How to Pick Running Shoes


Graphic of runners learning how to pick running shoes

Whether you prefer to log your miles outside or on the treadmill, running takes a lot of hard work, perseverance, and dedication. Many new runners wonder, Do running shoes matter? Casual runners and marathoners alike know that quality running shoes make all the difference when it comes to sticking to your running routine and goals. If you’re someone who is just starting to run, you may have a few questions you need answered before investing in a new pair of running shoes. Our guide answers commonly asked questions related to running shoes and breaks down how to pick running shoes for you.

Parts of A Running Shoe

Before jumping into how to pick running shoes, it’s important to understand different parts of a running shoe. The construction of a running shoe impacts the type of support, energy return, and cushioning you’ll feel while running.

3 parts to a running shoe, the midsole, the upper, and the outsole

What is a Midsole?

The midsole is the middle part of the running shoe that cushions your feet and absorbs some of the shock from the heel strike. In a running shoe, the midsole is where the support and alignment, commonly known as pronation control, features are located.

What is an Outsole?

The outsole of a running shoe is the portion of the shoe that comes in contact with the ground’s surface. Most running shoes feature a rubber outsole to provide both traction and durability. 

What is an Upper?

The upper is the portion of the running shoe above the bottom sole, and it’s usually made with multiple layers of mesh to provide the support and stretch you need. A mesh upper also allows your feet to breathe during long, warm runs. 

What is Heel-Toe Drop?

When looking at running shoes, you’ll notice the term heel-toe drop or offset. Heel-toe drop is the difference between the amount of cushion in the heel and forefoot of the running shoe. If you’re shopping for your first pair of running shoes, you don’t need to worry too much about this as you should focus mainly on comfort.

Types of Running Shoes

Man and woman running in running shoes

There are three main types of running shoes—road-running shoes, trail-running shoes, and cross-training shoes. To narrow down which type of running shoes you need, ask yourself two questions: 

  • What surface will I be doing most of my running on? 
  • What will be the average distance of my runs? 

Knowing the answers to these two questions will help you determine the best type of running shoes to try.

Road-Running Shoes

Road-running shoes are the most common and versatile option and are best if you’re planning to run long distances either outside on a sidewalk or indoors on a track or treadmill. With lightweight uppers and flexible outsoles, you’ll enjoy stability and cushion, while the materials offer durability for frequent use. Are you training for a city 5k, 10k, half marathon, or marathon? Road-running shoes are the type you’ll want to wear throughout training and during the race.

Trail-Running Shoes

Trail-running shoes are built for uneven and unpredictable surface conditions. With bigger lugs on the bottom, trail-running shoes are able to grip the terrain better than road-running shoes, while the uppers are typically constructed from stiffer and more durable materials to protect your feet from rocks or other hazards. If you’re planning on running at a national or state park, you’ll want to make sure to wear trail-running shoes for the right support and stability. 

Cross-Training Shoes

Cross-training shoes, often referred to as cross-training sneakers, feature a sturdy design and multipurpose outsoles for versatility while working out. Cross-training shoes can be worn on the treadmill, but only for short distances up to a couple miles. Cross-training shoes are perfect for people who do some running while working out but also spend time lifting weights or playing sports.

Types of Support

Aside from the type of running shoes, you need to have the proper support to avoid discomfort during and after your run. Running shoe support is classified as stability, neutral, or motion control. Depending on how you pronate, you need to make sure your running shoes offer the right support.

What is pronation?

Pronation is the way your foot strikes the ground when you run. Some runners overpronate meaning they run more on the interior of their feet while other runners supinate meaning they run more on the outer edges of their feet. To keep runners’ feet in proper alignment and reduce discomfort, major running brands like HOKA ONE ONE and Brooks have developed special technologies. 

What is a Stability Shoe?

Graphic demonstrating stability shoes and overpronation

A stability running shoe will help keep feet in alignment for those runners who overpronate. If you overpronate as a runner, your feet move slightly inward. To know if you overpronate, look at a pair of well-worn shoes. If you notice even wear on the heel and near the forefoot, you most likely overpronate. Stability running shoes feature specific technologies within the midsole to keep your feet in proper alignment, especially as fatigue sets in during your run.

What is a Neutral Shoe?

Diagram demonstrating neutral running shoes

A neutral running shoe is ideal for runners who either supinate or have a neutral pronation. When a runner supinates, their feet move slightly outward. To know if you supinate, look at a pair of well-worn shoes. If you notice more wear around the outer edges, you most likely supinate.  

A neutral running shoe is also ideal for those who have a neutral pronation. This means that when your foot strikes the surface, you’re landing the correct way and don’t need compensation.

If you have a neutral pronation, you’ll notice an even wear on the outsoles of your shoes.

What is a Motion Control Shoe?

diagram showing motion control shoes

If you notice significant wear on the inner outsoles of your shoes, you most likely heavily overpronate. This means that your feet and ankles move significantly inward. To prevent injuries to your feet, shins, and knees, it’s best to look at running shoes classified as motion control. With motion control support, the shoe is packed with technology to prevent your feet and ankles from rolling inward.

How Long to Break in Running Shoes?

New runners need to be aware that it  takes between 2 to 3 weeks for your running shoes to be properly broken in. Although they should feel rather comfortable from the start, it’s a good idea to wear them around the house or out on a few shorter runs (2-3 miles) before wearing them during a race or on longer runs (4+ miles). 

Learning how to pick running shoes is important to help prevent running-related injuries and pain. With the proper type of running shoe and support, you’ll stay motivated and on track to reaching your running goals. If you have any questions or need additional help finding the right pair of running shoes, contact an expert at your local SCHEELS.