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How to pick the best running shoe for you.

Updated: Feb 3

In this blog post Cypress Foot and Ankle expert Dr. Christopher Correa discusses the ins and outs of what makes a good running shoe and how to pick the best running shoe for you. When it comes time to purchasing new running shoes there are a number of considerations when picking out the right one. The first considerations is where are you going to be running. There are subtle differences in design and materials between shoes which can make them more or less suitable for running on concrete, trail, turf etc. Second is telling the difference between a well made shoes and a poorly made one. Most major brand shoe companies make both good shoes and……less good shoes. While many people can be “brand loyalist” generally speaking no one brand works for all people. Try not to get caught up in marketing hype and really pay attention to how well the shoe fits and functions on YOU.

Here are some of the key features to differentiate a good shoe from a bad one:

  • Proper fit: A good running shoe should fit well, with enough room in the toe box to allow the toes to move freely, but snug enough in the heel to prevent slippage. Shoes that are too tight can cause blisters and other foot problems, while shoes that are too loose can cause the feet to slide around inside the shoe, leading to instability. The “last” of a shoe (pictured below) is the mold that determines the shape and design of the shoe. Because lasts very from shoe to shoe and company to company it is possible that a shoe may not fit you very well right out the gate. It is possible that a particular brand of shoe just doesn’t fit your foot well. If this is the case, don’t force the issue and move on to a brand that does.

Shaping the last of a shoe
A shoe maker shaping the last of a shoe

Shaping the last of a shoe before construction (above).

  • Cushioning: Running shoes should provide adequate cushioning to absorb shock and reduce the impact on the feet, ankles, and knees. This is especially important for runners who run on hard surfaces like concrete or asphalt. Examples of this are "plush" or "max cushion" shoes

  • Support: Running shoes should also provide support to the feet, particularly in the arch and heel areas. This helps to maintain proper alignment of the feet and prevent injury.

  • Breathability: Good running shoes should be made of breathable materials to help keep the feet cool and dry during long runs.

  • Durability: Running shoes should be made of durable materials that can withstand the wear and tear of running. This is particularly important for runners who train frequently or who run on rough terrain.

  • Flexibility: Running shoes should be flexible enough to allow for natural foot movement and a smooth gait cycle but not so flexible that they allow unnatural motion. As mentioned in my other blog “Anatomy of a shoe”, you should not be able to fold the shoe in half or ring it out like a dish towel. The shoes should not be so flexible that the shoes can bend in ways that your foot naturally does not.

Unsupportive shoe
An unsupportive shoe that breaks in the middle

Once you have found the perfect shoes how far can you go before replacing them? It's important to listen to your body and pay attention to any signs that your running shoes may be worn out. Regularly inspecting your shoes and replacing them when needed can help prevent discomfort, reduce the risk of injury, and ensure that you are running in shoes that provide the necessary support and cushioning for your feet. As mentioned before, a good running shoe should provide support, cushioning, and stability to the feet while running. These characteristics are gradually lost as the shoe wears out which is typically only after 400-500 miles depending on various factors such as the type of terrain, running style, body weight, and shoe construction. Here are some signs that your running shoes may be worn out:

  1. Sole Wear: The soles of running shoes typically wear out first, especially in the heel and forefoot areas. If the tread on the soles is significantly worn down, it may be time to replace your shoes. Loss of traction and grip can increase the risk of slipping or sliding while running.

  2. Cushioning Loss: Running shoes are designed to provide cushioning to absorb shock and reduce impact on the feet, ankles, and knees. Over time, the cushioning materials in the midsole of the shoe can break down, resulting in reduced shock absorption. If you notice that your shoes feel less cushioned or less comfortable than when you first bought them, it may be a sign that they are worn out.

  3. Visible Signs of Wear and Tear: Inspect the upper part of your running shoes for any visible signs of wear and tear, such as holes, tears, or frayed stitching. If the upper part of the shoe is significantly damaged, it can affect the shoe's fit, stability, and support, and may indicate that it's time for a replacement.

  4. Changes in Fit or Comfort: If you notice that your running shoes feel loose, overly tight, or uncomfortable, it may be a sign that they are no longer providing the proper fit and support. Shoes that have lost their shape or structure can lead to discomfort, blisters, and instability while running.

  5. Increased Discomfort or Pain: If you start experiencing new or increased discomfort or pain in your feet, ankles, knees, or other areas while running, it may be a sign that your shoes are no longer providing adequate support or cushioning.

Shoe wear is a slow process and is usually occurs so slowly it is difficult for a runner to notice over the life of the shoe. Overall, the right running shoe will depend on factors like the runner's foot type, gait, and training habits. Lastly changes in your foot structure. It is possible that a shoe that was perfect for you in your 20's may not work for you in your 40's. We we age the cumulative stress and wear on our feet can cause wear on the ligaments leading to flattening of the foot. Many people will notice an increase in their shoe size due to this flattening. This is typically more pronounced in women following pregnancy secondary to hormonal changes. It's always a good idea to consult with a professional running shoe fitting expert or a podiatrist to determine the best running shoe for your individual needs. If you are experiencing pain when your or you are struggling to figure out what running shoe works best for you, give the experts at Select Foot and Ankle Specialists today!

People running, sports injury

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