Running is a great form of exercise, just tie your shoes and take off! But it´s very important to make sure the running shoes are perfectly fitted for you. When looking for a new pair of running shoes, whether it is for the next marathon you are planning to run or for your local fun run, it is crucial that you have a pair of stable shoes with optimal amount of support and cushioning. Finding the best running shoes when you go to your local sporting store isn’t always so easy. To ensure that the shoe is optimal for you, you should first seek advice from a foot specialist.
What are the best running shoes?
This is an impossible question to answer – because runners’ needs vary so wildly. You should first consider the shape of your feet. The three main foot types are; flat, neutral and high arches. Flat feet tend to have fallen arches, making them flexible and prone to overpronation, an inward rolling motion. Neutral feet are the most biomechanically sound variety, putting them somewhere in the middle. High-arched feet are essentially the opposite of flat feet. When the arches are particularly defined, the feet end up being rigid, leading to supination, or landing on the outside edges of the feet.
As a result of the variety of foot shapes, shoe companies have developed models to accommodate runners of all strides. In the selection process, be sure to align your foot type with the proper shoe category. Flat-footed runners tend to gravitate to a higher stability shoe, as it will help to prevent overpronation. Neutral runners can often run in many types of footwear, but most commonly go for a moderate stability shoe. Runners with high arches are best suited for a cushioned shoe, providing midsole padding with flexibility.
Finding a favorite model
Almost every runner has a favorite model or at least one trusted brand. In the 1990s I was lucky to meet a professional sports podiatry in Chicago, who helped me find the best shoes for my flat feet. For over 20 years I have had the “Nike Air Zoom Structure Triax” running shoes. I have had more than 25 pairs of them. It was as though they were tailored to my feet. I loved the “Structure Triax” model and I never had any problems with injuries or sore feet. The secret of the Nike Air Zoom Structure Triax was that the shoes did a great job in providing good support and stability for my feet and overpronation, while it at the same time was being flexible and cushioned enough for a pleasant ride.
But when Nike made a major change to the 17th edition of one of it´s most successful shoe models, they did not fit my feet at all. The new edition of the Nike Air Zoom Structure Triax, that came out in 2016, was much narrower and had poor shock absorption. After running with them for a few weeks, I got tremendous pain in the ball of my foot (Morton´s neuroma). After a few more runs, I also got a serious form of plantar fasciitis (an inflammation of the connective tissue that runs from the heel to the base of the toes).
I understood that I had to start looking for a new model. I read a lot of reviews and I searched quite a while until I found the perfect running shoe: the “ASICS GT 2000” – an exceptional stability trainer. The ASICS GT 2000 (pictured below) is a little heavier than the Nike Structure Triax, but it is very comfortable and stable. The pain I had and the plantar fasciitis disappeared after a couple of weeks and the new ASIC GT 2000 model is fantastic. Simply the best running shoes (for me)!
How to find the best running shoes for you
But what suits my feet may not suit your feet. So once you have found what type of category you are (flat-footed, neutral or high arched) you should try on several pairs. Most runners know when they have found the best running shoes for them. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, you should examine 4 factors to determine your best fit:
- Can you wiggle your toes? If not, the shoe is too tight.
- Is the heel snug? If you feel like you’re slipping around in the back of the shoe, keep looking.
- Is there about a thumbs-width length between your big toes and the tips of the shoe? You’ll need the extra room to allow for the natural swelling of the feet that occurs when you exercise.
- Do they feel good?
You can also select the two most comfortable shoes and wear one of each shoe at the same time. A decent pair of running-specific trainers will cushion your feet and legs from the impact of repeatedly hitting the ground. They should be flexible and help protect against common injuries, like for example runner´s knee.
The difficulty in recommending running shoes is that, while some are better than others, the ‘best’ shoe for you also has to suit “how” you run. We all run different distances, land differently, weigh different and have different shaped feet, and our running shoes should reflect that.
If you’re a heavier runner you may find a supportive, cushioned shoe will help absorb some of the impact as you run, while lighter runners might prefer a more minimal shoe. Likewise, for long distance runs and marathons you may want cushioning for a comfortable ride, while on shorter runs, you probably want something lighter and faster.
Your running shoes should always be about function, not fashion. Don’t be tempted by the latest trends or brands just because they’re popular this season. Buying running shoes could be pretty costly, so it’s important you always test them properly before buying them. Padding around on a carpeted shop floor doesn’t quite replicate how the shoe will feel and respond when you’re out running in them. Always ask to take them for a test run on a treadmill first.