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Beginner’s Guide to Buying Running Shoes
Buying running shoes tends to be either an incredibly daunting task for newer runners but for running shoe enthusiasts like many of our staff it can feel like Christmas.
The difference between a frustrating visit and an enjoyable adventure is knowing what to look for and how to find the shoes for your feet.
With that in mind, here are the most important things to consider as you pick out your next pair of running shoes.
Many runners come into the store for a fitting and are shocked to find out that they are running in shoes that are too small.
Unlike some other ball sports, MOST running shoes (I say most because XC/Track spikes should fit a little more snug) should keep you secure but provide plenty of space for the toes and feet.
To make sure your shoes fit right check the following areas: Toe box length/width, heel security, and overall width.
For the toe box you want to leave roughly half to a full inch between the end of your longest toe and the end of the shoe. For the width you want enough room to allow your toes to spread as you plant your foot and even swell if you are running long distances.
A sliding heel can be a death sentence to your achilles tendon so the key here is to make sure that when you run your heel stays secure in the shoe. If you like a shoe and it fits everywhere but the heel, sometimes the Runners Knot can keep you locked in but make sure you test them on incline and decline if you are going to be racing in that environment.
Overall width can be tricky if you’re not quite sure how it should feel. In general you want it to be comfortable and not tight while not allowing your foot to slide around. Lacing can certainly help, but tighten them until comfortable and not so tight that they cause pain or excess pressure.
Footstike & Stability:
At UtahRun we offer a complimentary gait analysis (running form analysis) to identify 2 key things, footstrike and stability needs.
While not a perfect science, understanding these two things get you 90% of way to the best fitting running shoes you’ve ever owned.
Running shoes are divided into 2 categories being either Stability or Neutral Shoes. Stability shoes are traditionally for runners who OVERpronate (runners SHOULD pronate to some degree), while Neutral shoes are best for runners who pronate naturally or supinate.
Your footstrike (heel strike, forefoot strike, midfoot strike) will be your guide to heel-to-toe drop. This is defined as the difference between the cushion height in your heel versus the forefoot.
In general heel strikers tend to prefer a lower drop (0-5mm), forefoot strikers prefer a high drop 8-12mm), and midfoot strikers fall somewhere in between (5-8mm).
As explained above, this is not a perfect science so there will be individuals who may overpronate but prefer neutral shoes or individuals who heel strike who prefer high drop shoes.
How you intend to use the shoe is going to be a big determining factor in which shoe to buy. If you’re here reading this, then chances are that you are looking for a daily trainer which is your do it all shoe that can handle any type of run.
Running shoes can generally be categorized into daily trainers, speed day shoes, or race day shoes. This is why many runners choose to have multiple pairs of shoes as they may prefer a different style depending on their workout.
Daily trainers cover pretty much everything. They tend to be more supportive and comfortable rather than responsive. Meanwhile speed day shoes will be lighter and bouncier to allow for better leg turnover. Race day shoes will have all the bells and whistles but may lack the durability to be used for daily mileage.
As a newer runner it generally makes sense to have one to two pairs of daily trainers, then as you increase your mileage or start training for races you can choose a speed or race day pair to add to your rotation.
Some individuals choose to use speed day shoes as race day shoes or daily trainers as well which is fine. For the most part though we don’t recommend the use of race day shoes for anything but speed sessions and races due to their aggressive geometry which can be a little much if used daily for newer runners.
Usage can also be looked at in terms of WHERE you are running. Some terrain like wet or muddy areas as well as more technical trails may require aggressive lug patterns on the outsole. Those who live in areas that get a lot of rain or snow may also want a rubber outsole to provide additional traction. Always take this into consideration as many speed day and race day shoes lack a sticky or rubber outsole and would be slick even on wet roads.
At the end of the day, while all of the above factors are important in determining the right shoe for you, studies show that comfort tends to be the MOST important factor overall and this tends to override any of the “rules of thumb” we listed.
There is no right or wrong amount of cushion when it comes to running so this will come down to personal preference and feel. There are cushioned options for any type of shoe (daily trainer, speed day, and race day) as well as minimal options and we encourage people to try on both to make sure they learn what they like.
What we have observed is that heavier individuals as well as individuals who run longer distances often prefer to have a cushioned option in their rotation.
Come Visit Us!
Hopefully this article helps you on your way to picking your ideal running shoes but if it leaves you with more questions than answers then stop by and speak with any of our sales associates for a fitting and some recommendations!