A picture of a running shoe

What’s the best running shoe?

First and foremost, there isn’t one best shoe, if you came here looking for me to tell you that, you’re outta luck. There is no one best shoe – we are all different, and there are different shoes for different activities – road running, trail running, track running, hiking, walking etc.

Getting recommendations from your friends is a good place to start, but remember that everybody has their own favourite brands and styles that work for them. And again, we’re all different. The most important thing to do is to get properly fitted at a store, and find what works for you and your feet. You may end up trying a few different brands or styles before you find the best pair for you.

Things to consider when purchasing new running shoes:

Firstly, what specifically are you going to be doing in them? Are you running mostly road, or trail? What season are you buying them for? Do you need to factor in breathability, traction, or waterproofing?

Generally, your running shoes will be a half size bigger than casual shoes. You need to allow room for your feet to swell up a little. Trail shoes may be a half size bigger again, you need space for your toes on those speedy descents. Nobody likes black toenails.

Once you’ve been properly fitted in store, you should have an idea of the shape of your foot – regular, wide, or narrow. These are known as B width, D width, and A width, respectively. Most brands will have a regular (B) and wide (D) fit in most of their styles.  Some brands tend to run a little narrower (Nike, Asics, Solomon) or wider (Saucony, Altra) in general so be mindful of that.

💡Fit tip: A regular men’s shoe, is a wide women’s wide. If you need a women’s D width and it’s not available, try the men’s. You will generally size down 2 sizes, but be sure to try them on just in case.

The next thing to consider is the type of shoe you need – neutral, support, cushioned etc. Some specialty running stores will offer a gait analysis on their treadmill to help you determine this. Don’t get sucked into marketing hype though, everybody DOES and SHOULD pronate; it is a natural and normal movement of your foot. It’s overpronation that is a potential concern, and this is where your foot rolls in excessively. You can read an excellent article from Kintec if you click here.

Supportive shoes and insoles can always help to manage symptoms, but the issue of foot strength should definitely be addressed too.

Heel drop is another thing to consider, lower heel drop shoes became popular with the barefoot running craze. One study found no evidence that a certain heel drop affected overall injury rates, though regular running in a lower heel drop shoe increased the risk. The caveat is your personal injury history. The lower the heel drop, the more calf & ankle flexibility is required. If you are transitioning, it’s recommended that you drop down slowly in 2mm increments, and do some work on flexibility through the calves and mobility through the ankle if you need it. Heel drop is something to be mindful of if you are switching brands.

Lastly, do they look good? Prettier shoes run faster ya know! 😉 

Joking aside, if you actually like the look of your shoes, you’re more likely to want to lace em up and get out the door.

Shop around

Don’t be afraid to try a few different brands when you are starting out, it’s important that you are running in the right shoes for you.

I ran in Asics Kayanos for years, from model 12 through to 24 when they unfortunately changed the fit. They became very narrow and I started to experience pain through my big toe *yikes*.

I went to see a podiatrist as I was concerned that I may end up with a bunion and he commented on how many women he had seen recently with the same issue caused by the Asics design change! He recommended Saucony or brooks and stated that “they generally have a narrower heel and wider toe box that fit women’s feet”.

I tried Saucony first and whilst they were comfortable, I found that they were too wide for me and I was developing blisters on the ball of my foot from it sliding around. Next stop was Brooks and they were the winner. Lesson learned – be mindful of pushing through design changes for the sake of brand loyalty.

Now that you have your shoes sorted…

You may have heard the phrase before “nothing new on race day”. This generally refers to clothing and nutrition, but many people forget about shoes. 

A common mistake people make is to buy a new pair for their training cycle, then decide close to race day that they should get new shoes for the day. Even if they are the exact same pair that you had before, it is not a wise move, especially if you race is more than 10km. Ideally, you’ll have 75-100km on your shoes when race day arrives so that they are well ‘broken in’.

Do you include walks in your week as well as runs? Perhaps with your dog, or after dinner with your spouse? 

Our gait cycle is different when we walk and when we run, We spend more time with our foot on the ground when we walk. Therefore, the wear pattern on the sole of your shoes will be different too. Keep your running shoes for running only, and have a separate pair for walking.

Yes, I’m encouraging you to buy more shoes. You’re welcome.

On that note of buying more shoes..

If you’re running back to back days, you will ideally be rotating through a couple pairs of shoes. This is far more common than you may think, ‘Run Streaks’ have become increasingly popular in recent years which require the runner to complete a minimum of one mile every day.

The cushioning in running shoes can take up to 24hrs to ‘bounce back’ after absorbing the impact of your run. If you’re missing the support and cushioning, the shoe isn’t doing what you paid your hard earned dollars for it to do.

Again, yes I am encouraging you to buy more shoes. It’s science. Share this post with your significant other.

When it’s time to say goodbye

Most shoe companies recommend replacing your shoes every 600km.

But this of course, can be very individual. If you beat your shoes up a lot, 400km might be more accurate. If you only wear them inside on a treadmill, you might be able to get more out of them.

I recommend tracking the distance on your shoe, so you have an idea of when they may need replacing. You can add your shoes to apps like Garmin Connect and Strava, and have a default shoe for certain activities to make it easier. Eg walking shoes will be added to every walking activity that you record. You can also edit the shoe after the fact, add new shoes to your collection, and retire old ones.

It’s important that you invest in new shoes when you need them. Many lower limb injuries can be caused by something happening in your foot. If you’re still running significant mileage in shoes that have lost their cushioning and support, you’re just asking for a niggle to pop up.

If you’re feeling guilty about buying new shoes I’ve got 2 options to help reduce that:

  1. Use your old running shoes as walking shoes. So they may not have the same spring anymore when you run, but chances are there’s still enough life left in them for something! Dog walks, mowing the lawn, short work commute before you put fancier shoes on in the office, there are lots of possibilities!
  2. Are you shoes still in pretty good shape but just don’t work for you anymore? Donate them. Many running stores have a donation bin and are always looking for shoes to donate to someone in need.

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