Now that summer has begun, it’s a great time to be running outdoors. It may also be time to get new running shoes. To address the common question about which the best running shoes are, we talked to endurance and running coach Rick Muhr. Founder of the Marathon Coalition in the Boston area, Muhr is a finisher of 32 marathons, coach of more than 15,000 runners, and a 43-year veteran of running. Based on his experience going through a LOT of running shoes – he has some valuable recommendations for how to identify the best running shoes.
Finding the Best Running Shoe
- There is no one shoe ideal for every runner. Just like there is no best exercise that beats all others, there is no one shoe that universally is best for all runners. Feet vary, runner’s sizes and biomechanical needs are different, and preferences vary.
- Know your foot type. Take a shower, and have a dark towel (not black) lying on the floor next to the shower. Step on it with both feet, then step up and off so that you have a clear footprint. Look at the inside of the footprints to determine what type of foot you have:
Neutral – small indentation at the arch of the foot
Flat foot – no cutaway at the arch of the foot
High arch – extreme cutaway at the arch of the foot
- Look for shoes to match your foot type.
Neutral – no cutaway at the arch of the foot
Flat foot – tends to be a floppy foot and needs sufficient support and stability
High arch – typically is a very rigid foot and requires more cushioning
The shoe’s midsole determines its stability and cushioning. Between the upper and outsole, the midsole is made out of EVA, an air blown rubber, which works like a shock absorber. When you’re running, you are placing 1-1/2 to 2 times your body weight on your feet, landing on each foot 900-1000 times per mile.
- Rotate several pairs of running shoes. With that immense amount of pounding on your feet, believe it or not, your running shoes have to rest, just like you do! At the end of a run, your running shoes are significantly compressed, and those air bubbles need about 24-48 hours to expand back to their full resiliency.
If you only train in one pair of running shoes, your feet and lower body can adapt to them so much, when you get a new, different pair of shoes, you may suffer discomfort or an injury. Plus, if you rotate just 2 pairs of running shoes, they will outlast 4-5 pairs worn individually.
- Shop at a reputable running store. Go to the experts when seeking the best running shoes. Shop in the evening, after your feet have swollen during the day. Tell them what type of foot you have, and their specialists typically can conduct their own evaluation, potentially along with a gait analysis. Based on this information, they can recommend several shoes for your feet, and you can try them on to see what feels best.
The heel should fit snugly, along with the upper around the instep, and you should have about a thumb’s distance between your longest toe and the end of the shoe, as feet can swell and lengthen over a run. To get a truer sense of the feel of the shoes, jog in them down the sidewalk or on the store’s treadmill.
Remember, while looks of a shoe are important to some runners, don’t let that be your sole determinant in choosing a running shoe.