As we enter marathon season, it is a great time to invest in a new pair of running shoes. Generally, it is a good idea to replace your shoes every 400-500 miles. However, if your old running shoes have wear patterns on the sole, it is probably time for a new pair. If you run in worn shoes, you can disrupt the natural biomechanics of your feet and cause injuries that could keep you from running this season.

There are many conflicting running shoe guides on the Internet. In order to understand what shoes are best for you, it is important to note that they should not aim to correct your technique. Running shoes should protect your feet from injury, but they shouldn’t do the work of the foot itself or provide needless cushioning. If your running style needs improvement, you should work to correct your pronation, which is the inward movement of the foot as it rolls to distribute the force of impact of the ground as you run. Check out our blog post on foot biomechanics to get tips to improve pronation.

Buying new running shoes can pose many challenges. Though they may feel comfortable while you’re standing in the store, the real test will come a few miles into your run. It will take careful consideration to find the best shoe for you. Do your research before investing in a new pair and follow our shoe buying guide to keep your feet happy and healthy during marathon season.

What to Look for in a Shoe

Everyone’s feet are different. There is no “perfect shoe” that will fit all runners, but good running shoes should have these qualities:

  • Lightweight: Running shoes that are light in weight won’t overburden your feet during your run. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends shoes that weigh about 10 ounces for a men’s size 9 and 8 ounces for a women’s size 8.
  • Minimal Heel-to-Toe Drop: The heel-to-toe drop of a shoe is the difference between the height of the heel and the height of the toe. While heels with a drop of 6mm or less are ideal because they allow the natural biomechanics of the foot to take place, if you need to make the switch to a shoe with a smaller drop, do this gradually to avoid putting stress on your calves and achilles tendon. If your old shoes have a higher differential, don’t transition directly to a lower-heeled shoe. Take your time with this transition and listen to your body to avoid injury.
  • Allows Natural Motion: Finding a shoe with no motion control or stability components is important because they can interfere with how your foot was designed to move. With proper technique, your foot’s pronation will serve as a shock absorber, so don’t throw off your body’s natural processes with artificial solutions.

Running Shoe Fit Tips

You will need to evaluate each shoe closely before purchasing the one that will best complement your foot. Here are a few tips for finding a shoe that will fit properly from heel to toe:

  • Go to a Specialty Store: In specialty running stores, members of the staff are often runners themselves and will be knowledgeable about injury prevention. Many of these stores even have treadmills so you can give the shoes a test run on-site.
  • Have Your Feet Sized: feet often grow as you age, so be sure to have your foot size measured every few years. Also be aware that it’s possible for one foot to be larger than the other, so for some people, buying two different sizes may provide a better fit. If you would rather shop online, check out our fellow AlphaLab alum Shoefitr to see how you can always order the perfect size.
  • Shop in the Evening: your feet tend to swell. To compensate for this, it is a good idea to shop for shoes in the evening. By shopping when your feet are more “swollen”, your new running shoes won’t suddenly feel tight in the middle of your run or cause any preventable injuries.
  • Look for a Wide Toe Box: won’t allow your toes to splay properly during a run. This could prevent your feet from being able to safely distribute the force of your gait. Make sure there is at least half an inch of room between your toes and the front of your shoe.

Whether you’re running a marathon, going out for a morning jog, or taking a casual stroll, your feet help you get along. Mile after mile, they do their job to absorb tremendous amounts of impact and force, but often it’s not until we feel the pain of blisters or swelling that we begin to pay attention to our feet. Many foot injuries are easily prevented, so don’t let them interrupt your run. Keep your feet happy and healthy by wearing the proper running shoes.