How to Find the Perfect Running Shoes

One of the most important decisions you can make as a runner is finding the perfect pair of running shoes (for you).

It’s essential to spend both time and money to pick out the perfect running shoes.  Without proper running shoes, you won’t be running for very long.  While you can choose a shoe off of the shelf, it’s essential to get properly fitted by an expert.  There is no best running shoe, and every shoe is the perfect pair of running shoes for someone.

How to find the perfect running shoe

Proper running shoes are going to prevent many injuries such as shin splints and plantar fasciitis.  They are going to help you run faster and further because aches will be the last thing you’re thinking about.

So how do you find the best running shoes?

First, it’s important to realize there is no “best-running shoe.”  There is a perfect running shoe for you; you have to find it. Each running shoe is designed for a different foot type.  What works for me might not work for you or your friend.  Reading internet shoe reviews isn’t going to help you find a shoe that will help you.  Every foot is different, including your left and right. Some people need motion control shoes, others need neutral, or stability shoes, others need high cushioned shoes, it depends on you

Second, go to a running specialty store. Employees at running specialty stores go through training to figure out which shoes work for which feet.  They can tell you within a matter of minutes which shoe will be the best running shoe for you.  A process that can take hours will be cut into minutes.

Employees at running stores also have a wealth of knowledge about the sport of running, including local events and races.  They are runners themselves and will know local races or even doctors or podiatrists. Even if you aren’t looking for the perfect pair of running shoes, you can find everything you need in the sport of running at a run specialty store.

You should plan to spend time in the store because the employee will ask you several questions, take a look at your feet, gait, and running form. That’s how they figure out the best running shoe for you!

Most of the time you don’t need to schedule an appointment but don’t get to the store 5 minutes before closing time and expect to have time to be fitted.  It takes time to find the best shoes for you! 

What should you expect to find your perfect pair of running shoes?

First, the employee will ask you several questions, such as:

  • What are you using the running shoes for?
  • Every day walking? Training? Racing? Long Distances or long runs? Gym classes?  There is no right or “good” answer!
  • Do you have any aches or pains? Do you have blisters or black toenails? Do you have shin splints or knee pain? Pain in your hips or back? Let the employee know everything and anything…but please don’t show me an open wound.
  • What kind of running are you doing?
  • How often you run?
  • Where do you run? What kind of surface are you running on? Grass? Sidewalk? The treadmill? Maybe you are better with a trail shoe (Most people don’t realize you can’t take a trail running shoe on the road).
  • Are you training for a race or event?
  • Had had luck with a certain brand?

Those are just a few questions you might encounter about your activity to find the best running shoe.

Then the employee will look at the shape of your feet as well as if you need arch support or an insert. It’s prevalent for someone to have two different sized feet.  They will look to see if you pronate, supinate or have a neutral gait. The best shoe for you will accommodate what you need.

Determining your foot type is the most critical part of finding the perfect running shoe for you. 

Next, the employee will measure your foot. Keep in mind, your foot size changes and grows.  After having children, most women gain a half size.  Even if you’ve been the same size for years, your foot might have gotten longer or wider. Once you get over that, you can find the perfect running shoes. Now that most shoes have a knit upper, it can be easier to get a better shoe fit, especially if your feet are wider or you have a bunion.

Another thing to keep in mind is running shoes should be 1/2 to a full size bigger than your casual shoe size.  There are very few exceptions to this rule.  When you workout, your feet swell.  If you are losing toenails, chances are your shoes are too small.  Blisters also form at the top of your feet because of improper sizing.  As someone who works in a specialty store, about 75% of athletes who come in are wearing the wrong size training shoe.

After the employee is done proding you with questions, they’ll bring a few options that are best fits for you.  They’ll have you try them on and run around in them.   From there you will decide how you like the shoe.  Do you prefer a soft shoe? Firm? Lightweight or heavier like Asics gel? Do you prefer a lower heel to toe drop? On race day, do you like the energy return from a shoe with a carbon fiber plate? Only you can decide what feels right and what feels like the best running shoe.

Make sure you are ready to run.  Standing awkwardly in the running shoe for one second isn’t going to decide whether you like the shoe or not.  You should run in each pair of shoes.  Trust the employee; they have chosen appropriate and perfect running shoes for you.  The employee’s job isn’t too bring out the wrong shoes.

After making your final decision, make sure to test your shoes at home too.  If you develop pain, they may not be the best shoes. Most specialty stores have the policy to allow you to exchange the shoes even if you have run in them.  For instance, the store I work at allows you to exchange shoes for up to two weeks.  If they don’t work out, we want to know and for you to find something that does!

Since I work in a specialty running store, I do believe getting fit for a perfect pair of running shoes is one of the best things you can do for yourself as a runner.  There is no right or wrong answer for the best running shoes, but there is a right or wrong answer for the best pair for you.

Other Posts You Might be Interested In:
There is No Perfect Running Shoe
There Difference Between Runners and Non-Runners
Why Running Shoe Reviews are (Mostly) Worthless
Why You Should Rotate Running Shoes

Finally, have you subscribed to the LOLZletter? It’s a free newsletter that comes out each Monday. In the newsletter, I share running industry trends and things relevant to the sport. 

Question for you:
How did you find your perfect pair of running shoes?  What is the best shoe for you?