How To Choose The Perfect Running Shoes
Choose the right running shoes for your gait to prevent injury and run your best.

How to Choose the Perfect Running Shoes

Unlike other sports, running really only requires one vital piece of equipment to keep you going, and that is your shoes. When you wake up at 5am and the rest of the world is sleeping, your training shoes carry you away from your bed and out the door. They’re with you from your first 3 mile run-walk until you toe the line for your first 13.1. You two will go through so much together. The miles and miles you travel over dirt and pavement, the rhythmic pattering of your stride as you chase your goals, the simultaneous anguish and elation of improving your fitness, will bring you closer to your running shoes than you ever thought possible. That is, if you are in the right shoe…

Aside from the imminent emotional bond you will almost certainly form with your running shoes, choosing the right shoe is also a crucial step in injury prevention. Running is a high-impact activity, and running shoes are designed to absorb some of that impact so your body doesn’t have to. Running shoes can help you avoid injury in a few important ways:

Cushioning: Most running shoes have an EVA (foam) midsole with a proprietary shock-absorbing substance embedded in the EVA for added energy return. This means energy is absorbed by the shoe, instead of your body, and that energy is utilized to propel you forward into your next stride.

Stability (or lack thereof): Stability is a very misunderstood term in reference to running shoes. Stability does one thing: correct for over-pronation.

What is over-pronation?

When you run, your foot rolls through the motion of ground-contact to toe-off through each stride. This rolling-through is called pronation, and nearly everyone does it as a natural shock-absorbing mechanism. Over-pronation occurs when your ankle rolls in excessively and creates angles at the ankle, knee and hip that are not ideal for efficient shock absorption. Over-pronation often results in pain or injury if not corrected.

What is stability?

Most running shoe companies embed a wedge of high-density foam into the shoe, called the medial posting. This is designed to prevent over-pronation by redirecting the excessive inward-roll toward the outside of the body, helping you to achieve the optimal amount of pronation without over-correcting. Some manufacturers achieve pronation-correction through other means, but the goal is the same: to keep your foot landing centered, resulting in proper alignment of the joints and back.

What about walking shoes?

Running shoes are great for walking! Because they are designed for the impact of running, they offer more cushion, support and stability options than traditional walking shoes. They’re also more breathable and flexible, so they’re more comfortable over long distances.

Does arch height matter?

There is a correlation between arch height and degree of pronation, but arch height alone is not enough to determine what you need in a running shoe. If you have a high arch, you are less likely to over-pronate, but you can’t assume this is so. Many people believe flat feet automatically means over-pronation, but you may be surprised to discover you don’t over-pronate as much as you thought.

How do I know what’s right for me?

Everyone is built differently, and your personal biomechanics dictate your body’s efficiency in absorbing shock. For this reason, you want a trained eye to analyze your running or walking gait. Every running shoe company manufactures shoes of all stability types from neutral to motion control, so you want to be sure that you’re fitted for the correct stability type before trying on different shoes from a brand you like. The expertly trained staff at Sports Basement, most of them avid runners themselves, offer a free service called a gait analysis to determine your stability category. It’s as simple as taking off your shoes and running up and down the aisle a few times. By accounting for your degree of pronation, along with a few other factors, the experts at Sports Basement will help you find your sole mate.

How long before I need a new pair?

Whether you’re running or walking, the shock-absorbing midsoles in most running shoes are only effective for around 300-500 miles, depending on how you wear them. That means if you run 20 miles per week, you will most likely get somewhere between 3 and 5 months out of your shoes. Running in worn-out shoes or using your running shoes for other activities puts you at greater risk for injury. If it’s been close to 300 miles and you start noticing pain or discomfort, it could be the shoes!

Sports Basement

Sports Basement staff members Ian Ballentine and Brittany Garrett bring you expert information on the best gear available to train in comfort and style. Ian manages the, triathlon, swim, and run channels for Sports Basement. She swam for San Jose State University and currently competes in Ironman competitions and races for the Oakland Tri Club. Brittany, who holds a bachelor of science in kinesiology with an emphasis on exercise science, manages the footwear department at Sports Basement in the Presidio. She has been running competitively for 15 years and coaches collegiate cross country at San Francisco State University.