One of the most popular questions I get asked is – “What shoes should I buy?”  More specifically people ask – “What running shoes do you like?”

Well, I have the perfect answer: “That depends!”  It turns out this is the answer to almost every question when it comes to things that involve individuals. We are all so different!

There is no one running shoe brand, model or style that is the “best” because everyone’s foot, running surface, training plan and style of running is different.  Everyone has a different opinion of the “best shoe” because there are just so many variables to consider.  It’s hard to agree on one shoe.

I recommend a reputable running shop with knowledgeable sales staff and a free afternoon to go out and try on a bunch of different brands and models of shoes.  You need to spend a little time in the shoes, running on their treadmill or around their shop.  Don’t just walk around in them.  Actually, RUN!   Try not to allow color and style influence your decision.  With that in mind go shopping armed with these important factors in mind.  Print out the checklist at the end of this post to take with you so you don’t get distracted by all the shiny new shoes so you can focus on what really matters.  The color!  The fit!

Important points to consider.  Does this shoe:

  • support my foot adequately? What kind of foot do you have? (this is beyond the scope of this post, but at least know if you need an arch support or if you need some built-in stability in your shoe.)  If you use orthotics or an off the shelf insert make sure you allow for extra room (bring them when you go shopping.)
  • fit my foot length and width so your toes don’t rub the end of the shoe and your forefoot has room to splay out properly to absorb the forces associated with running it has been shown that running forces put 3-7  times your body’s weight through your foot while running (if you weight 150 lbs that’s between 450-1050 lbs- multiply that by an average cadence of 90 steps per minute – that’s over 4 million pounds of cumulative stress PER FOOT for an hour-long run.)
  • lock my heel into the shoe without rubbing on my Achilles tendon or around my ankle bones.
  • allow me to get the laces tight enough without creating hot spots on the top of my foot where some all important tendons are.
  • rub any of my weird foot bumps ( bunions, hammertoes, 5th metatarsal heads that poke out.)
  • have a stiff enough sole to run off-road and not feel every rock poking into the bottom of the foot (if running trails.)
  • have a good tread pattern and proper traction for the surface I am going to train and race on- too aggressive a tread may trip you, not aggressive enough and you will slip so decide on where you will be getting most of your miles and chose the best tread for you (if running off-road.)
  • have cushioning that is adequate for my style of running- if they don’t feel good in the store –  imagine how they will feel after you’ve been running in them for a month
  • seem like they will wear well and have a good solid construction – tight seams, well glued, high enough density foam for cushioning that won’t pack down too quickly.- a good shoe with moderate use should last 300-500 miles or 3-6 months depending on conditions so don’t leave them wet or in direct sunlight (I use a sharpie on the inside heel of the rubber part of the shoe and put the date I bought them, so I never forget how old they are)
  • have a lacing system that will help my transitions.  Either pull cord or elastic or have the ability to install my own laces for racing.

Shoe Buying Checklist:

  • is there approximately a finger’s width between your great toe and the end of the shoe?
  • are there any immediate hot spots or pressure points?
  • do the shoes lace tightly enough to prevent your foot slipping forward/backward/side to side without increasing pressure on the top of your foot?
  • is the heel cup comfortable and hold the heel to prevent slipping?
  • does your Achilles area or ankle bones have any pressure points?
  • can you wiggle your toes comfortably?
  • do your toes bump the end of the shoe when simulating running downhill?
  • do the shoes still fit with your orthotics/inserts if required?
  • are they comfortable with adequate cushioning?
  • does the tread seem adequate for your anticipated running surface (if running trails)?
  • if you’ll be racing in them (triathlon) do they have a quick lace system or is it possible to install one?
  • do the shoes appear to be made of quality material that will last and good craftsmanship, solid glueing and stitching?
  • do they make your feet look FAST? (haha)

Now that you know how to find the right shoes for your feet – get out there and run!