How to find the best running shoes for your feet

Whether you’re jogging around the block or training for a half-marathon, the right pair of runners can make a huge difference to your comfort – and your injury risk.

One of the (many) beautiful things about running is it requires very little equipment.

Sure you can get all fancy and kit yourself out with a GPS tracker, heart rate monitor and so on – but really, all most of us need is a decent pair of runners.

That is why it’s worth putting some effort into getting a pair suited to you.

Why well-fitted runners are important

A 2020 review of research found the type and fit of a shoe can influence running biomechanics, with a well-fitted pair able to influence performance and injury variables.

“Our feet endure high levels of stress when we walk or run,” Up and Running Podiatry sports podiatrist Alec Hill says.

“A good pair of running shoes will help reduce stress in the feet and provide an increased level of comfort when you are on the move.”

And expert Chris Wight says a poorly fitted running shoe can create discomfort or additional stress in a particular area – most likely in the foot or ankle.

“Poor fit can potentially create friction, which can lead to blisters, as well as not providing the foot with enough space to work efficiently,” says Chris, who owns specialist running shoe store The Running Company.

How to choose the best running shoes for your feet

Chris recommends trying a variety of runners to get the right fit.

And take other people’s reviews with a grain of salt.

“It doesn’t mean what they experienced in the shoe is what you’ll experience,” he says.

Alec says the best way to get an accurate fit is to visit a specialist running shoe store, “where the staff can accurately measure your feet and allow you to try a range of models on the treadmill”.

Chris says it’s important to provide your fitting specialist with as much detail as possible, including shoes that have or haven’t worked for you in the past, your injury history, how you are using the shoes and how often.

“The most important thing is to get something that is suitable for how you move,” he says.

Your running shoes should typically be a larger size than your normal shoes.

“With the force you’re putting through your foot when you run, your foot expands a bit, so you need to have a bit more space to allow for the high level of impact,” says Chris.

How long should running shoes last?

A range of factors affect shoe life, including the runner’s weight, how much running vs walking they do, and the types of materials used.

“The old rule of thumb used to be around 800km, but a lot of shoes have become lighter and a lot softer – that gives a lot better running experience,” Chris says.

“But what we are seeing is a lot of the shoes aren’t quite as durable now as what they were around 10 years ago, so we’re seeing more around the 600km mark for some of those shoes.”

If you’re not one for counting kilometres, go by your shoe’s cushioning.

“The thing that limits the life of the shoe or the effectiveness of the shoe is the cushioning,” Chris says.

“Typically the sole is a lot more durable than the cushioning, so if the sole is wearing flat, you’ve probably already worn out the cushioning.

“If you put your hand in the shoe and the cushioning under the ball feels firm, you’ve probably already squashed that down with the repetition of running.”

Written by Claire Burke.