Choosing the Perfect Running Shoe

sneakers (1)

One of the most common questions I get about running is “How do I choose a running shoe?” With the numerous brands, fancy features, and flashy designs, how DO you know what to buy? I’ve broken it down to 5 items to consider that will help you choose the best running shoe for you.

Everyone’s needs are different; there is no “one shoe fits all” scenario, which is why I’m not simply going to tell you to run out and purchase the shoe I run in. Instead, consider these unique features about you, your running style, and personal needs when it comes to your shoes.

Shoe Type

Let’s start with the shoe type; first you must consider what type of running you are looking to do. Do you want to run trails or roads? Do you plan on running competitively in races?

Trail Shoes have specific soles made to grip the rocks and dirt to prevent you from sliding, and the write cushion and materials to make it so you don’t feel these rocks on your feet.

Road Shoes are made with less aggressive soles that work better for gripping the road and not wearing out quickly when used on asphalt daily.

Racers are made specifically for racing; I highly suggest not using them for daily runs. They are lightweight and more likely to wear out quickly when used daily. They don’t have the same kinds of cushion and stability that a road or trail shoe have, which means you could potentially get injured if you wear them for your daily runs. Racers are great as a secondary shoe for those looking to compete in races.

Cross Trainers…I typically tell people to steer clear of these. This is the marketing world’s attempt to make a “one shoe fits all” option. You won’t find the specific needs for daily running with these.


Consider Your Pronation

Pronation in the natural roll of the foot as it lands when you run.

Regular Pronation

This is the best way to have your foot roll from back to front. It helps align your foot for proper landing position and doesn’t cause any excess pressure on knees, ankles, or feet.

Over Pronation

Over pronating can cause your knees to bend inward as your feet roll from heel down the inside of the arch. Over pronating can lead to injury and strain in your knees, ankles, and feet.


Supination is when the roll of the foot goes from heel down the outsides of the foot. It causes the legs to bow outward and can also create strains and injuries in the knees, shins, ankles, and feet.

Both over pronating and supinating can be mostl fixed with proper form and conditioning, which is the best route to go. However, you may need a little extra help from your shoes for when your muscles get tired and the natural pronation of the body takes over.

You may be able to tell what your pronation is; natural, over, or supination, based on the wear patterns on the bottoms of your shoes. However, I highly recommend visiting a running store that has gait analyzers there to help you better understand the way you run. If you live in Utah, I’m a big fan of the store Runner’s Corner – all their employees are trained on analyzing our gait to better help you find a shoe.

Heel to Toe Drop

heel to toe drop

The heel to toe drop is the difference between the height in the heel and the height in the toe. A zero drop shoe means that there is no difference in height between the heel and toe; this style of shoe has gained popularity recently as it helps the foot run in a more normalized gait. While a zero drop shoe is not a great fit for everyone, a minimal heel to toe drop is best.

Stack Height

stack height

The stack height is the amount of cushion between your foot and the ground. High stack heights really gained popularity in 2019 as Hoka One Ones went everywhere. While a lot of cushion sounds amazing, you actually want to stay away from these crazy high stack heights if you are not planning on running ultra marathons. Stack heights that are too high can prevent your body’s natural rebound, cause ankle rolls and sprains, and more. So stick with a more reasonable stack height and you’ll be just fine.

Toe Room

Give your toes room to move! Your toes naturally splay when you run, so give them as much room as you can to do this. If a shoe doesn’t allow your toes to move you will end up with a whole in your shoe where your pinky toe is trying to escape, or some toes rubbed raw. Don’t make your pinky toe cry “wee wee wee” all the home, it’s not fun!

For this and several other reasons, I suggest trying on shoes in a store and taking them for a jog around the department.

Runner's Loop for a Good Fit

If you’re looking to give your toes room but you’re worried about the shoe being too loose, try the runners loop. This is a special way to tie your shoes that helps loosen up the front of the shoe while tightening things down around your ankle to keep your heel from sliding in and out of the shoe.

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How Long Do Running Shoes Last?

Typically your running shoes last for about 500 miles. For some this may mean over a year, for others it may mean a few months. Either way, purchasing a solid pair of running shoes that fit well for our needs will make the world of difference when it comes to your runs!

Concerned About Cost?

Visit a fancy running store to figure out the shoe that fits best, then head out to the internet or an outlet store where they sell older models of that same shoe or where you might be able to apply a coupon for additional savings!

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Post Author

Nicole Hillstead-Jones

RRCA Certified Coach & Nutrition Minor