The Best Running Shoes: Comprehensive Guide

There is nothing better than taking that first step outside your door with your best running shoes on; Taking a deep breath of fresh morning air, feeling like you could run for miles (or plow through the urban jungle!). It’s the best feeling in the world, anticipation and endorphins rushing through your body until you get on your way and sense your entire being rejoicing in the simple activity of running. At first this might seem like an overstatement, but I’m sure most people would agree even if they don’t run regularly.

best running shoes

The best running shoes: What you should look out for

Now, despite the picture I just painted, running also poses some dangers. Your technique is of vital importance if you aim to keep on running and remain injury-free. There are basically two possibilities:

1) You are aware of and improving your style, reaping the maximum benefits of your active lifestyle. OR

2) Your technique is not taken under consideration or improved, possibly resulting in joint damage, foot pain and various other complications.

In order to stick to option 1, you need to know about the correct running form and potential trouble along the way. The biggest part of running safely is having the right shoes. Even though barefoot running is a thing nowadays, you need to be quite experienced before attempting it; which means having a certain amount of miles under your belt (or feet). A good shoe will absorb all the shock coming from running and will provide just the right amount of support and comfort. This opens a whole world of running shoe options to choose from.

Here are the best running shoes for the gait categories:

Picture
Shoe Name
Gender
Pronation
Score
ASICS GT
WomenOver Pronation4.5

Brooks Ariel
WomenSevere Over Pronation5
Brooks Glycerin
WomenNeutral4.5
K-Swiss Tubes WomenUnder Pronation5
ASICS GEL-Evolution
MenOver Pronation4.5

Brooks Adrenaline MenNeutral4
Brooks BeastMenSevere Over Pronation4.5
Reebok Zig Kick Alpha
MenUnder Pronation4

Running shoes available on the market have different designs to fill a specific niche. You have to be aware of what you’re looking for in order to make the right choice, and you should begin with your gait.

Becoming familiar with your gait

Start paying closer attention to your feet next time you go for a jog. Try to notice how your foot reacts when it strikes the ground and particularly whether it rolls inward, outward, or remains mostly straight. The rolling motion is a natural reaction of your body as it tries to handle the stress and impact of running, although rolling too much could be an issue and cause injury in the longer term. If it rolls inward, the phenomenon is known as over pronation, while outwards rolling is referred to as under pronation or supination.

Apart from having an expert examination, another way you can tell what your gait is, is to look at the undersides of your shoes and determine which side shows more signs of wear and tear – the inner or outer. Furthermore, you can ask a friend to film you while you run, showing you another perspective.

Also, a number of expert and specialised shoe stores provide gait analysis for runners. At ASICS, a 3-D scan of your feet identifies your specific foot width and length, in addition to the elevation of your arch. It recognizes the angle of your static foot, and any sort of roll inclination. This is then matched with online video evaluation of you jogging on a treadmill.

ASICS even show you videos of how your foot moves in different types of shoes which provide the right support to your running style.

overpronator best running shoes

Over Pronation

Besides over pronation, the other running styles include a neutral ground strike and supination. Supination is where your foot rolls outward. If you can’t get an expert to analyse your ground striking pattern, you can do a quick test yourself by examining the soles of your shoes. If you see more wear and tear on the inside edge, you probably over pronate and if the shoes are worn at the back and center, you most likely have a neutral running pattern.


The wet test

The most basic way to identify the elevation of your foot arc is with the wet test. Simply wet the sole of your foot then make an impact on an absorbent area, such as a piece of rice paper or a concrete slab.

A ‘typical’ arch will have a broad band (about 2 inches) between the heel and forefoot, a low arch leaves a print that resembles the whole sole of the foot, and a very high arc shows little or no link between the forefoot and heel.

Finding the Best Running Shoes Type

The correct shoe is very important as it will even out any irregularities and provide just the right amount of support so you can enjoy your trek. Of course there is much more that goes into a running shoe, but you will have a much easier time finding a good pair if you get familiar with the mechanics of your foot. You must also consider your financial flexibility and the terrain on which you intend to run.

BASIC GUIDELINES for selecting the best running shoes
High arc
– think about cushioned/neutral shoes, as you have the tendency to under pronate.
Low arch
– select motion control shoes, as you probably over pronate.
Normal arch
– opt for stability running shoes, with average support for normal pronation.

STABILITY SHOES

What do they do?
Protect against excessive inward roll of the foot (over pronation)

ASICS GT

How do they work?
Underneath the arch of the foot, on the midsole, there is a firmer piece of foam called ‘post’. Because the post will not compress as much as the rest of the midsole, it has the effect of limiting the foot rolling inward. With different brands come different designs and this is where personal preference plays a role. ASICS, for instance, has a plastic area in the sole, called a trusstic, which restricts the pressure of the twist in between the heel and toe.

Who were they developed for?
Runners that over pronate, (around 70% of runners). Most suitable for runners who moderately over pronate and generally have either fallen, low or normal arches. The midsole cushioning is one of the critical considerations to keep in mind when deciding on that perfect running shoe.

MOTION CONTROL

What do they do?
Stop serious over pronation

Brooks Ariel

How do they work?
These type of shoes have much longer, denser posting compared to the Stability type mentioned above and a firmer heel counter (these are basically Super Stability Shoes). A heel counter is often also called a heel cup and surrounds the heel in a supportive snug hug. These design aspects are very important in stopping the foot from rolling as over pronation puts you at risk of developing serious injuries down the line.

Who were they developed for?
Runners who land on the outside of their heel and then violently roll their foot inward, attempting to compensate for the uneven landing. Individuals with severe over pronation often have bigger feet and flat arches, which might also coincide with weight increase. The right type shoes can make a world of difference not only during your running but also avoiding foot and leg pain in the long run…unplanned pun ha.

NEUTRAL CUSHIONED

What do they do?
Provide more flexibility for runner with a neutral gait or ground impact pattern.

Brooks Glycerin

How do they work?
Neutral shoes are developed and designed without any posting, as the roll of the foot needs no correction. With no posting, the shoe is more flexible. In spite of that, you still have the built-in shock absorbing cushion system. An example of this type of shoe is typical in the Mizuno brand which has a gadget called a wave plate that distributes shock over a bigger area, while the most recent Brooks technology utilizes a substance that adapts to the amount of stress put on it, ultimately meaning that the more weight on it, the more the cushion will offer a rebound effect, minimizing any stress and impact to the foot.

Who were they developed for?
About 20-25% of runners have a neutral gait, meanings their foot strikes the ground in the middle of their heel or forefoot, then rolls forward with a regular motion. If you’re a neutral distance runner and have a normal or high arch, this shoe is for you.

TRAIL RUNNING SHOES

What do they do?
With an increased grip design, these running shoes are aimed at being most effective on softer surfaces, such as forest or grass trails.

Brooks Cascadia

How do they work?
They provide great grip and the soles remain mostly free of debris or mud. These trail running shoes have bigger lugs, spaced further apart. Lugs are similar to the studs on soccer boots. The design and material is aimed at repelling water and has increased amount of ventilation to deal with any dampness. The soles are a lot more versatile compared to the road type designs, but there is good reason for that, considering the uneven path you are running on. A flexible sole will assist in adjusting to the varying terrain, particularly avoiding an ankle twist injury when landing on a stone.

Who were they developed for?
Many individuals operate on a mix of off- and on-road surface areas – with the streets to get to the neighborhood park for instance – which can make a bit of an issue as to which sort of footwear to pick. Rule of thumb: If you spend more than 50% of the time you run on softer terrain, pick trail running shoes. Otherwise, go for regular ones.

PERFORMANCE TRAINING

What do they do?
Being ultra light, they are ideal for speed training.

Brooks T7 Racer

How do they work?
This shoe design is the lightest you can find. It avoids any weight related speed reduction. For example, just 100 grams could possibly take 12 seconds off your time in a 5K. Performance shoes have reduced padding and cushioning, little or no posting and breathable mesh uppers, all making for extremely light footwear. The Brooks T6 Racer was used by three-times Hawaiian Ironman champion Chrissie Wellington!

Who were they developed for?
Performance shoes are used for racing and speed training. Keep in mind that these are not the best everyday running shoes as they lack the cushioning which your joints need to remain unaffected by the repeated impact and shock.

If this has not yet helped you find the best running shoes for you, then the video below is for you!

* Lavender field picture provided by Matthew Searle – Thank you!