How to Choose the Right Running Shoes

The right shoe makes all the difference!

When it comes to choosing running shoes, a little knowledge goes a long way. Buying the wrong shoe can lead to discomfort, sprains, splints, and other injuries. Runners need shoes that cushion the soles against impact, offer a good amount of protection, and support the natural shape of your foot. A running shoe should be like an extension of you, working with your body to accomplish your goals.

There’s not one shoe that meets everyone’s needs. A good shoe has nothing to do with brands or price tags, but everything to do with your gait and the shape of your foot. This means that even the best reviewed running shoe might not be right for you.

Read below to learn more about what kind of running shoe can benefit you.

1. Choose between a road shoe or a trail shoe.

If you run on a treadmill or on a paved path, you need a different shoe than someone who runs through forests or hiking trails.

Road shoes, meaning shoes for people running on treadmills or pavement, are lighter and more flexible. They provide enough cushion to minimize the impact of your steps, but don’t offer much protection against rocks, sticks, and roots found in hiking trails.

Trail shoes have a thicker sole for protection against rocks, sticks, roots, and general debris. They tend to be thicker to provide extra stability on uneven terrain. This is the kind of shoe you want to wear when running on a hiking path.

2. Check whether you overpronate, under-pronate, or have a neutral step.

Overpronators turn their feet inward when stepping. The pressure passes from the heel, through the arch of the foot and to the inside toes. Under-pronators step through the outside of their feet. Neutral pronation means you step through your heel to your toes without twisting your feet in or out. People with flat feet tend to overpronate, while runners with high arches tend to under-pronate.

There are several ways you can find out in which category you fit. Many sports stores offer a gait analysis where an experienced staff member watches you run on a treadmill. They will be able to tell you about your step pattern and suggest shoe models to try. If your sporting store does not offer this option, you can analyze your own gait by looking at the bottom of a well-worn running shoe. If most of the wear is along the inside of the shoe, it might indicate overpronation. Wear along the outside of the sole indicates under-pronation. While wear that is centralized on the balls of the feet usually mean a neutral gait.

3. Find the right shoe type for your gait.

Overpronators benefit from stability or motion control shoes. These are built to counter overpronation and often include reinforcement along the arch to keep you from putting too much pressure on it.

Under-pronators do best in shoes with extra cushioning. These provide padding along the midsole for shock absorption, but still remain light and flexible.

Neutral runners can wear almost any type of shoe, but they tend to do best in a shoe with moderate stability or a shoe with extra cushioning.

4. Select the right size.

Finally, you should find the right size. Shoe sizes vary greatly among manufacturers, which means you might have to try a few sizes before you find the right one. As a general rule, you should go up half a size to compensate for socks and swelling. Begin by trying on this size and test how it fits. You want to have about one fourth of an inch of space in the toebox, yet have the heel be snug so that your foot doesn’t slip out.

Once you’ve found the right size, you’re ready to get out there! Check out our top 5 running programs for beginners or learn more about improving your speed.


How did you find the right pair of running shoes? Let us know what helped in the comments below!

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Sofia Lopez

Sofia received her BA from Cornell University and her MFA from San Francisco State University. She creates workouts and fitness challenges. Her hobbies include running, hiking, and listening to audiobooks from the exercise bike.

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