Like any athlete, runners of every level need the proper equipment to keep them safe. The right running shoes can provide comfort, flexibility, and support during your run and can also contribute to a quick recovery afterward. Finding the ideal amount of cushioning and structure for your stride can minimize excessive friction and prevent blisters.
This guide will help you find the right shoe for you. It will explain the basics of running shoe anatomy and what you should look for in regards to how each component of the shoe fits. It will also explain different styles of running and the types of running shoes that are best suited for each style.
The Four Essential Factors in Choosing and Keeping a Running Shoe Are:
A running shoe is made up of three basic components: the upper, the midsole, and the outsole. The upper and lining determine how the running shoe feels on your foot while the midsole and outsole combine to cushion and support your stride. Here's a quick look at the components that make up a running shoe and how each should feel on your foot.
|Shoe Part||Materials||How it Should Fit and Feel|
|Upper||The upper is typically made of mesh and some sort of overlay to provide support.||The upper should feel snug and breathable, and should not rub excessively during your stride.|
|Midsole||The midsole is typically made of some type of foam and can also contain various firmer support elements.||The midsole should provide proper arch support, cushion, and rebound. Your foot should feel supported and not slip or flop over the sides.|
|Outsole||The outsole is typically made of rubber or some durable composite.||The outsole should provide adequate traction for your running surface.|
|Toe Box||The toe box is often covered with a protective overlay to boost durability and reinforcement of support.||The toe area should allow room for toes to wiggle while standing. Some runners prefer a wider toe box to allow their toes to splay.|
|Heel Counter||The heel counter is composed of plastic or other materials used to secure the heel and protect against slippage and abrasion.||Your heel can move but not excessively and should be well formed and fit snugly.|
|Width Area||The upper and the last (the shape of the shoe platform) determine the width.||Width should be snug enough that the foot does not slide around easily.|
The right amount of cushion and pronation control relieves stress on your knees, hips, and ankles, helping you to feel better during your run and recover more quickly. Pronation is how your ankle and foot move from the beginning to the end of each stride. Your arch height most correlates to your pronation needs.
A flat arch leaves a print that looks like the whole sole of the foot.
Your stride may tend to roll heavily to the inside edge of your foot.
The overpronater with a low arch needs a motion control shoe that provides maximum support to restrict foot roll.› Shop Women's Motion Control Running Shoes
A low arch leaves a print that shows part of the inner sole of the foot.
Your stride may tend to roll slightly to the inside of the foot.
Stability shoes enhance arch support to lessen foot roll through the stride.› Shop Women's Stability Running Shoes
A medium or neutral arch leaves a print of the outside heel and shows the forefoot and heel connected by a broad band.
Your stride tends to roll to the center of the foot.
The neutral pronator with a medium arch needs a neutral running shoe that does not counteract with your foot type.› Shop Women's Neutral Running Shoes
A high arch leaves a print showing a very narrow or no band at all between the forefoot and the heel.
Your stride tends to roll along the outside edge of your foot.
The under-pronator with a high arch needs a neutrally cushioned shoe that allows as much foot roll as naturally occurs during the stride.› Shop Women's Cushioning Running Shoes
A key measurement of any running shoe is the heel-to-toe differential, or heel drop. This can range anywhere from 0 to 16+ mm. The higher the number, the more thickness and cushion in the heel.
Your footstrike determines the amount of heel cushion you need. Most runners strike heel first and require a conventional running shoe to effectively cushion the impact. Other runners choose to tailor their stride to strike at the midfoot or forefoot. Such a stride requires little to no heel cushion.
|0-3 mm||Zero-drop or flat shoe to give the barefoot feel.||Not recommended for heel-first foot strikers.|
|4-8 mm||Minimalist shoe with a hint of padding in heel.||Not recommended for heel-first foot strikers. Perfect for midfoot or forefoot strikers.|
|9-12 mm||Average heel drop for running shoes.||Perfect for beginner runners and overpronators.|
|13-16 mm||Maximum cushioning for running shoes.||Recommended for heel-first strikers and underpronators.|
Your activity and running surface affect what type of shoe you need.
When running on urban surfaces, you want a running shoe that is light and flexible.› Shop Women's Road Running Shoes
These shoes offer a denser sole with extra stability and durability to protect from uneven terrain. Many trail shoes are waterproof.› Shop Women's Trail Running Shoes
These shoes offer durability from the first mile to the last and are lightweight and high-performance, designed for racing and speed--they often include features such as spikes and low heel drops for experienced runners.› Shop Women's Competition Running Shoes