In my practice as a PT I get asked a lot about what running shoes they should buy. Running shoe selection has always been a difficult one but luckily it has gotten easier over the last few years with better shoe options.
To make it easier still I’ve come up with four simple rules to help guide the selection. It’s often less about finding that one perfect shoe. Chances are there are a number of good options for you. What’s more important is avoiding the poor matches and the shoes that won’t work well.
Here we go:
- The shoe should be shaped like your foot. If you have very narrow feet that look like little canoes then you can wear shoes where the toe box has a narrow shape. If you’re like many of us though, your wide foot will function best in a shoe with a wider toe box. Many companies are now making shoes with more anatomically shaped lasts which is a step in the right direction.
- It should have as low a heel offset (also called ‘drop’) as the runner can safely tolerate — no high heel running shoes. In my practice I have noticed only upside to going with the lowest heel drop that the runner’s body is prepared for. Certainly for a runner whose previous running shoe selection had 15 mm of drop shouldn’t suddenly opt for a zero drop shoe, but working your way down — perhaps 3-5 mm decrements every 3-6 months or every time new shoes are purchased — is a great way to help achieve the most neutral running stride.
- The amount of cushioning can vary — the more heel offset the shoe has the less overall cushioning it should have. A low offset shoe (increase the amount of time the runner spends on the ground, but other than that there are fewer negative effects to balance and form in this situation.
- The shoe should be simple: A shoe should protect your foot, provide a little cushioning and not get in the way of your form. That’s it. What about motion control or stability, you ask? Turns out shoes built and marketed for all these tasks actually don’t do them very well at all. No gimmicks; apply Occam’s Razor to your shoe buying. The simplest answer is usually the correct one.
Running shoe selection doesn’t need to be overly complex, and focusing on one particular shoe isn’t necessary. IN fact, alternating between two pairs of shoes that do slightly different things can be helpful to keeping the feet strong and working on running form balance.
He lives with his wife and two kids and runs multiple businesses in Grand Junction, Colorado.