The running shoe you (actually) need

A revolution in shoe design has led to big changes in what runners wear.

One of the most common questions I hear runners ask, is what kind of shoes are best for me? The honest answer is that there’s really no right or wrong answer. 

In the last decade, there has been a shift from the majority of runners feeling comfortable in what’s called a stable shoe to the majority of runners feeling comfortable in a neutral shoe.

As someone who works in run specialty, I’m a firm believer in going to a run specialty shop and getting your feet looked at. Getting your gait analyzed can help you figure out which shoe is best for you.

The shift

In the early 2000s, nearly 75 percent of runners were wearing either a stable or motion-controlling shoe. Now, twenty years later, almost 75 percent of runners are wearing a neutral shoe.

Around 2010, we had the “minimalist revolution.” The book Born to Run came out and brands began building less stable and less motion controlled shoes. Many runners opted to minimal shoes like Vibram’s FiveFingers or even no shoes! Unfortunately, minimal shoes aren’t for everyone — and many people got injured.

The revolution, however, lead to an increase in the production of neutral shoes and less motion controlled and stability shoes. Keep in mind; we can break shoes down to three different types and ultimately, one will work best for you.

The 3 major shoe types

  • Motion-controlled. As their name implies, these shoes control the motion of the foot. There are pieces in a motion-controlled shoe that help prevent extreme pronation.

  • Stability running shoes have less support than motion-controlled shoes, but still protect the foot from pronating or rolling inward.

  • Neutral running shoes have no stabilization and allow the foot to move and flex as it would naturally. They don't change anything.

Pronation — how much is okay?

Almost every runner pronates. Whether you over-pronate or under pronate, all runners pronate. It’s normal. What we really want to watch out for is extreme and excessive pronation, which can lead to injuries in the IT band or knees.

What’s best for me?

Go to your local run specialty store and have a professional look at your feet. Taking online quizzes isn't going to look at your foot directly. Your foot and gait are unique to you.

These days, most people that need a motion-controlled shoe are already using custom orthotics or finding themselves with a lot of issues.  If you think you “need” a motion-controlled shoe, I highly suggest getting a second or third opinion from someone in run specialty or a doctor.

Signs you need a stability shoe

  • Wear on the inside (known as the medial) side of the shoe

  • You have IT band or knee issues — just because you have lower arches or “flat feet” doesn’t mean you need a stability shoe.

Can everyone benefit from more support?

In a word, no.

If you are in a shoe that has too much support, you’ll find yourself also getting knee pain or IT band problems. A sign a shoe is too supportive for you is wear on the outside as well as IT band, knee, or hip pain.

Keep in mind, there is no right or wrong running shoe, just what is best for you. Every runner pronates to some degree, but it’s essential to figure out the right balance of shoes to meet your gait.

And just because you wear a stable shoe, doesn’t mean you need to “correct your form,” it’s just what works for you.

— Hollie