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What You Need to Know About Running Shoes and Which One is Right for You!

I often get asked, "What kind of running shoe should I buy?" And my answer always is, "It depends." Running shoes can be the difference in preventing injury, improving running style, or reaching mileage goals. But each type of running shoe has a different purpose. Check out these four types of running shoes and learn about which shoe might suit you best.

Barefoot Running Shoes: A few years back this type of shoe was all the rage. You might remember them. They actually had toes. This shoe claimed that it improved balance, proprioception, and ability to feel the road. All of this is true, but this is not the shoe for everyone. Barefoot shoes offer very little support and fit more like a slipper. This can be a good shoe for someone who runs on their forefoot (toes or ball of the foot) but can be detrimental for someone who runs on the heels or has a very flat foot. Barefoot shoes have no heel lift. And as a result, in a person who heel strikes, this can over stretch the calf muscle and lead to Achilles tendon issues. Additionally if someone has a very flat foot with a weak arch, these shoes offer no arch support, putting the foot structures (such as the bones and plantar fascia ) at risk.

Neutral Running Shoes: These shoes are just that, neutral in the support. These shoes do not offer overwhelming arch support but also do have a supportive sole built in. So the foot is elevated in the heel area, but the arch is not as supported. This shoe is good for a runner who strikes the mid-foot, has little overpronation (flat foot), has strong hips, and a relatively neutral gait pattern. This shoe is not as light as the barefoot shoe, but still has a very light foam sole.

Stability Running Shoes: The stability running shoe is one of the most common supportive running shoe. This shoe offers greater arch support, a much stronger medial heel support and heavy foam, and usually limited flex in the base of the shoe. The toe box still features a decent toe break. This shoe is good for anyone who has history of ankle sprains, plantar fascitis, Achilles issues, hip pain, and knee pain. This is largely due to the support it offers the foot, helping to maintain a more neutral position to limit stress on the joints. Almost every major shoe manufacturer now offers some sort of stability running shoe.

Motion Control Running Shoes: This type of shoe offers a very rigid sole, and little motion in the mid-foot and toe box. It has very strong arch support and a built up heel base. This shoe is for someone with very unstable ankles, extreme overpronation or a much heavier person who requires support in the foot joints. These shoes are often much heavier than the neutral and barefoot running shoe, so sometimes running long distances in these shoes can put more stress on the hamstring and quads. This shoe is usually used for a novice runner with past injuries, who then will be transitioned to a stability shoe.

The best way to determine which shoe is right for you is to have a gait assessment. This can be completed on a treadmill or out in the "field." Being a runner myself, this is a service I find quite valuable and I have offered it to my clients over the years. It is best to have the assessment filmed, so the motions can be slowed and sped up to assess joint mobility. Additionally, many running shoe stores now also offer this service. But its best to have the assessment completed by a licensed specialist or run coach.

For more helpful tips and techniques for runners, visit my website at


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