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What Should I Consider when Buying Running Shoes?

Runners should buy shoes with flexible soles.
The right running shoes improve a runner's stride.
Woman running on a treadmill.
Running shoes.
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  • Written By: Hillary Flynn
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 April 2014
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The repeated force of foot hitting ground during a run can be incredibly jarring, and the wise runner must select a shoe especially suited to his or her foot type to reduce the sometimes injurious effect. Feet come in many shapes and sizes, and depending on the arch, a foot has the tendency to tilt inward or outward. This is the first thing to look for when buying running shoes.

Arches are either high, normal, or flat. If it isn't obvious which type a foot is just by looking at it, there is a simple test to determine this key factor. Put a few sheets of paper on the floor, wet the foot to be tested and take a step on the paper. How does it look? If there is no indication of an inner curve, most likely the arch is flat. If the inner curve is definite with an extremely narrow band on the outside, the arch is high. A few lucky runners will see an inner curve, but the middle portion of the foot imprint indicates only a moderate curve.

Flat arches cause feet to overpronate. That is, when the foot hits the ground, it first strikes with the outside of the heel and rolls inward more than it should. This foot type requires a shoe that helps maintain stability and control to prevent overuse injuries. The overpronator should look for shoes with a solid, firm midsole when buying running shoes.

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High arches cause feet to supinate. That is, when the foot hits the ground, it it rolls outward instead of inward, which reduces the amount of shock absorption. The supinator should stay away from motion control and stability shoes, and instead select a shoe designed to absorb more shock when buying running shoes. The sole should be flexible, with a softer softer cushion that allows the foot to move.

Those with normal arches can wear just about any shoe, but should probably shoot for a shoe without extra control or stability since the normal arch produces the ideal amount of pronation. Comfort and size are the biggest factors for a runner with a normal arch.

It is even more essential for a runner carrying extra weight to pay attention to the details when buying running shoes. Already a jarring activity, running with excess weight exacerbates any issues with pronation or shock absorption because the impact is so much greater. Always try shoes on and test them out in the store. They should be the proper size, feel comfortable, and improve a runner's stride.

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Discuss this Article

FirstViolin
Post 3

I've been looking to replace my old beaters, and was wondering if it's worth it to just get a couple of pair of clearance running shoes.

Do you think that getting discount running shoes a few pairs at a time is a good idea, or does your foot usually change significantly enough in between shoe purchases to make it a waste of money?

I've been running for a long time, but I'm not very up on the whole mechanics of the thing. I've just been using what feels good -- can you clue me in?

EarlyForest
Post 2

A few quick tips for those of you buying trail running shoes.

If you do nothing else, look for a pair of good motion control running shoes. Since you're going to be going over all kinds of terrain, keeping your balance and control is one of your top priorities. This can be especially true for choosing women's trail running shoes, since they are sometimes made softer (too soft) and lose the motion control.

The big thing to watch out for with trail running shoes for mens feet is the sizing. Many men just slap on a pair of tennis shoes and take off, not realizing that they really need to watch their fit in order to get a good neutral trail running shoe.

A trail running buddy can help you out a lot in choosing your trail running shoes, as can a podiatrist, who can tell you more about the mechanics of your feet.

Although these are by no means the end all and be all, these few tips will at least point you in the right direction when it comes to choosing running shoes.

naturesgurl3
Post 1

It really is so important to take care when choosing running shoes, since the impact of the ground on the foot is very harsh, physically.

I always advise people to get a consultation with a podiatrist or running expert before they buy a pair or running shoes, since this is the best way to understand how your foot's anatomy is going to be impacted by the shoe.

Though you can choose a shoe based on your own judgement, choosing a running shoe with the help of an expert really guarantees that you get running shoes with the stability you need.

So that's my tip on how to buy running shoes -- take it for what you will, but I really think it's important.

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