foot. See half your foot? That’s normal. And if only the heel and ball of your foot are visible? You guessed it—that means your arches are high

Now, one arch type isn’t necessarily better than another. But your arch type plays a significant role in your running mechanics, so you have to know what you’re working with before you pick a running shoe. If you’ve got high arches and underpronate (also called supination), this can lead to excess pressure on the outside of your feet and legs. In turn, it may cause shin splints or even stress fractures. 

Flat feet are more likely to cause plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis or knee pain. And neutral feet tend to provide the most balanced and efficient running style. And so, given that information, you can take into account likely areas of weakness when you go to pick out your next pair of running shoes. 

How to Pick a Running Shoe: Ask for a Gait Analysis different types of running terrain

Even if you know and understand your arch type, you can make a more informed shoe purchase if you’ve had a gait analysis in our Houston podiatry practice. This in-office test provides information on how your foot functions when you’re walking or running. During a gait analysis, we also look at the stride length, foot alignment and overall mechanics. Understanding these aspects can help you choose shoes that offer appropriate support, cushioning and structure. Don’t underestimate the power of a proper gait analysis. It’s the foundation of finding the right running shoes, helping boost performance and reducing the risk of injuries.

Types of Running Shoes to Pick From

Remember, the right shoe for someone else may not be the right shoe for you. Running shoes come in 3 basic categories: motion control, neutral and stability sneakers. Flat-footed runners who overpronate will want to select a motion control shoe. Runners with a neutral foot or average arch height will be best suited to a stability shoe. And if you have a high arch foot and underpronate? Look for a neutral shoe, since it offers extra cushioning and shock absorption. 

Consider the Training Surface, Too 

Additionally, you’ll want to think about the surface on which you’ll be training. Running on city streets? You may need to pick a running shoe that differs from the one you’d wear on rough mountain trails. It’s essential to pick a running shoe that’s tailored to the terrain you’ll be covering. Road running shoes are designed for pavement and packed surfaces with only slight irregularities. They’re generally lightweight, but still cushion your feet from the impact of training on hard surfaces. 
On the other hand, trail running shoes are designed for off-road routes with rocks, mud, roots and other obstacles. They’re designed with aggressive tread for solid traction and fortified to offer stability, support, and underfoot protection. 

How to Pick a Running Shoe That Really Fits

Now that you understand how to select the proper category of running shoe for your foot type and training preferences, let’s focus on getting a proper fit. Sounds simple? It’s actually not, and here’s why. Shoe sizes have become arbitrary. Obviously, you can use your shoe size as a starting point when trying on sneakers. But you have to choose the right shoe based on how that specific sneaker fits your foot. 

What does a well-fitted sneaker feel like? The right shoe should hug your foot, snugly but not too tight. You should be able to wiggle your toes freely. Check for the width of your index finger between your longest toe and the end of your shoe. This gives room for your foot to move forward as you run. Also, the heels should fit firmly, without slipping or causing blisters. The upper part should feel secure and comfortable, not causing any pressure points. 

Before you purchase a shoe, test it out by running around the store. If anything feels off, it probably is. Remember, the best shoe for your foot is the one that fits perfectly and feels comfortable right away, without the need for a breaking-in period. Don’t buy a shoe thinking that it will feel better after you’ve worn it for a while. If it doesn’t feel right when you’re trying it on in the store, move on to another pair. 

And about that shoe store. You have to consider the timing of your visit if you want to pick a running shoe that really fits your foot. We always recommend shopping toward the end of the day, after your foot has endured typical minor swelling. This will ensure that your shoes fit your foot at it’s largest, helping prevent problems down the road. 

Need more help learning how to pick a running shoe that works for your foot shape, gait and training terrain? That’s one of our specialties! Click here to request a runner’s shoe consultation with Dr. Andrew Schneider! 

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