Whether it’s your first or your one hundredth pair, whenever you buy running shoes it’s a big decision. Many factors come into play when determining which shoes are best, and which ones will maximize your performance.
Fortunately this decision doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With the right preparation, you will be able to determine which shoe is the best for your foot type. Target a shoe that meets your personal requirements, and you will be on your way to buying the perfect pair of running shoes for your training.
Basics of Buying Running Shoes
There was a time, not so long ago, when I knew very little about running shoes, let alone the shape of my foot. It wasn’t uncommon for me to walk into a store, locate the coolest looking shoe model, and walk out the door with a new pair of shoes.
Fortunately, these days are long gone, and I am glad to share that the running shoe buying process is really quite simple.
Pronation is perfectly natural, and is actually a good thing. It refers to the amount which your foot rolls inwards during each stride.
It is healthy to pronate to a certain degree, as it helps cushion your body weight and absorb shock. However, some runners pronate too much, which is called overpronation, and some runners pronate too little, referred to as underpronation or supination.
In order to pick the best running shoes for you, the first task is determining the degree at which you pronate during your stride. The amount of your individual pronation plays a significant role in determining the perfect shoe.
Do I Overpronate, Underpronate, or Am I Neutral?
Determining your degree of pronation is quite easy. Many local running stores are happy to help analyze your stride and show you exactly how your feet move while running.
Don’t worry! I’ve done this myself and it’s actually quite fun and informative. Many stores can videotape you running on a treadmill and will be able to play it back to you in slow motion.
The people working at your local running store are oftentimes runners themselves, and will provide suggestions for shoes. You are in no way obligated to buy the shoes they recommend, but it may help to get a couple suggestions. With your options in hand, you can read the reviews on RunPals, and get the perfect shoe.
This method has worked best for me over the years whenever I buy running shoes. Once I know what I want, I find ordering from Zappos is easiest, as their selection is outstanding (much larger than your local shoe store), and their customer service is top notch. Plus, if I want to return them for any reason, it’s free and super easy!
Now if you don’t have a running store close by and want a different method to determine your pronation, we’d like to introduce you to the “Wet Test”.
The Wet Test is easy to do and will give you a good feeling for your pronation. The steps are as follows:
1) Simply fill a baking sheet with ¼’’ of water at set it on the floor.
2) Place a paper garbage bag next to it, and remove your shoes.
3) Place one foot into the water
4) Step onto the paper bag for two seconds, then step off.
See! I told ya that was simple. Now look at the paper bag and take note of the arch in the footprint.
If you have normal pronation (like 55% of runners) you will see half your arch in the footprint. This is the most common type of foot amongst runners, and you have multiple options when picking a shoe with moderate arch support.
If the arch is very full and shows your entire footprint, then you have a low arch, and you likely are one of the 40% of runners who overpronate. When runners overpronate, their feet roll too far inwards, which can lead to a number of running injuries like ankle pain and shin splints. Overpronators require a straighter shoe, such as a motion-control or stability shoe to reduce pronation.
If your footprint arch is very thin, or does not connect at all, you have a very high arch, and likely make up a small percentage of runners who underpronate. Runners who underpronate, or supinate, do not absorb the shock very well, and require extra cushion in their shoes. Cushioned shoes are often curved, and can help the foot naturally roll inwards.
Now the Wet Test doesn’t tell you the whole story, but it will give you a good idea of your personal foot type. Sometimes, runners with high arches will actually overpronate and require support shoes. On the other hand, some runners with low arches may actually have a neutral stride when running.
We can’t overstate how important comfortable running shoes are to your well being. The right pair of trainers will feel great, boost your confidence, and maximize your performance!
One Last Thing Before You Buy Running Shoes…
Armed with the new information about your arch type, in order to buy running shoes you simply need to determine the correct fit.
When determining the length, it is important to allow about a pinky finger’s width between the big toe and the front of the shoe. Your shoes will naturally bend during your run, and this allows the needed extra space.
Ensure the heel fit is snug, and does not shift as you walk. The fit should be secure, and wrap around your Achilles tendon.
When you lace up the shoe, take note of the overall feel. Are there any pressure points causing discomfort? If you notice them now, you will definitely notice them on the last leg of your big race.
Try them around the store. Ask to jog around the sidewalk outside. Do whatever you need to ensure these shoes fit just right.
The best way to buy running shoe is to discover what other runners like. We have researched the most popular running shoes from the top manufacturers. No matter if you overpronate, underpronate, or run with a neutral stride, we will help determine the perfect shoe for you.
Ordering shoes from Zappos online allows you to purchase shoes, try them out, and return them for any reason. This is a perfect way to try out different brands, and get the perfect fit, risk free. Take advantage of this great option- I definitely do!
Hopefully you now feel better informed and are confident about how to buy running shoes. We’ve done the leg work and researched the best running shoes on the market, breaking them into groups by pronation. Have fun and pick out that pair of running shoes you always wanted!
Click on each brand to see in depth shoe reviews!