The running shoe you buy can have a profound impact on both your foot health and your enjoyment of the sport. Proper-fitting running shoes reduce injury, and they also reduce the risk of developing painful conditions like an ingrown toenail, hammer toe, or heel pain. Importantly, they also allow you to maximize the forces of each footfall, helping you improve your mileage and your time splits without forcing extra effort.
Selecting the correct shoe fit is even more important if you have diabetes or another condition that impacts foot health. We’ll cover the extra requirements you may need to consider after going over general guidelines for the best features to look for in a running shoe.
Select a Shoe That Fits Your Foot Shape
Footprints can be just as unique as your fingerprint. Everyone has different sizes and shapes, especially when it comes to our arches.
Select a foot shape that accommodates the width of your foot and the depth of your arch.
- High arches will need a bit more support, more flexibility, and a softer midsole, says the American Podiatric Medical Association.
- For those of us with relatively flat arches, select a shoe that has more rigidity, especially near the arch and heel.
- Regular arches require a mix between stability and cushioning, which should be optimized to the specific preferences and foot shape.
Pay Attention to Your Sole Wear to Correct Your Gait
You can also tell more about your running style and arches by looking at a well-worn pair of running shoes. The average person will have a fair amount of wear among the heel and toe box.
However, some individuals, particularly those with flat arches, will have wear along the of the inner edge of the shoe and not along the outside edge of the toe box. This is referred to as “overpronating.”
If you tend to overpronate, you may need a shoe that has what’s called “motion control” features. They often include more-rigid structures to help correct the tendency to roll the ankle outward during your gait. They may also have more cushioning in the middle, reflected by a high arch with a different color of the sole.
Someone who has wear along the outside edge of their shoes will usually under pronate, meaning the foot rolls in and the outside edge of the foot will fall first. These individuals should seek out lightweight, flexible, cushioned running shoes. This reduces the risk that placing pressure along the outside edge will result in a rolled ankle or the development of hip problems later on.
Always Leave Room in the Toe Box
Most people remember lifting their toes when they were a kid to make sure there was enough room to grow into a shoe without it being too large to fit securely. Well, that same mindset can help you into adolescence and adulthood.
You should always have at least a thumb’s width between your big toe and the edge of the shoe. Why? Because your feet swell when you run. In fact, experts like the University of Connecticut Sports Medicine Center recommend shopping at the end of a long day of walking. That way, your feet have already swollen a bit.
Leaving room in the toe box prevents the risk of ingrown toenails and other foot issues. At the same time, the rest of the shoe should feel secure while running. If it doesn’t, you may overcompensate by lifting your toes to keep the shoe from moving, increasing the risk of hammertoe and other disorders.
Tight Heel Cups and Good Laces
While your toes should have room, the rest of the shoe should fit tightly with as little movement as possible. Look for a middle that can lace up well enough to make the shoe remain snug, even after miles of running. Your heel should also stay firmly put, preventing slipping.
Loose shoes can increase the risk of blisters, but it can also mean that you’re more likely to roll your ankle or incur some other injury. So think spacious toes, snug middle, and heel.
Considerations for Diabetic Runners and Other Chronic Foot Conditions
Running is even more important for those who need therapeutic exercise to reduce their risk of complications related to chronic disease. At the same time, physical activity increases the odds of injury. For someone with diabetes, something as innocent-seeming as a blister can turn into a major complication without proper care.
The good news is that most running and athletic shoes offer better flexibility, cushioning, and support than the typical work shoe or other lace-up. You just need to be concerned with having ample room in the toe box to encourage blood flow and reduce the risk of ingrown toenails or infection.
A shoe’s lacing system becomes all the more important for individuals with special foot care needs. The shoe should be able to lace completely securely to prevent any wiggling inside its structure. At the same time, you should be able to loosen the shoe comfortably if there’s swelling or other discomforts.
Being able to lace the ankle securely is very important, so opt for shoes that have lace eyelets traveling farther up towards the ankle, like a hiking boot or work shoe might. If you have a history of foot complications, you can also look for models that secure with velcro, ensuring a snug, adjustable fit without the restriction laces sometimes brings.
Choose a Comfortable Shoe Over a Flashy One
Our final word on shoe choice is: don’t sweat looks! While it may feel great to have a snazzy piece of footwear, most people won’t be looking at your feet while you’re jogging on the road, trail, or gym. Save flashy sneakers for outings and other occasions. Choose a running shoe that will protect your foot by offering it the support and comfort it needs.
If you have any questions on footwear or struggle with ongoing foot issues when you run, you should consider consulting with an experienced podiatrist in Salt Lake City. Elizabeth Auger can perform a full exam, measure your foot from multiple angles, and help you select the optimal footwear for your body, your lifestyle, and your medical needs.
You can call (801) 396-9743 at any time, 24/7, to book an appointment — often on the same day! So whether you have medical concerns or just want your running shoes to feel better, check in with an expert who can put you on the right track.