Choosing a Pair of Running Shoes

Here is a question from a podcast listener named Vince that we featured in the quick tip segment on episode #254.

Hi Angie and Trevor, I am running my first full marathon in about a month!  Wanted to know if you had any specific suggestions for running shoes.  I would like some cushion to prevent soreness in my feet.  Look forward to your reply 🙂 -Vince

Here are a few things to consider when looking for the right pair of shoes:

Choosing a Pair of Running Shoes

  1. There’s no one-size fits all brand or model of running shoes. For some people finding their “sole mates” (as Academy Member Katie says) can be very challenging while other people don’t have any trouble at all. When choosing your running shoes don’t just go with the “in” brand, something your friend is wearing, or a color scheme that you like. I made this mistake early in my running journey and it caused a lot of unneeded discomfort.

  2. Make sure that any shoes you wear for a race have already been tested and broken in with at least a couple long runs and are comfortable. It’s never fun to be in the midst of a marathon and deal with uncomfortable rubbing, pinching, or numbness. I recommend starting to break in a new pair of shoes at least 2-3 weeks before you’re ready to retire the current pair that you’re wearing.

  3. Make sure you understand what your foot type is like. Foot types can be divided into three general categories which measure the height of the arch: high, normal or flat arch. You can do a simple test at home called the Paper Bag Test to determine your arch type: Lay a flat piece of the bag on the floor, wet the bottom of your foot, and step on the bag. Look at the imprint to determine whether your foot has a high, normal or flatter arch. For more information check out:

  4. It’s best to go to a specialty running store and get your foot and gait evaluated before committing to a new shoe brand or shoe model. A knowledgable employee at a specialty running store can help you understand if you have issues with over-pronation (or the way your foot rolls in on the landing and pushing off stage of your stride). Ideally they will be able to give you a few shoes to try on that may work for your foot and the needs that you have for the shoe (trails, roads, cushioning, minimalist, etc). Don’t be afraid to wear the shoe around the store for a few minutes and even run in them a bit before purchasing. You should make sure that there’s around a thumb’s width of room between the end of your toes and the end of the shoe and that you have plenty of room in the toe box. Also, it helps if the running store has a good return policy if the shoe doesn’t work out.

  5. Here is an old video of Trevor visiting a specialty running store to get his first pair of shoes as a newly minted runner.

  6. Be cautious about making drastic adjustments in the type of shoe that you’re wearing without taking time to transition. Making changes in the type of cushioning, support, and heel to toe drop (expressed in millimeters) right before a marathon isn’t recommended. For example, for years my training and marathon shoe was the Asics Nimbus. They’re a highly cushioned neutral shoe with a heel to toe drop of 10mm. When they introduced a new model the shoe suddenly didn’t work for me and I began searching for a new shoe. This led me to try more minimalistic styles (like Vibrams, Skora, Topo, and Altra). But it took several months before I was able to wear a zero drop shoe for long runs and marathons. Now my go-to marathon shoe is the lightweight, zero drop Altra Escalante. You can find the drop (heel to toe differential) of your current shoes by looking online.

  7. Track Your Mileage. 
No matter how much you love your running shoes they won’t last forever. Be sure to track the amount of mileage you have on each shoe in your running log. The insoles of the shoe are often good for around 350-500 miles while the outsoles may still look good for around 800 miles. Don’t just go by appearances. I’ll often notice that my legs feel more tired and realize that the shoes are getting to retirement age. A heavier runner or someone who does mostly road running will wear their shoes out more quickly too.
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