How to Shop for Running Shoes
Written by Nuno Costa
As an Endurance coach, I’m often asked, “What are the best shoes for running?”
That’s actually a great question that all runners – rookie and veteran – should ask. And unfortunately, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ answer. Some runners are short distance sprinters while others run longer distances at a slow, steady pace. Finding the right running shoe is going to be something that’s very personal to each and every runner.
There are a few things that you ought to keep in mind as you select the best pair of running shoes for yourself. First and foremost, determine what you are going to be using them for. Are you buying running shoes for speed work (intervals) or are you planning to run a marathon in them? Some people make the mistake of buying a shoe because they think it will improve their technique. If your goal is to improve your running, the first thing to do is focus on the mechanics. Shoes alone are not going to fix faulty mechanics.
When you do buy new shoes, you want to make sure you break in your shoes gradually. Don’t go out and buy a brand new pair of shoes the night before your event and run in them the next day. I made this mistake a few years ago; I bought a new pair of running shoes and ran a half marathon in them which caused a lot of pain in my achilles area and it took me awhile to recover.
Nowadays it seems as if technology has evolved a lot when it comes to running shoes and you can easily break $100 on a pair of shoes, but is that necessary? We’ve seen shoes evolve from minimalist to cushioning and all the way back, full circle, with everything else in between.
A minimalist shoe seems to support running efficiently as the sole is generally thinner and the shoe lighter than a more cushioned shoe. If you look at professional runners, this is what you see most often. Most of us aren’t professional runners though, and our form, when it comes to running, does not match that of the pro’s. Therefore, we end up with shoes with more cushioning that allow us to heel strike, which ends up being a major fault in running mechanics. This is not to say that all people that wear shoes with more cushion heel strike. I’ve seen very fast runners that prefer shoes with some cushioning that run fast and still hold good mechanics. It is just something to make note of when trying out a minimalist versus cushioned running shoe.
Most important in your decision is going to be comfort. If you are comfortable in your running shoes then you are going to be more confident which likely will help you run faster.
As mentioned earlier, you want to first determine what you are going to be using the shoes for: speed versus distance or possibly both. You might find that you prefer a different set of running shoes for the occasion. I know at the CrossFit Games the athletes are given a more cushioned shoe which suits people better, generally speaking, for longer distances, whereas a minimalist shoe would be used for a shorter distance. Determine what the purpose of the shoe is for and then go from there.
It is also important to consider the breathability of the shoe. If you are going to be running for longer than an hour then you want to make sure your feet can breath well so you don’t end up sweating through them or feeling constricted in them. You want to consider finding a shoe that’s softer/more flexible versus one that is stiffer. It will depend on what your preference is. As you try on shoes make sure they fit well from the heel to toe, and the width and the instep is exactly what you are looking for. Most running stores have treadmills so you can run in them to get a good feel for how they fit.
My personal preference is to run in Inov8s, as I find them to be the most comfortable and it’s what I use for running sessions. They have different sizes and shapes, so you will have to try them to see which ones fit you best and feel most comfortable. I used to run in Adidas Adizero, but they stopped making the type that I really liked which is when I switched over to Inov8 and now my go to is their 230s. Consider the things mentioned above when you go out and buy your new pair of running shoes.