Choosing the Right Shoes for Running: Cushioning, Support, Stability, Grip, and Durability

Choosing the Right Shoes for Your Running Style

Whether you prefer a barefoot feeling or want to cushion every step, your shoes are your best defense against running injuries. Choosing the right pair is critical, so make sure they fit well and are comfortable after several test runs.

Cushioning can help stave off common running injuries like shin splints and plantar fasciitis. Strong cushioning reduces shock by mimicking your feet’s natural gait cycle.

Cushioning

Shoe cushioning refers to the thickness of the comfortable midsole padding that separates your feet from the ground. Thick shoe cushioning feels like you’re walking on clouds, while less cushion means your feet feel every crack and pebble.

New research shows that runners smack the ground harder—but get injured less—in shoes with more cushioning. This finding vindicates the idea that a light switch to more minimal shoes can reduce injury risk by delaying the impact peak and spreading it over time, as well as by encouraging a more natural foot strike and strengthening the feet and ankles naturally.

But a more cushioned sole also destabilizes the main foot arch and reduces the body’s ability to absorb and disperse force, which can result in excessive stress on the knees and ankles. That’s why many runners prefer traditional cushion shoes that get the foot closer to the ground for optimal stability.

Support

The right shoe can help decrease running-related injuries—a devoted runner’s worst nightmare. Finding a shoe with traction, durability and a cushioned fit can go a long way in keeping you healthy and moving forward towards your marathon goals.

Most runner’s fall into the Neutral category, which means their feet have a normal looking footprint and are moderately flexible. Shoe designers use a variety of stability design features (like medial posts, dual-density foams, varus wedges and Guide Rails) to keep your foot from excessive motion like overpronation or rolling inward which can lead to injury.

Responsiveness refers to how quickly a shoe returns energy to the runner. This springiness can be felt in the shoe as you run and adds to your speed and efficiency.

Stability

Stability shoes offer support to stop excess motion of the foot and ankle, mainly overpronation. Overpronation occurs when the arch collapses too low upon landing and continues rolling inward during push-off. This puts greater stress on the big and second toes and may contribute to shin splints or knee pain.

Many stability shoes utilize technology such as medial posts or guide rails to prevent overpronation. Firmer foam along the inside length of the shoe cradles the heel and helps guide the foot back into a neutral position. These types of shoes are typically heavier than neutral footwear.

If the wear pattern on your current running shoes shows excessive wear along the inside (medial) edge of the sole, this is a good indication that you require stability shoes. Your needs may change over time as you run at different paces, so be sure to try a few pairs of shoes.

Grip

The grip or traction on the ground is largely dependent upon the tread pattern and rubber compound used. Shoes that offer excellent grip typically use softer rubber compounds but wear out faster. Shoes designed for durability will use harder rubber but sacrifice some grip.

A shoe’s traction performance is also affected by the depth of the lugs. Softer surfaces such as mud or snow will require deeper, larger lugs while more stable surface like gravel or dirt will require smaller lugs closer together.

Finally, it’s important to remember that running shoes flex while you run. The area behind the metatarsals receives a lot of stress during the propulsive phase of running and this can be a source of discomfort if a shoe is not fitted correctly. Consider this when choosing a shoe and make sure there is a thumb width space between the longest toe and the end of the shoe.

Durability

When shoes are subjected to a number of different tests in the laboratory, durability is a major consideration. Durability testing is used to ensure that shoes will last well and protect your feet while you run.

The amount of stress that your shoes undergo during running will affect how long they last. For example, heavier runners tend to get fewer miles out of their shoes than lighter runners. This is because they generate more force at each foot strike. The type of running you do will also influence how long your shoes last.

Road running shoes are designed to meet the demands of tarmac, so they aren’t as durable on rough terrain. Trail shoes are often built with more durable outsole rubbers and higher levels of upper strength.

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