They can be tough to find. A dedicated running store can help you understand the basic types available and make some recommendations. Many do gait analysis, and some even have treadmills so you can try shoes in action.
Traditional: The style shown in the photo, these shoes came to dominate running in the 1980s and were specialized on the basis of how much “motion control” (roughly arch support) was built into the shoe. They have a built-up heel and a light, compressible midsole that degrades with impact and time. They typically need to be replaced every 300 to 500 miles.
Minimalist: These shoes strip out the midsole, focusing on an abrasion-resistant outer sole and light construction. They can be as minimal as a sole attached to the foot with strings, but they are typically built similarly to racing flats, the light shoes that have been a staple of track and field programs for … well, forever. Some people do really well with these shoes, and others have trouble with them. They usually require acclimation and solid lower-leg and foot strength.
Whatever shoes you run in, here are a few tips for buying:
— Try shoes on at the end of the day. Your feet swell and spread a bit during the day, and it’s essential that running shoes not bind or pinch.
— Look for a shoe you can easily anchor to the area around your heel, and that has plenty of room for the front of your foot to spread as you land. This doesn’t necessarily mean tightly laced — depending on the style, a good-fitting shoe can gently provide pressure on the upper arch and a good cup for the heel while laced loosely enough to slip on and off.
— Make sure you have loads of room around your toes! Too little room can be painful — and can lead to bruising and even lost toenails.
— If you’re trying a new style, buy from a running specialty store, and ask about the exchange policy. Running specialty stores will often let you exchange a shoe that simply isn’t working for you out in regular use.
Looking for walking shoes? You don’t need the specialization of running shoes, but especially if you’re starting out, consider a shoe with a fair amount of cushioning. Walking impact has a different pattern, and even people who run in lighter shoes may choose more cushioning under the heel for walking. Whatever your speed, be sure to leave plenty of room for your toes!
Image from Reddit — this fella could probably use a little less room for his toes….