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Finding the Perfect Pair of Running Shoes

Pascal Finette is a Strava runner and serious fan of footwear. He explains his thinking around finding that perfect pair of running shoes.

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m obsessed with running; the science behind it and the way gear can enhance or hinder your performance. I’ve had my running form evaluated, attended running clinics, dabbled with barefoot running – all with the goal of becoming a better runner.  And through this process I’ve learned to love and hate running shoes.

After pondering a footwear question from my newbie runner friend, I find that the confusion persists, even for more serious runners. There is a growing body of research which shows that a) all the high-tech in modern running shoes (especially all the pronation control) is not helping at all with injury rates and b) the high heel-to-toe drop design, which is common in a built-up stability shoe, isn’t helping you run healthier, or achieve better form. Physiotherapist Blaise Dubois goes into detail about this in this fantastic podcast courtesy of Runblogger.

So what to do? The best advice I can give you when purchasing a pair of running shoes is:

1. Go neutral (and avoid most of the tech that comes in the more built-up shoes these days)

2. Have a low(er) heel-to-toe drop (a lot of build-up shoes have a heel-to-toe drop in the 12-14mm range, which is a bit like running in high heels – not good!) I would shoot for something in the 4mm range

3. Get something light - I personally found that anything beyond 10 ounces (in a man’s size 9) feels heavy and impacts my form

4. Feels most comfortable on your foot when you run (that is the only reason why you would want to get on a treadmill in a store)

There is some interesting research which concludes that the shoes that *feel* best are the ones which work best for you – allow yourself to trust the feedback your body gives you. The Science of Running blog has some interesting insights into the topic if you’re interested in further reading. And if you’re truly obsessive, check out the fantastic article series on The Science of Sport blog.

It goes without saying, shoes are a very personal thing. For example, I don’t fit into any Nike shoes (as much as I like some of them). It’s best to go to a well stocked shop and simply try some out. You can do some good research at some of the better online retailers as well (my favorite running retailer  lists heel-to-toe differentials for pretty much all their shoes). It also depends on where and what kind of running you want to do – road, trail, fast, lower or higher miles. I currently have four pairs of shoes that I use for different purposes. They all have a very low heel-to-toe drop in common and are decidedly low-tech (they fall squarely into the racing flats category).

Now comes the disclaimer: This is all based on my personal observation and experimentation with my own running and helping friends on their quest to running fun. If you have any doubts, have known health issues, or any issues with your feet/bio-mechanics (e.g. are the soles of your shoes significantly more worn off on one side?), please do yourself a favor and get a couple of opinions and be careful!

Hope some of this helps narrow down your search. Happy running!

-Pascal

Got something to say? Have you stumbled upon a favorite pair of running shoes? Gear you can’t live without? Comment below for your spot at a guest blog.