One of my favorite things about the sport of running is simply that you can lace up your shoes and run out the door. You don’t need large machines that take up a third of your living room (along with other various forms of fitness equipment) or even a gym membership. You just put one foot in front of the other.
So, let’s talk shoes and how to pick the right shoes for you.
Tips for Buying Running Shoes
Although stereotypical, women do love shoes! We like colors and wearing shoes that are unique. Running shoes are no exception to being fashionable and shoe designs never cease to get me excited about dropping some cash. However, my number one tip when choosing the best pair of running shoes is to go for how they fit you over how they look on you.
In addition, always buy a half size to a full size bigger than your foot measures. I learned this the hard way when looking down at a black toe nail on my right big toe after completing my second marathon. That’s when I learned about “runner’s toe” and the consequences of poorly fitted shoes.
This may sound strange, but something to keep in mind is that trying shoes on at the store at different times of day could make a difference in how they feel to you. So, I recommend that you only try on a potential pair of new kicks at the store in the evening to account for the natural way your feet swell after a typical day of activities. You want a shoe that fits you well no matter what time of day.
Discover Your Style
The more informed you are about the actual shoe design, the better you will be at purchasing running shoes you will love to wear. I will explain the basic anatomy of a running shoe and how to pay attention to the foot-shoe relationship when choosing the right shoes for you.
Framework of Shoes
Upper—The part of the shoe that covers the entire foot and encompasses the shoe waist which curves along the foot. Pick a shoe that is the same shape as your foot and a waist that feels smooth on all sides where your foot meets the material.
Collar—This is the circle opening for your foot to slip into the shoe. The material used differs between brands and styles. Some are soft and fuzzy, and others may be silky and smooth. There are three points of contact to consider where your ankle meets the ankle collar.
- The heel should not slip at all when you walk.
- The sides should fit comfortably and cushion your ankle bones.
- The curve up the back of the ankle should not irritate your Achilles tendon.
Counter—The back part of the shoe that surrounds the heel to center your foot for support when you land. It is best if the material feels comfortable and be the same shape as your foot. Women do tend to have narrower heels than men and many women’s shoes account for this; therefore, if the heel counter feels tight or loose, you should try another shoe style rather than go up or down in size or try the equivalent men’s shoe size.
Overlays—The top of the shoe around the foot arch that surrounds the lace cage and tongue. The material is often reinforced in this area but should not irritate your foot at all. The overlays should feel secure and provide the right amount of space for your foot arch.
Toe Box—The reinforced end of the shoe that houses the toes and protects from stubbing. The toe box should allow for your toes to spread naturally as you move and of course be long enough that your toes do not touch the end of the shoe.
Outsole—The bottom of the shoe where the rubber meets the road, essentially. Like the fabric parts of the shoe, you want a sole that matches your foot shape. There are many foam and rubber designs on the shoe outsoles to choose from that provide grip, stability, and mobility. The outsole should feel balanced.
Midsole—The foam between the outsole and upper parts of the shoe. Its purpose is to cushion the foot from impact. Midsole thicknesses vary as does runner preference. Choose a shoe with a midsole that is not too stiff and does not add extra weight to the shoe.
Sock Liner—The removeable pad inside the shoe that cushions your foot. This should move dynamically with the geometry of your foot and support your foot arch.
Heel—The cushioning section just under the heel. Look for a good balance between cushion, stability, and if your heel rolls right for you.
Heel toe drop—The difference in height between the heel and toe when standing. The heel toe drop can alter your stride, so I recommend taking a few laps around the store specifically for this element. The shoe needs to feel natural through your stride from touch down to push off.
Forefoot—The cushioning section under the toe box. You want a shoe that provides cushion and stability for the push off.
Flex Grooves—The grooves on the midsole under the toe box to allow spring during foot motion. Choose shoes that allow your feet to move naturally.
Let Your Feet Do the Talking
Allow yourself time an hour or so to try on several pairs of shoes. The associate helping you should ask you your running goals and bring you at least 5 different brands of shoes based on your answers. With every pair that feels comfortable, jog a few laps around the store.
Even if you have an immediate connection with a great shoe, go through your mental checklist that you feel comfortable in every part of the shoe. After you choose the best running shoes for you, take them for a run!