Best Running Shoes Selection Criteria

By Daniel Watrous

The best running shoes will give you super human strength. With the right running shoes you'll never lack motivation to wake up in the morning to go running or finish that long run. Sound a little too much like fantasy? You might be surprised to find that the best running shoes for you would work a small miracle in the motivation and performance that you get from them. The big question is how on earth do you find the best pair of running shoes for YOU?

I can't tell you how many articles I've read recently that talk about how to find the best running shoes. Don't get me wrong, some of them do have a valid information that can help you decide, but in a lot of cases they just miss the point or focus on one aspect of running shoes.

One article that seems to have taken a slightly more scientific approach was published by Consumer Reports (CR). In the article they list out six categories used to evaluate the best running shoes. Here they are as a quick list and in the order that CR thought they had most priority.
  • Fit
  • Cushioning
  • Stability
  • Flexibility
  • Breathability
  • Weight
These are in fact very important, but how can you apply these six measurements for yourself and YOUR feet? Also, how do you know that the priority given to these six categories will be the same for you? Let's take a look and see what we find.

Fit is important, not doubt about it. But fit is a tricky subject due to foot length, width, personal preference, etc. In an interview I did once with a professional runner, he indicated that when he got a new pair of running shoes he wanted his toes right up against the end of the shoe. He didn't want any room at all. But, when he sells running shoes to other people, he always suggests that they leave just under a half inch of room for the toes. Which way is right?

In this first case, the answer will clearly be different for every person, and what you might do before you go looking for new running shoes, assess a few things. Do you have wide feet? Do you have high arches? Do you require other special accommodations? With these in mind, you can often find shoe manufacturers that accommodate a particular aspect of your running shoe needs and save yourself from having to try on a bunch of different shoes and finally settle for a pair that isn't "as bad" as the others.

One example is that Reebok makes shoes for wider feet. Many of the specialty running stores don't carry Reebok, and so they might try to sell you a shoe that's not wide, and ends up feeling longer on your feet. Knowing before you go can make a huge difference and ensure that you get the running shoes with the best fit.

Next is cushioning, and you might be tempted to think right off the bat that you want all the cushioning that you can get. Well, you're right, and wrong. It seems to be that the more expensive the shoe the more cushioning you get. This is great, but may not be as necessary for someone that is running very few miles per day or per week. If you're a casual runner it might be that you get all the cushioning you need from a less expensive pair.
If, on the other hand, you run five or more miles per day and you repeat that several times throughout the week, you might want to consider a more expensive shoe. You will also want to cycle your shoes out more frequently. There is growing evidence that the quality of your running shoes can affect your health and motivation.

One example of how it can effect motivation has to do with how you feel after a run. If you finish a run and feel beat up and hammered, this might be an indication that you don't have enough cushion in your running shoes. If you associate this negative feeling with running, it can be very difficult to get out running as often as you would like/need. If a more expensive pair of running shoes made you feel better after a run, and therefore made it easier to get out the door, would it be worth it?

The categories of stability and flexibility are much more personal. For example, the stability of a shoe will depend on your individual tendency to pronate or supinate and the strength of your ankles. This can be a really important decision since running in a shoe that doesn't accommodate your biomechanics can possibly promote injury. I won't give any advice other than to ask a professional.

Finally you end up with breathability and weight. Do these matter for you? Well, some questions that might help you decided include the following: Do your feet sweat a lot? Do you run long distances? What is the temperature when you're running? What type of socks to you wear. As it turns out, I like a shoe that breaths a lot and weighs as little as possible, and I think that my preference is pretty common.

So will the best running shoes really transform you into a super hero? Probably not, but they can have a huge effect on your motivation and performance. Remember to do some research before you start shopping so that you don't end up in a brand or type of shoe that will never be the best running shoe for you. Don't hesitate to ask for advice, but do make sure that the person giving the advice is a runner and not some shoe clerk that's never run in his life.

Daniel Watrous is a runner and fitness enthusiast. In the last eight years he has run over 2000 miles including two marathons. He now maintains several websites that support his fitness and exercise habit, including a site dedicated to Running Shoes. Learn more about running shoes here:
Best Running Shoes
Exercise Log

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