How to Know What Running Shoes to Buy

Understanding the Importance of Proper Running Shoes

When it comes to running, selecting the right pair of shoes is crucial for ensuring comfort, injury prevention, and optimal performance. With the vast array of running shoes available, knowing how to choose the ideal pair can be challenging. This comprehensive guide will help you understand the significance of proper running shoes and provide valuable insights into the process of selecting the right shoes for your needs.

Running shoes are specifically designed to cater to the unique demands of various running styles and surfaces. Wearing appropriate shoes can significantly reduce the risk of injuries, such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and stress fractures, by providing the necessary support, cushioning, and stability. Moreover, proper running shoes can enhance your running performance by promoting a more efficient running gait and reducing fatigue.

Different types of running shoes serve distinct purposes. For instance, stability shoes are designed for runners with moderate to severe overpronation, while motion control shoes are ideal for those with severe overpronation. Cushioned shoes, on the other hand, offer ample shock absorption for neutral runners, and minimalist shoes are suitable for runners seeking a more natural running experience. By understanding the unique features and benefits of each type of running shoe, you can make a more informed decision when purchasing your next pair.

Identifying Your Foot Type and Pronation

To ensure a proper shoe fit and maximize the benefits of your running shoes, it is essential to determine your foot type and pronation pattern. Pronation refers to the way your foot rolls inward when you run, which is a natural motion that helps absorb shock and adapt to varying surfaces. However, excessive pronation or supination can lead to injuries and reduced running efficiency.

There are three main foot types: neutral, supinated (underpronated), and pronated (overpronated). Neutral feet have a normal arch and pronate typically between 15-20%. Supinated feet have a high arch and may not pronate enough, leading to increased shock transmission and potential injuries. Pronated feet have a low arch and tend to roll inward excessively, causing instability and increasing the risk of injuries such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and knee pain.

To identify your pronation pattern, consider the following methods:

  • Wet foot test: Wet the sole of your foot and step on a piece of paper or a flat surface. Observe the footprint to determine the width and height of your arch. A narrow footprint with a distinct curve along the inside edge suggests a neutral foot type, while a wide footprint with little to no curve indicates overpronation. A thin footprint with a high arch may indicate underpronation.
  • Visual observation: Observe your feet while running or walking. If your feet roll inward excessively or your arch collapses, you likely overpronate. If your feet roll outward or your arch remains visible, you may underpronate.
  • Expert advice: Consult a podiatrist, physical therapist, or experienced running shoe sales associate for a professional gait analysis. These professionals can provide valuable insights into your foot type and pronation pattern, helping you make a more informed decision when purchasing running shoes.

Matching Shoes to Your Running Style and Surface

Selecting running shoes that align with your running style and preferred running surface is crucial for ensuring comfort, injury prevention, and optimal performance. By understanding your running style and the unique demands of various surfaces, you can make a more informed decision when purchasing running shoes.

Running style plays a significant role in determining the ideal running shoe. Here are the three main running styles and the types of shoes that cater to each style:

  • Heel strikers: If you primarily land on your heel while running, consider shoes with additional cushioning in the heel area to absorb impact and reduce the risk of injuries. Stability shoes or motion control shoes are often suitable for heel strikers, as they offer enhanced support and guidance for moderate to severe overpronators.
  • Midfoot strikers: If your foot lands on the middle portion of your sole while running, look for shoes that provide a balance of cushioning and support. Neutral cushioned shoes are typically a good fit for midfoot strikers, as they offer adequate shock absorption and flexibility.
  • Forefoot strikers: If you primarily land on your forefoot while running, prioritize shoes with a minimalist design and flexible soles. Minimalist shoes or lightweight cushioned shoes are often ideal for forefoot strikers, as they promote a more natural running gait and allow for greater ground feel.

In addition to running style, the running surface also influences the choice of running shoes. Here are some recommendations for different surfaces:

  • Roads: For running on paved roads or sidewalks, opt for shoes with durable outsoles, cushioned midsoles, and supportive uppers. Stability shoes, motion control shoes, or neutral cushioned shoes are typically suitable for road running.
  • Trails: If you prefer off-road running, look for shoes with aggressive tread patterns, reinforced toe boxes, and protective uppers. Trail running shoes often feature waterproof membranes and rock plates to protect your feet from debris and wet conditions.
  • Treadmills: For treadmill running, consider shoes with good traction, cushioning, and breathability. Neutral cushioned shoes or stability shoes are often suitable for treadmill running, depending on your running style and preferences.

Top Recommended Running Shoes for Different Categories

When it comes to selecting the ideal running shoes, understanding the various categories and their features can help you make an informed decision. Here are some highly-rated running shoes for different categories, along with brief descriptions of their key features and benefits.

Stability Shoes

  • ASICS Gel-Kayano 28: This shoe is designed for moderate to severe overpronators and features ASICS’ FlyteFoam midsole technology for lightweight cushioning and shock absorption. The Guidance Line technology promotes a more efficient running gait, while the Trusstic System provides stability and support.
  • Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22: Ideal for overpronators, this shoe offers a GuideRails support system that helps maintain proper alignment and prevent excessive inward rolling. The BioMoGo DNA midsole adapts to your stride, providing personalized cushioning and support.

Motion Control Shoes

  • New Balance 1540v3: This shoe is designed for runners with severe overpronation and features a Rollbar medial post for maximum motion control and stability. The ACTEVA LITE midsole provides lightweight cushioning, while the no-sew upper reduces irritation and improves comfort.
  • Saucony Hurricane 23: The Hurricane 23 offers a medial post for pronation control and a PWRRUN+ midsole for plush cushioning. The FORMFIT upper provides a custom-like fit, while the Crystal Rubber outsole ensures durability and traction.

Cushioned Shoes

  • HOKA One One Clifton 8: This shoe features a full-compression EVA midsole for plush cushioning and a lightweight, breathable upper. The early-stage meta-rocker geometry promotes a smooth and efficient running gait, making it suitable for neutral runners seeking maximum comfort.
  • Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39: The Pegasus 39 offers a combination of React foam and Zoom Air units for responsive cushioning and a smooth ride. The Flymesh upper provides a breathable and adaptive fit, while the rubber outsole ensures durability and traction.

Minimalist Shoes

  • Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO: This minimalist shoe features a thin, grippy sole that allows for maximum ground feel and a natural running experience. The quick-drying polyester fabric and stretchy upper ensure breathability and comfort.
  • Merrell Vapor Glove 4: The Vapor Glove 4 offers a minimalist design with a zero-drop platform and a thin, flexible sole. The breathable mesh upper and TrailProtect pad provide protection and comfort on various surfaces.

Considering Cushioning, Support, and Fit

When selecting running shoes, it is crucial to consider cushioning, support, and fit, as these factors significantly impact comfort, injury prevention, and overall running performance. Here are some tips on how to evaluate these elements when trying on shoes and essential information on how to know what running shoes to buy.


Cushioning is the amount of shock absorption a shoe provides upon impact. The right level of cushioning depends on your running style, weight, and personal preferences. Highly cushioned shoes are suitable for heavier runners, heel strikers, and those who prefer a softer ride. Minimalist shoes, on the other hand, offer minimal cushioning for a more natural running experience.


Support refers to the shoe’s ability to maintain proper foot alignment and prevent excessive pronation or supination. Runners with neutral foot types typically require less support, while overpronators and supinators benefit from shoes with additional stability features. Motion control shoes, stability shoes, and structured cushioned shoes are designed to provide varying levels of support.


A proper fit is crucial for comfort and injury prevention. When trying on running shoes, ensure there is enough space in the toe box for your toes to wiggle freely. Your heel should be cradled securely, and the shoe should not slip or rub excessively. It is also essential to consider the shoe’s width, as some runners may require a narrow or wide fit.

Tips for Evaluating Cushioning, Support, and Fit

  • Try on shoes in the late afternoon or evening, as feet tend to swell throughout the day.
  • Wear the socks you typically use for running when trying on shoes.
  • Run or jog on a treadmill or perform dynamic movements to assess the shoe’s fit and feel during activity.
  • Seek the advice of experienced sales associates or professional fitters, who can provide valuable insights and recommendations based on your unique needs and preferences.

Assessing Shoe Durability and Price

When purchasing running shoes, it is essential to consider both durability and price to ensure you get the best value for your investment. High-quality running shoes can be a significant financial commitment, but they can also provide superior comfort, support, and performance. By understanding how to assess a shoe’s durability, you can make an informed decision and find the right shoes for your needs and budget.

Durability Factors

The durability of running shoes depends on several factors, including outsole material, midsole construction, and upper design. High-wear areas, such as the outsole and heel counter, should be constructed from durable materials to withstand the rigors of running. Additionally, the midsole, which provides cushioning and support, should maintain its structure and shock-absorbing properties over time.

  • Outsole material: Look for shoes with durable rubber outsoles, such as carbon rubber, which offer excellent traction and resistance to wear. Some manufacturers also use blown rubber, which is lighter and more flexible but may not be as durable as carbon rubber.
  • Midsole construction: The midsole should be made from high-quality foam materials, such as EVA or PU, that maintain their cushioning properties over time. Some shoes feature dual-density midsoles or additional stability features, which may affect durability.
  • Upper design: The upper should be constructed from durable materials, such as breathable mesh or synthetic leather, that can withstand the elements and resist abrasion. Look for reinforced toe boxes and heel counters for added durability.

Price Considerations

Running shoe prices can vary significantly, with some models costing less than $50 and others exceeding $200. While expensive shoes often boast advanced features and superior construction, affordable options can still provide excellent performance and durability. When considering price, it is essential to balance your budget with your running goals, preferences, and expectations. Keep in mind that investing in high-quality running shoes can prevent injuries and reduce the need for frequent replacements, ultimately saving you money in the long run.

Guidelines for Assessing Durability and Price

  • Research various brands and models to get a sense of the average price range for running shoes.
  • Read customer reviews and expert opinions to gauge a shoe’s durability and performance over time.
  • Consider your running goals, preferences, and budget when selecting running shoes.
  • Prioritize quality and durability over price, as investing in high-quality shoes can prevent injuries and save money in the long run.
  • Take advantage of sales, promotions, and loyalty programs to save money on running shoes.

Where to Buy Running Shoes and the Benefits of Professional Fittings

When it comes to purchasing running shoes, you have various options, including brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers. While both channels offer advantages, seeking professional fittings and expert advice can significantly enhance your shopping experience and help you find the right shoes for your needs. Here are some insights into the benefits of professional fittings and the advantages of shopping at specialty running stores and online platforms.

Brick-and-Mortar Stores

Physical stores provide the opportunity to try on shoes, assess their fit and feel, and receive expert advice from knowledgeable sales associates. Many specialty running stores offer professional fittings, which typically involve the following steps:

  • Assessing your foot type and pronation pattern
  • Evaluating your running style and preferred running surface
  • Recommending suitable running shoe models and categories
  • Observing your gait and foot strike on a treadmill or pressure mat
  • Providing personalized recommendations based on your unique needs and preferences

Online Retailers

Online platforms offer the convenience of shopping from home, access to extensive product selections, and competitive pricing. While online shopping lacks the in-person experience of brick-and-mortar stores, many online retailers have addressed this limitation by offering expert advice, professional fittings, and comprehensive product information.

  • Expert advice: Look for online retailers that employ experienced runners, coaches, or certified shoe fitters who can provide valuable insights and recommendations based on your unique needs and preferences.
  • Professional fittings: Some online platforms offer virtual fittings, where you can connect with a shoe fitting expert via video chat. These professionals can guide you through the fitting process, answer questions, and recommend suitable running shoe models.
  • Comprehensive product information: Seek online retailers that provide detailed product descriptions, customer reviews, and comparison tools. These resources can help you make informed decisions and find the right running shoes for your needs.

Advantages of Shopping at Specialty Running Stores and Online Platforms

  • Access to a wide range of running shoe models, categories, and sizes
  • Expert advice from knowledgeable sales associates or certified shoe fitters
  • Professional fittings and gait analysis to ensure a proper shoe fit
  • Competitive pricing, sales, and promotions
  • Comprehensive product information, customer reviews, and comparison tools