What to Look for When Buying Running Shoes
Running shoe technology has come a long way since Converse’s Chuck Taylor All-Stars were used by Olympic athletes, professional basketball players and army soldiers looking for added ankle support and protection. The company has since been taken over by Nike while the array of athletic running footwear online looks downright space aged compared to the now relegated to fashion statement-only Chucks. Choosing running footwear these days can be harder than picking a flavor of ice cream at Baskin-Robbins, so we have compiled this list of things to look for when shopping.
Running shoes vary in quality and price across the board. Discount stores offer shoes that cost less than a Happy Meal, while on the other hand you can pay more than the price of a five-star hotel room for a rare, hard-to-get pair of kicks. However, there is a middle ground and you should try and buy within that middle ground or above. Sacrificing quality for a lower price will cost you more in the long run — both from your pocket book and your body.
Ultimately you want to get a shoe that is comfortable for you. Other brands or styles might be more popular or expensive, but the fact is that every pair of feet are different so what works for the majority might not work for you. If you are unsure, many running shops have a variety of diagnostic tests that can set you in the right direction.
Just because a shoe has more cushioning doesn’t mean it is necessarily better for you. Again, working with your foot type and your style of running will play a major role in how much cushioning you want in your shoe. Typically, more cushioning means a heavier, less flexible shoe, which might work if you have a larger frame or run for long distances every day. Lighter, flexible shoes might be preferred by competitive racers or those who train using tempo runs.
The type of arch support you need will depends on how high and flexible your arches are. “Neutral” shoes are designed for those with higher, less flexible arches that angle towards the outside, whereas “stability” shoes are created for lower, more flexible arches where the foot flexes towards the inside, also known as pronation. Neutral shoes will cushion the high arch, while stability or motion control shoes give maximum support and stabilize inward flex.
Heel drop is simply the difference in height between the heel and toe of the shoe. A high heel drop, typically about 12mm or more, was how most running shoes were designed not so long ago. Around 2009, shoe manufacturers starting producing “zero drop” shoes which literally had no difference in height between the heel and toe. This was meant to cater towards runners who landed on the mid or forefoot during their stride. However, to some, zero drop shoes feel too flat. Runners who strike with their heel will benefit more from shoes with a higher heel drop.
Article by Ruchi Gupta