Deciding to run is a big decision. An even bigger one is your first pair of running shoes. Finding shoes that fit and support your feet are truly the foundation of a lifetime of enjoyable running.

Guide for choosing your first pair of running shoes.

Before You Shop

The first step is deciding what type of running you will be doing on a regular basis.

  • Do you want to run on city streets as a roadrunner?
  • Or will most of your time be spent on the treadmill?
  • Do you want to run on trails?
  • Will you be doing a combination of these?

Different shoes meet the needs of specific terrains.

Then decide how much you can afford. You can’t go too cheap if you want shoes that offer support and will last. Cheap running shoes can also lead to injury.  The basic price for a good pair of running shoes is about $100 $120, but many are priced much higher. A higher price doesn’t necessarily mean a better shoe. It’s important to set a budget and stick to it.

Know Your Feet

Check out Runner’s World Shoe Advisor. This helpful page asks a range of questions, from your height and weight to your running experience and speed. It explains specific types of feet and how that influences the type of shoe you get.

Each person has specific types of motion mechanics involving pronation and foot strike. Here is a closer look at each.

This is how you can decide what type of pronation you have:

  • Under-pronator: your foot does not roll in or out as you walk. Instead, you push from the small toes on the outside of your foot.
  • Over-pronator: your foot definitely rolls in an inward direction. It is very easy to spot. You tend to push off from your large toes on the inside of your foot.
  • Normal: you push off from the front part of the foot in an even manner. Your foot rolls in very little.
  • It is important to really check this – your feet may be different than you think.

There are four types of foot strikes:

  • Strike the ground with your forefoot
  • Strike the ground with your midfoot
  • Strike the ground with your heel
  • Strike the ground very obviously with your heel, called extreme heel strike

Don’t worry if you are confused about this. The trained personnel at specialty running stores can figure out the specifics of your foot mechanics. They will be more than happy to explain it to you.

Find Your Store

The best place to begin your selection process is a running store staffed with experienced runners. New runners can be intimidated, thinking they won’t know the right questions to ask. Don’t worry. The personnel at these stores are ready to educate you and help you select the best shoes for your needs.

Unless you’re an experienced runner and know exactly what you need it is NOT recommended to shop online. You really need to try your shoes on.

The salesperson will measure your foot and bring out samples to try on. Jog around the floor or outside if possible. You want shoes that fit and feel good right out of the box.

Here are specific points to watch for:

  • It feels snug but not tight.
  • The heel and midfoot and arch area should not pinch.
  • You have wiggle room in the toe box.
  • You little toes should be able to splay at impact and when you push off.
  • Seams don’t rub.
  • You don’t feel cramped anywhere.
  • It shouldn’t feel like it is slipping.

New runners often are worried about cushioning. The fact is, you probably don’t need as much cushioning as you think. In fact, too much has been linked to higher rates of injury, according to a study published in the British Journal of Medicine. Less padding actually prompts your feet to do whatever it takes to become stronger, less liable to become stiff and sore and to stay flexible.

After you know the right type of shoe for your foot, ask the salesperson if there are any discounted or clearance shoes available that match your needs. Just like cars, last year’s model of running shoes is often cheaper.

Take time to research and find the best running shoes for your feet. Shoes will make the biggest difference in your comfort level throughout your running career.