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Finding The Best Running Shoe

Spikes, racing flats, lightweight trainers, daily trainers, race flats, zero drop, 12 mm drop, carbon plated, minimalist, stability, motion control, guidance, cushioned…. I mean the list could go on and on, if you’re overwhelmed I feel your pain, I’ve been there, even recently after running for the last 20 years. 

I’ve spent the last four weeks reading through reddit, runners world, and down the YouTube rabbit hole in search of the answer to one of the most important questions in life, what running shoe is right for me? 

At the recommendation of running store experts I used to run in Asics Kayano and Gt-2000s after years of dealing with plantar-fasciitis for my pancake flat feet! But in recent years, as a slightly older version of my younger self, I’ve found that they just don’t seem to feel like they used to! So, I’ve moved on from my old love, to new pastures. No telling if the grass is greener yet 4 weeks in, but my feet sure do feel better already. Here’s some research I found that totally changed my pre-conceptions about how to choose running shoes too from a Runners World article: 

An extensive literature search found no evidence to support the common practice of matching a shoe’s degree of stability features with a runner’s foot type. For example, the researchers didn’t find support for prescribing conventional motion-control features like firm posts on the inside heel to runners with flat feet. Studies involving more than 7,000 military recruits found no difference in injury rates when shoe type was randomly assigned compared to when shoes were given based on arch height. That is, the studies argue against basing shoe selection on the so-called “wet test,” which calls for putting people with high arches in flexible shoes, people with average arches in neutral shoes, and people with flat feet in stability shoes.

A five-month study found no significant difference in injury rates in runners wearing shoes with a softer midsole compared to those in shoes with a midsole that was 15 percent firmer.

In a six-month study, overall injury rates were similar among runners assigned to either shoes with a 10-millimeter heel-to-toe drop, a 6-millimeter heel-to-toe drop, or a 0-millimeter heel-to-toe drop. A shoe’s heel-to-toe drop is the difference in the height of the shoe in the heel and the height of the shoe in the forefoot. One theory is that a higher heel-to-toe drop is “protective” against injury, while others claim that low- or zero-drop shoes lower injury rates because they encourage a more “natural” gait. 

I’m not trying to ruin days here but when I read about this I was floored! So you’re telling me all this time I didn’t need to run in my clunky Asics to prevent my foot issues? It turns out, there is some research you might find helpful (and less depressing): 

Leading sports medicine practitioners apply the more-targeted approach by looking at individuals’ injury history. Two current best practices in this regard are to have runners with a history of knee injuries gradually transition to lower-drop shoes. Doing so should shift some of running’s impact forces from the knees to the calves, Achilles tendons, and other lower-leg areas. Conversely, runners with chronic calf and Achilles issues might benefit from shoes with a greater heel-to-toe differential to move some impact forces to the knees.

Preferred movement pattern and comfort can be used as filters for individual runners to use when deciding on running shoes. The basic idea here is that runners should incur fewer injuries in shoes that feel like an extension of their bodies. If you’ve ever thought, “The shoes got out of the way and just let me run,” you’ve experienced what researcher Dr. Brenno Nigg recommends. Note that Nigg’s “comfort” filter applies to when you run in the shoes, not when you step into them and walk around a store.

One shoe-and-injury practice there does appear to be evidence for is rotating among different models. In first-of-its-kind research published in 2013, runners who split their mileage among multiple shoe models had 39 percent fewer injuries during the 22-week study than runners who always or almost always wore the same shoes. Of the 264 runners in the study, 116 were classified as single-shoe wearers; runners in this group did 91 percent of their mileage in the same shoe and ran in an average of 1.3 pairs of shoes during the study. The other 148 were classified as multiple-shoe wearers; runners in this group tended to have a main shoe, which they wore for an average of 58 percent of their mileage, but they rotated among an average of 3.6 pairs of shoes for their training during the study.

In summary your shoes do not cause injury but can modify the global training load you can tolerate before sustaining an injury. If you’d like to take a closer look at the exerpts mentioned above from Runners World, you can read it here.

So What's Next

Finding the right shoe doesn’t have to be a nightmare though and there’s tons of people and community support to make it work. Here’s my recommendation for finding the right shoe for you, to make running more enjoyable. 

Test Out Shoes: If you’ve never run before, head to a running store and try on everything. I like listening to recommendations from the store, but I also personally take them with a grain of salt. Your number one indicator you’ve got the right shoe, is how it feels on your foot! It’s a running shoe too, so test it out by running in the shoe! My personal pro-tip, I like about a thumb’s width of distance between my toes and the tip of the shoe. I also always try on the different widths to see what find what hugs my foot just right. 

Research: There’s tons of amazing people in the running community to help you try to find something you might like. If you have a running shoe rotation and have one shoe you like for distance days but still want to find your speed day and race shoe, you can lurk through threads on reddit where others share the favorite shoe rotations and find others who use similar shoes to get a head start on your search. Here’s a link to one of those threads: 

Reddit: What’s Your Shoe Rotation

Watch: I’ve been amazed by some of the content I’ve found on YouTube. Here’s a couple of my favorite people you can follow and browse through to find that glass slipper or perfect running Shoe via their YouTube channels: 

Seth James DeMoor

Jamison Michael

Believe in the Run

Closing Thoughts

Finding the right running shoe or shoe rotation takes some trial and error. As a runner, I don’t think you should feel afraid of trying out new things and experimenting with shoes! By making small changes you may find you prefer a different style of shoe! Whenever you make changes, it’s always wise to rotate your shoes and listen to your body. Start with lower milage and overall training stress while working in new shoes. If you’re a first time runner, don’t be afraid to start small, with light running and walking. 

If something doesn’t feel right after one or two runs, don’t be afraid to make changes. A new shoe costs a lot less than a foot surgery or new relationship with your local physical therapist! As a flat footed runner, who used to swear by Asics support shoes, I now find myself in neutral cushioned daily trainers. I couldn’t be happier with my results, my feet are happier and I’m running further. Curious about finding the right shoe for your running event and need some help? Reach out to us at through our contact form and we’d be happy to field your questions. 

Good Luck Out There!

-Coach Dan, Training To Race

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