Buying Running Shoes: What You Need to Know

Elvis Elvis

All runners need a good pair of running shoes. The only “must have” gear a runner needs, buying running shoes is an all important first step for any beginning or returning runner.

Michael Johnson may have worn gold ones, but you just need a pair that are golden (and by golden I mean perfect) for you. Running is a high impact activity and you need a pair of shoes that can handle the stress.

Cross-trainers, aerobics shoes and other athletic footware just don’t have the support or cushioning needed to handle the impact of running. Same goes for that old pair of running shoes that you just dug out of your closet – they’re just not going to cut it.

Do yourself a favor and buy new running shoes. Don’t do it and you greatly increase your risk of getting injured or suffering avoidable aches and pains.

The good news is that buying running shoes is simple if you know what you’re looking for.

Buying Running Shoes: What You Need to Know

There are three main categories of running shoes:

  • Motion-control: These shoes offer firm support and maximum rear-foot control.
  • Stability: These shoes have moderate support with good midsole cushioning.
  • Neutral-cushioned: These shoes provide maximum midsole cushioning with minimal support.

Find the pair that’s right for you by following these simple steps to buying running shoes.

1) Determine What Type of Arch You Have

Cops aren’t the only “flatfoots” around. In fact, a relatively large percentage of the population has flat feet. But what type of arch do you have? Well, we all have one of the following types of arches: low, normal or high.

Buying Running Shoes: What You Need to Know

Knowing what type of arch you have will save you a lot of pain (literally and figuratively) when buying running shoes. This is because the height of your arch generally determines how much your foot pronates (rolls inward) when you land. Pronation is one way that your body naturally absorbs shock but too much or too little and you’re bound to end up with aches and pains.

THE WET TEST is a very simple exercise you can use to find out what type of arch you have. All you need is a little water and a brown paper bag. Dip the bottom of your foot in water and step on the paper bag. The print your foot makes will tell you what kind of arch you have. Find your match below.

Buying Running Shoes: What You Need to Know

  • A LOW or FLAT arch will produce a nearly full footprint. This type of arch results in excessive foot motion that can be corrected with the right shoe.
  • If you have a NORMAL or MEDIUM arch you will be able to see the pad of your foot and your heel print connected by the outside part of your foot. Normal arches will pronate enough to absorb shock.
  • A HIGH arch will result in a partial footprint, likely only the pad of your foot and the heel. This type of arch doesn’t collapse enough at impact to absorb shock properly. This can be countered with a well cushioned shoe.

2) Get on the Scale

There’s much made about arches and pronation when it comes to buying running shoes but I’ve found that weight is an often overlooked factor in the buying decision. When it comes to finding the perfect pair of running shoes your weight needs to be taken into consideration.

Heavier runners (women over 160 pounds, men over 185) deal with more stress at impact that further affects how much their foot pronates and absorbs shock. Conversely, lighter runners deal with less stress which allows their feet to pronate more appropriately. Both groups will benefit greatly from choosing the appropriate shoe.

After you’ve weighed yourself use the step below to find the perfect pair of shoes.

3) Pick Your Pair

Using your weight and arch type you can quickly locate the type of shoe you need using the guide below.

  • 100-139 lbs
    Low arch: Stability
    Normal arch: Neutral-cushioned/Stability
    High arch: Neutral-cushioned
  • 140-189 lbs
    Low arch: Motion-control
    Normal arch: Stability
    High arch: Neutral-cushioned
  • 190-225+ lbs
    Low arch: Motion-control
    Normal arch: Stability/Motion-control
    High arch: Neutral-cushioned/Stability

I highly recommend that those of you with a history of knee, back or any other nagging pains seek professional assistance before starting a running program.

In some cases, shoes themselves may not be enough. In those instances experts can make molds of your feet and create inserts specifically for your body and running style.

So there you have it. Buying running shoes really is that easy. Now that you know what kind of shoe you need head to your local athletic store, tell the sales person what type of running shoe you need and have them point you in the right direction. The only thing that’s left is picking out your favorite pair. Have fun!