How to choose running shoes

How to choose running shoes

Have you ever wondered how to choose running shoes that are right for you? Should running form influence your running shoe selection? What about your weight, running goals etc? Wonder no more – read on to make more informed shoe choices including a high tech hack to make finding and choosing the perfect shoe for you easier.


Running shoes for specific foot strike types


Let’s start by considering foot strike patterns. While there may not be a universally “best” footstrike, whether you’re a heel striker, midfoot striker, or forefoot striker, each pattern has its own set of implications. Numerous studies, have explored the relationship between foot strike patterns and injury rates, many with shoe construction as an influencing factor. (1) (2)

Footstrike patterns in runners are an important factor in how to choose runing shoes

Heel Striking: Most common


Most runners are heel strikers, if you are one of them then your foot makes initial contact with the ground using the heel. This pattern may prevent achilles issues but tends to lead to higher impact forces on the hip and lower back (Kerrigan et al., 2009).


A shoe with more generous, “maximalist” cushioning will help to reduce vertical loading forces and thus may reduce injury risk. (3)


An alternative and somewhat counter-intuitive approach is to choose running shoes with minimalist cushioning. This tends to shift the footstrike angle (4,5,6,7), shifting footstrike patterns closer to a mid-foot strike and ultimately decreasing peak impact forces. This approach however requires careful, gradual transitioning starting out with very low mileage in new shoes if you are currently using heavily cushioned shoes. If this transition is not carefully executed there is a significant risk of injury as more minimalist shoes also increase the loading of the ankle, metatarsophalangeal joint and Achilles tendon compared to maximalist or more traditional shoe constructions with more cushioning and higher heel to toe drop. It is also important to note that not all heel strikers will transition to a mid-foot pattern through the use of minimalist shoes and minimalist shoes may not be appropriate for heavier runners. (8)


Heel striking is often seen as something that needs to be improved. However if you land reasonably close to your body (a Movaia.com run form analysis looks at shank angle to help you check that), don’t have a very strong heel strike, are not experiencing any injuries and are not looking for marginal gains in your running performance than there may not be a need to make rash changes if you are running in the right gear.


It’s worth noting that other changes to running form, such as increasing cadence, can also help to to decrease impact forces while also moving foot strike patterns closer to a midfoot strike.


Midfoot Striking: Perfect balance


Midfoot strikers land with a more even distribution across the foot. Research by Cavanagh and Lafortune (9) suggests that midfoot striking may distribute impact forces more evenly throughout the lower extremities, potentially reducing the risk of injuries.

Midfoot strikers have more flexibility when it comes to choosing a shoe based on their preferences and other considerations like weight, age and goal due to reduced impact forces associated with each stride compared to heel-striking. Shoes with moderate heel-toe drop can promote a midfoot strike, while still reducing the potential impacts of heel-striking if the runner fatigues and running form deteriorates.


Forefoot Striking


Finally, forefoot strikers lead with the ball of the foot.This may lead to reduced impact forces on the knee but increased forces on the ankle and calf. (10)

Forefoot strikers have flexibility when it comes to choosing a shoe based on their preferences and other considerations like weight, age and goal due to utilising the shock-absorbing functions of the foot and lower-leg. Shoes with low heel-toe drop can promote the foot-strike pattern of fore-foot runners.


Other factors in choosing running shoes


While understanding your footstrike pattern is crucial, it’s not the sole factor determing how to choose running shoes. Let’s explore some other essential considerations:


Budget, Mileage & Durability


Considering your budget is just as important as considering your running form. While Tigist Assefa recently bettered the Womans Marathon world record in a $500 shoe, this carbon sole shoe is meant to last only for the duration of a single race and a short break in period. While this is an extreme example most carbon plated shoes do offer performance gains for most runners but need to be replaced after approx. 200 km. You can learn more about the technology, benefits and risks of carbon plated “super shoes” here.

Budget and durability are important considerations in choosing a running shoe. Pictured: Adidas Adios Pro Evo 1

The number of miles you log in your running shoes directly affects their lifespan. A shoe that’s perfect for short sprints may not provide the necessary support nor the durability for long-distance runs. While frequent shoe replacement cycles may be a marketing tool of the shoe industry, studies have shown significant changes in material properties, muscle activation and increased vibration in aging shoes. (11)


Thankfully while maybe not quite as fast cost-effective shoes can still provide adequate speed, support and reduce the risk of injury. Finally a fast runner with a moderately fast shoe will still beat a moderately fast runner with a very fast shoe easily . Finding the right balance between cost and quality is key.


Running Goals: Sprint or Marathon?


Your running goals also play a pivotal role in shoe selection. Are you aiming for speed, distance, or perhaps a bit of both? Shoes designed for speed may prioritize lightweight construction, while distance-focused shoes may offer more cushioning for long-haul comfort. Comfort matters – even for performance: A recent study found that shoes perceived as more comfortable lead to improved running economy. (12) Consider your goals and choose running shoes that align with your running ambitions.

Weight Matters for choosing running shoes


Your body weight plays a significant role in the wear and tear on your running shoes. It also affects impact forces and the strength in your foot and/or level of shoe support required. Heavier runners may want to steer away from minimalist shoes, at least until they have built up significant strength in their feet and limbs.

Gender Specific Needs


When considering how to choose running shoes – does sex matter? Research, indicates that there are gender-specific differences in feet (13) as well as biomechanics. (14) Women often have wider hips, leading to a different angle of the thigh bone, which may impact the alignment of the knee and the foot. Some shoe models are designed with these differences in mind to provide better support and reduce the risk of injuries.

Gender is an important factor when choosing running shoes

Terrain Ties It Together


Lastly, consider the terrain you’ll be conquering. Different shoes are designed for various surfaces—road running, trail running, or a mix of both. Understanding your primary running terrain helps you choosing shoes with the right traction, stability, and durability to tackle the challenges ahead.

Assess Your Foot Strike Pattern


Curious about your foot strike pattern? You can easily assess it for free at Movaia.com. Understanding how your feet interact with the ground is the first step towards selecting the right running shoe for you.


Easy Hack for Finding Your Perfect Fit: Fittir.io


Now that you’ve gained insights into your foot strike pattern and considered other crucial factors, it’s time to take action. Head over to Fittir.io, where you’ll find a comprehensive tool to guide you through the process of selecting the perfect running shoe tailored to your unique needs.

Movaia.com and fittir.io are running apps helping you to find your perfect pair of running shoes


Conclusion


By understanding your foot strike pattern and considering factors like your running goals, weight, gender, and mileage, you can make informed decisions when choosing your running shoes. Let technology help you to find the answer to “How to choose running shoes?”: Get your foot strike analyzed at Movaia.com and head over to fittir.com for your running shoe recommendation based on all the factors we just mentioned and many more. Remember, the right shoes can make the difference between a comfortable, injury-free and fast run and a painful slog.

References and further reading

  1. Daoud AI, Geissler GJ, Wang F, Saretsky J, Daoud YA, Lieberman DE. Foot strike and injury rates in endurance runners: a retrospective study. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Jul;44(7):1325-34. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182465115. PMID: 22217561.
  2. Sun X, Lam WK, Zhang X, Wang J, Fu W. Systematic Review of the Role of Footwear Constructions in Running Biomechanics: Implications for Running-Related Injury and Performance. J Sports Sci Med. 2020 Feb 24;19(1):20-37. PMID: 32132824; PMCID: PMC7039038.
  3. John D. Willson, Jordan S. Bjorhus, D.S. Blaise Williams, Robert J. Butler, John P. Porcari, Thomas W. Kernozek, Short-Term Changes in Running Mechanics and Foot Strike Pattern After Introduction to Minimalistic Footwear, PM&R, Volume 6, Issue 1, 2014, Pages 34-43, ISSN 1934-1482, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmrj.2013.08.602.
  4. Rice HM, Jamison ST, Davis IS. Footwear Matters: Influence of Footwear and Foot Strike on Load Rates during Running. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016 Dec;48(12):2462-2468. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001030. PMID: 27387292.
  5. Karsten Hollander, Dieko Riebe, Sebastian Campe, Klaus-Michael Braumann, Astrid Zech,Effects of footwear on treadmill running biomechanics in preadolescent children, Gait & Posture, Volume 40, Issue 3, 2014, Pages 381-385, ISSN 0966-6362, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gaitpost.2014.05.006.
  6. Perl, Daniel P., Adam I. Daoud, and Daniel E. Lieberman. “Effects of footwear and strike type on running economy.” Med Sci Sports Exerc 44, no. 7 (2012): 1335-43.
  7. Roberto Squadrone, Renato Rodano, Joseph Hamill & Ezio Preatoni (2015) Acute effect of different minimalist shoes on foot strike pattern and kinematics in rearfoot strikers during running, Journal of Sports Sciences, 33:11, 1196-1204, DOI: 10.1080/02640414.2014.989534
  8. Agresta C, Giacomazzi C, Harrast M, Zendler J. Running Injury Paradigms and Their Influence on Footwear Design Features and Runner Assessment Methods: A Focused Review to Advance Evidence-Based Practice for Running Medicine Clinicians. Front Sports Act Living. 2022 Mar 9;4:815675. doi: 10.3389/fspor.2022.815675. PMID: 35356094; PMCID: PMC8959543.
  9. Peter R. Cavanagh, Mario A. Lafortune, Ground reaction forces in distance running, Journal of Biomechanics, Volume 13, Issue 5, 1980, Pages 397-406, ISSN 0021-9290, https://doi.org/10.1016/0021-9290(80)90033-0.
  10. Squadrone R, Gallozzi C. Biomechanical and physiological comparison of barefoot and two shod conditions in experienced barefoot runners. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2009 Mar;49(1):6-13. PMID: 19188889.
  11. Chambon, Nicolas & Sevrez, Violaine & Ly, Quoc & Guéguen, Nils & Berton, Eric & Rao, Guillaume. (2014). Aging of running shoes and its effect on mechanical and biomechanical variables: implications for runners. Journal of sports sciences. 32. 1013-22. 10.1080/02640414.2014.886127.
  12. K. Van Alsenoy, M. L. van der Linden, O. Girard & D. Santos (2023) Increased footwear comfort is associated with improved running economy – a systematic review and meta-analysis, European Journal of Sport Science, 23:1, 121-133, DOI: 10.1080/17461391.2021.1998642
  13. Jurca, A., Žabkar, J. & Džeroski, S. Analysis of 1.2 million foot scans from North America, Europe and Asia. Sci Rep 9, 19155 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-55432-z
  14. Xie PP, István B, Liang M. Sex-specific differences in biomechanics among runners: A systematic review with meta-analysis. Front Physiol. 2022 Sep 23;13:994076. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2022.994076. PMID: 36213228; PMCID: PMC9539551.