Selecting a Running Shoe
Running is a mental and physical sport filled with passion and dedication. A runner's teammates are his or her feet and they have to be treated right with the best shoes. He or she needs shoes that will hold up during long hours of pounding the pavement and on race day. Proper gear is crucial to a successful run.
In this guide, we will help each runner find the perfect running shoe for him or her. We will guide the runner through each step of understanding the different shoe types and materials that are available. Every runner has different goals and needs. Some runners need more cushioning and support for longer runs, while others need more durability for heated sprints. Each runner's personal foot mechanics also helps determine the right type of shoe for him or her. The perfect running shoe for each individual will have him or her reaching goals and growing exponentially as a runner.
Understanding Shoe Materials
Wearing the proper running gear will set a runner apart. At Dick's Sporting Goods, we provide the most advanced shoe technology, while tailoring our shoes to each athlete's personalized running style. We are constantly working with the leading brands and researching shoe construction for the safest, highest performance footwear available. Here are the main components of a running shoe:
Upper: The upper is the soft body of the shoe, usually made of a combination of materials from lightweight, durable synthetic mesh to heavier materials like leather. The materials and construction of the upper provide stability, comfort, and a snug fit. Features to consider in the upper include the following:
Toe box: The front part of the shoe. The toe box should provide ample room to allow the foot to flex and make the toe-off portion of the running motion more comfortable. A toe box that is too small will restrict the muscles and tendons in the foot and lead to pain and cramping.
Heel counter: A plastic or composite material used to reinforce the heel area and increase stability. Heel counters come in varying degrees of stiffness. An external heel counter generally provides the most motion control and stability.
Achilles notch: A groove in the back of the heel collar that protects the Achilles tendon. The notch provides a snug, secure fit preventing irritation to the tendon.
Last: This is the basic shape of the shoe. Running shoes have one of three basic lasts: straight, curved, and semi-curved.
Straight: Heavier and provides more support under the arch.
Curved: Lighter and less supportive.
Semi-Curved: A hybrid of the two others and is capable of providing support under the arch.
Insole: The removable part inside the shoe that the runner's foot rests on. It offers more cushioning to supplement the midsole for added comfort.
Midsole: Provides cushioning and, in certain shoe types, the midsole evenly disperses pressure on the foot.
Outsole: The bottom layer of the shoe that is in direct contact with the ground.
Determining Your Arch Type and Foot Mechanics
Understanding your arch type will be vital in finding the proper shoes for you. To determine your arch type, the easiest method is the "Wet Foot Test."
Dip your bare foot in water and walk on a surface that shows an imprint (i.e. cement, brown paper bag, paper towel, etc.). Review the imprint that your foot left on the surface and compare to the ones below to determine which arch type your print most closely resembles.
Once you have determined your arch type, you can begin to understand your running foot mechanics. This is another crucial step in choosing the right shoe for you. Pronation is a term used to describe the natural inward roll of the foot during a runner's gait cycle. After the heel strikes the ground, the heel and the ankle roll inward and weight is transferred to the midfoot. Overpronation and underpronation can cause injuries if the runner is not wearing the proper shoe.
A runner's arch type can help determine the foot mechanic, but investigating the wear on a current shoe can also give insight into the runner's gait cycle. To determine your running foot mechanic, study the outsole of your current running or walking shoe. Note the wear on the bottom of the shoe and review the description next to each foot mechanic below to determine the best fit. The wear test will give inaccurate results if you are already wearing specific shoes or orthotics to correct overpronation or underpronation.
Underpronation/Supination: The two terms "underpronation" and "supination" can be used interchangeably to describe a runner whose foot does not roll in at all or even rolls slightly outward with each step in the running gait. The runner pushes off mainly from the small toes on the outside of the foot. An extremely small percentage of the population underpronates. Typically, a runner with a high arch will underpronate. A runner with this foot mechanic will have extreme wear on the outside edge of his or her current running shoe. Underpronators generally need a NEUTRAL shoe that encourages a more natural inward foot motion. Shop our great assortment of men's and women's neutral running shoes.
Neutral Pronation: During the gait cycle, the foot rolls in only slightly or is in a neutral state and comes in complete contact with the ground. The runner pushes off mainly from the whole front of the foot. This is a fairly common foot mechanic. Typically, a runner with a medium arch will have a neutral pronation OR a mild overpronation. Checking the wear on the shoe will help you finalize your foot mechanic if you have a medium arch. Neutral pronators will have wear evenly distributed on the front of the shoe and ball of the foot on his or her current running shoe. Runners with a neutral pronation will usually do best in a NEUTRAL shoe that encourages a more natural inward foot motion. Shop our great assortment of men's and women's neutral running shoes.
Mild Overpronation: This runner's foot rolls in mildly and comes in complete contact with the ground. Runner pushes off mainly from the inside big toes. This is the most common foot mechanic. Typically, a runner with a medium arch will have a mild overpronation OR a neutral pronation. If you have a medium arch, checking the wear on the shoe will help you finalize your foot mechanic. Mild overpronators will have moderate wear on the inside of the foot and slightly under the big toe area in his or her current running shoe. A runner with this foot mechanic is probably best suited to run in a STABILITY shoe that reduces the degree of pronation. Shop our great assortment of men's and women's stability running shoes.
Severe Overpronation: The foot rolls inward excessively and runner pushes off from the large toes on the inside of the foot. A very small percentage of the population has this foot mechanic. Typically, a runner with a flat arch will severely overpronate. Severe overpronators will have significant wear on the inside of the foot extending from the ball all the way to the big toe on his or her current running shoe. A severe overpronator usually does best in a MOTION CONTROL shoe that will combine stability and cushioning to prevent excessive overpronation. Shop our assortment of men's and women's motion control shoes.
Recommended Running Shoe Chart
Type of Runner
Depending on the chosen activity, there are a number of different types of running shoes that are best suited for each runner. The runner should choose the design that matches their performance level and terrain:
The Sprinter: Racing shoes are lightweight, high-performance shoes designed for speed. This runner is normally doing a distance between 100m-400m. Check out our track and field section for the best assortment of shoes designed for this runner.
The Mid-Distance Runner: Light, cushioned shoes with an equal balance of speed and comfort. This runner is normally completing distances of 800m-1500m. Utilize the notes and "Recommended Running Shoe Chart" above to find the recommended shoe for your arch type and foot mechanics. Check out our full assortment of running shoes.
The Marathoner: For long distance running, the ideal shoe provides cushioning as well as support so that this runner can pound the pavement for long periods of time. Both fit and comfort are crucial for long distance runners due to the amount of time they spend on their feet. Utilize the notes and "Running Shoe Chart" above to find the recommended shoe for your arch type and foot mechanics. Check out our full assortment of running shoes.
The Trail Runner: Trail running shoes offer a denser sole than an average running shoe with extra stability and durability. Extra cushioning and support is added to protect joints and ankles on uneven terrain. These trail specific shoes feature technology that provides extra traction for off-road running or inclement weather with more durable uppers and a thicker sole. Many trail shoes are also waterproof and some even feature GORE-TEX ® technology to guarantee no moisture ever gets inside the shoe. This feature reduces discomfort and friction. Shop our great assortment of men's and women's trail shoes.
The "Barefoot" Runner: "Barefoot" or "Minimalist" running is one of the oldest theories in running technology, but has made a recent surge in the past few years. The goal of minimalist shoes is to get the runner as close to the ground as possible to safely mimic the natural gait found while truly running barefoot. The theory is that it is natural for the human foot to strike with the ball or forefront of the foot, not the heel. Thick soles on some running shoes may force the foot to go against its natural tendencies and land first on its heel. Minimalist style shoes allow the runner to land on the ball of the foot instead of the heel, proposing a reduction of pain and injury. Dick's Sporting Goods offers many minimalist styles of running shoes and trail shoes. Shop our assortment of men's and women's "Barefoot" shoes.
If you are not quite ready to make the full transition to "Barefoot" technology in running shoes, we also offer a wide assortment of lightweight running shoes that increase speed and add comfort. With less cushioning and weight, they also allow a more natural gait. Shop our assortment of men's and women's lightweight running shoes.
Checklist for a Perfect Fit
|The foot should have adequate wiggle room in the toe box when shoe is tied.
|The shoe should not be too tight, but should be snug enough that the foot does not slide around easily.
|The heel should have virtually no slippage when you walk or run.
|The upper should feel secure without being too tight on any part of the foot.
|The shoe should be light and flexible, but also with a slight degree of stiffness for support and durability.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How often should I replace my running shoes? Running shoes should be replaced after approximately 250 to 500 miles of use. Every runner strikes the ground differently so wear can vary from one runner to another even if they have logged the same amount of miles. If your legs or feet begin to feel like your shoes are not providing you with the necessary protection, it might be time to replace them. If you can see the white midsole showing through on the sole, the shoes are long overdue to be replaced!
2. Is it possible to have flat feet but not severely overpronate? It's possible, yes, but uncommon. People with flat feet usually have flexible joints that cause their ankles to roll too far inward at heel strike. Utilize the notes and chart above to determine the best shoe type for a flat footed runner based on current shoe wear.
3. Should heavier framed runners only wear Motion Control shoes? No, for lower mileage runs, a heavier framed runner can get a pair of stability shoes and add a rigid over-the-counter orthotic insole. This combination will still give the stability he or she needs. However, motion control shoes would be the best solution to prevent the foot from beginning to over compress when the heel hits the ground.
4. How do I ensure comfort in my heel and a stable arch? At Dick's Sporting Goods, we offer orthotic insoles. These can provide additional cushioning, moisture management, and shock absorption while supporting current injuries and preventing future ones. Shop our great assortment of insoles.
5. What are the benefits of buying true running shoes versus other athletic inspired footwear? True running shoes offer cushioning to help absorb the shock of impact during the running gait. The materials are generally designed to be lightweight and very breathable compared to other athletic style footwear. In addition, they provide flexibility or rigidity in the right places and have superior traction for the road or trail.
Running in the proper shoes will improve not only the runner's performance, but also the feel of the body during and after runs. Please review Dick's Sporting Goods great assortment of road shoes, trail shoes, and track shoes for both men and women. Also check out our kids' running shoes to find shoes for the entire family!
For all your running needs, check out Dick's Sporting Goods great selection of running shoes, apparel, and accessories in our Running Shop.
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