Finding The Right Shoes

Running requires very little equipment. All you really need to get started is comfortable attire and a pair of running shoes! The possibilities for choosing a pair of running shoes are endless. Often the importance of wearing the right running shoes is overlooked, however, your running shoes can impact your running performance and susceptibility to injury. Our feet carry us mile after mile, yet I often see people running in shoes that lack basic support or are not doing their individual gait any favors. How do you find a shoe that will compliment your biomechanics so that you run more efficiently? Read on to find out!


I will be the first to admit that I used to run in Nike Frees (cringe). Don't get me wrong, Nike Frees aren't a bad running shoe; they are flexible, have relatively low heel to toe drop, and not a lot of cushioning. They are considered a minimalist running shoe, and are made specifically for running. The problem, like any shoe, is they are not for everyone (myself included). 

I have considered myself a recreational runner for quite a few years now. Recently, I decided to start taking running a little more seriously by beginning to train for a half marathon (in my Nike Frees, because that’s what I have always run in). I started off slowly and progressed my mileage each week. After the first couple of weeks I began experiencing foot pain. The discomfort in my foot lasted outside of the amount of time I like to give the normal aches and pains that are expected when starting any new workout routine. I took time off from running to rest and then started running again when the pain was gone. Unfortunately, the pain came back. If you have taken time off from running and the pain you experienced comes back when you begin running again, it might be time to seek out a medical professional. So that is what I did! I worked with a Physical Therapist who evaluated my gait. He gave me a prescription to take to a local Fleet Feet store for new running shoes and showed me some strengthening and stretching exercises. I got new shoes right away and have been completing my exercises consistently 3x week. I began running again, slowly increasing my mileage and my foot pain was completely gone! 


Moral of the story your running shoes could play a role in discomfort or pain you might be feeling after a run and it is important to have proper fitting shoes. Having the right running shoes could not only help prevent injuries by complementing your biomechanics but can also help you to be a more efficient runner overall. If your shoes are hindering your biomechanics, your body is having to work harder to run; meaning your muscles fatigue more quickly which could interfere with your overall running performance as well as potentially lead to an injury. 


Below are a some tips I've learned along the way, that help me determine if it's time for new shoes and how to go about finding the right ones!


Shoe Age

The age of your shoes matters. Shoes are made of materials that break down over time. It is recommended to get a new pair of running shoes after 400-500 miles of running. 


When you are picking out a new shoe it is important to look for shoes that have not been sitting on a shelf for a couple of seasons. While outlet stores have great deals, often the shoes they are selling have been sitting on a shelf for a long time and the materials have already started to break down significantly. Outlet shoes are great for everyday wear but may not be the best choice for running in.


Local Running Store

If you know you need new running shoes, I highly recommend going to a local running store that provides shoe fittings. They will be able to offer you a basic gait analysis and give you recommendations for which shoes might fit your feet the best. Try on multiple pairs, and jog down the sidewalk in them to get the best idea of which are most comfortable.

Be careful of sales reps trying to sell orthotics to you. Allison, DPT at Pinnacle Medical Wellness, says “most of the time finding a comfortable, good fitting shoe will give you the support you need and orthotics are not necessary”. 


Consult With Medical Professionals

Seeking out a medical professional, such as an athletic trainer, physical therapist, or someone well experienced in the sports medicine profession who has worked with runners to perform a gait analysis might be beneficial. If you have had pain that comes back after taking time off or after getting fitted with new shoes, take it as an indication that there may be some other structural or functional things going on that a medical professional can evaluate and work with you to treat. 


What Makes For a Good Running Shoe

  • Running shoes should be able to flex in the toe box, where your foot flexes when you push off of the ground. 

  • The toe box of the shoe should allow your foot to flex and spread naturally in both width and length without rubbing your toes. 

  • Running shoes should not be able to roll up into a ball, or twist like a washcloth. 

  • Generally you will want a rigid heel cup. The heel cup should be comfortable around your heel/achilles and your foot should not slip.

  • Running shoes should be comfortable! You will be the best judge of which shoes are right for you based on how they feel on your feet, take your time deciding.


Common Mistakes When Buying New Shoes

  • Buying your shoes for looks - buy them based on how they feel, not how stylish they are.

  • Buying shoes that are too small - tight fitting shoes will cramp your toes and prevent your foot from naturally flexing and spreading when you are running. Tight shoes can also cause blisters and black toenails.

  • Assuming your size - sizes differ between brands, if you are a size 9 in Nike you most likely won’t be the same size in a New Balance or other brand of shoe. Always try shoes on for fit and make sure you have a little extra room between your big toe and the end of the shoe.


Finding a running shoe can be difficult because there is no best running shoe for everyone. Everyone is different and it is important that you find a shoe that is comfortable and has a proper fit based on your foot structure and biomechanics. Expect to take your time when you go to the store to look for a new pair; you want to make sure you find shoes that will help your running performance instead of hinder you.


Questions, comments? Drop a comment below, shoot us an email: plateauracing@gmail.com, or send us a message via our contact section on the bottom of any one of our website pages.


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