Updated: Nov 4, 2022
Contrary to what many runners believe, finding the right shoe for you is very simple. No fancy equipment is needed. So, let’s dive in to how you can find the right shoe for you!
What the research tells us: Runners intuitively select a shoe that is comfortable and allows them to remain in their preferred movement pattern. We all move differently which is why there is no one size fits all shoe! Runners selecting a shoe that fits their specific biomechanics may automatically reduce the risk of injury because the shoe is not forcing them to move in a way that is unnatural to them. We want our shoes to allow our skeletons to move in the path that our bones prefer to move. You 100% do not have the same hip, knee, and ankle bone alignment than everyone else out there, which is why no two runners have the exact same running form. So, we want the shoe to allow us to move in a way that is comfortable and efficient for us vs trying to force our bodies to move in a way that is unnatural, and therefore less efficient.
Step 1 of finding the right shoe for you: Try on multiple pairs of shoes and walk or jog around. Pick the one that FEELS the most comfortable!
Step 2: Make sure the shoe fits
Take out the insert of your shoe and step on it. Are you able to see the sole of your shoe on both sides of your toes? This is important so that your toes do not develop calluses, blisters, or bunions, and so your toes can spread out and work properly while you run. Then make sure that you can see space in front of all your toes. This will help to avoid getting black toenails or losing toenails. These events are COMMON but not NORMAL. If you lose your toenails or get black toenails, this means that your shoes are not fitting correctly. Having enough toe space also helps to prevent your toes from curling. They don’t work well if they are curled!
Next, make sure the arch in the shoe matches your foot arch. Your shoes will feel a lot more comfortable if they match the general form of your foot.
How often should you change out your shoes?
Remember to change your shoes out every 300 to 500 miles! Shoes lose their shock absorption qualities over time, which will impact how you feel while you run and could potentially lead to you running differently.
A quick note about shoes and injuries: Perkins et al stated it perfectly by saying, “there is no single factor such as shoe design that will explain more than a fraction of RRIs (running related injuries).” Shoes are VERY unlikely to be the single cause of your injury. The most common causes of running related injuries are training errors, muscle weakness, and running form concerns.
What does the wear on your shoes mean?
First off, there is no “good” or “bad” wear on the bottom of your shoes. The wear just provides you with information regarding your foot strike and push off and whether one side is working harder than the other.
Now let’s do a major deep dive into the types of shoes and different shoe components!
Barefoot? Minimalist shoes? Max cushion? Which is better?
The short answer: There is no one shoe or type of shoe that is “better” than others (other than carbon-plate shoes, which we know makes road runners faster).
The long answer:
There is very limited evidence suggesting that barefoot or minimalist shoes lead to lower ground reaction forces. There is also no evidence demonstrating a correlation between an absence of a peak in forces at foot contact and decreased injury rates with barefoot running.
What research has demonstrated is that people who run barefoot tend to land with less dorsiflexion at the ankle, which is likely due to wanting to reduce pressure at the heel when the foot contacts the ground. For runners who wear shoes, this is not a concern since shoes are designed to help absorb ground forces, providing shock absorption at the heel. There is very limited evidence to support that barefoot running is more efficient than wearing shoes. Running efficiency not only looks at form but also the amount of oxygen used, heart rate, and rate of perceived exertion while running. So, even though running gait may change while running barefoot vs wears shoes, it does not mean that these gait changes lead to improved performance or a reduction in injury rates. According to Perkins et al. “Whether running barefoot benefits running economy and potentially improves performance is unknown.”