Running Shoes 101

“O, what’s in a name? That which we call a shoe. By any other name would smell as stinky.” -Shakespeare (kind of)

If you’ve ever walked into our store, you may have noticed that we have quite a few shoes on our shoe wall. So many that it can be overwhelming at times.

And if you were to ask one of us what shoe is the best one on the wall, we would most likely say something like, “All of the shoes that we carry are good shoes, but not every shoe is a good shoe for every person. If there was one shoe that worked for everyone, we wouldn’t need 70 pairs of shoes on the wall.”

So what makes every shoe different? Here are a few things to keep in mind as you are looking for your new running shoe:

Neutral vs. Stability: Overall, running shoes can be divided into these two categories. There are certainly subcategories within these two, but we are going to keep this pretty broad for now. A stability shoe will generally have a denser foam or firmer piece that sits in the midsole anywhere from the heel to just under the arch of the shoe. For a long time this has been associated with providing more arch support than a neutral shoe, but it doesn’t. The purpose of that material is to help the shoe wear more evenly over time for someone whose foot tends to roll excessively inward, also known as overpronation. Everybody’s feet pronate or supinate (roll out) to some degree. A neutral shoe basically does not have that extra material on the inside.

The Last: The Last is the form each company uses to build its shoes around, and it varies from brand to brand. Some shoes have more of an even fit throughout (rectangular shape) while others may have more space in the front and narrow down toward the heel (triangular shape). Part of what we look at in the fit process is the shape of your foot, and we try to match that with the shape of the shoes we bring out.

Size: Most of you, if not all, know that shoes are sized and have a general idea of what size you wear. And as strange as it is, a size 9 from one brand will fit differently than a size 9 from another brand. Not only that, when a shoe updates it may fit larger or smaller from the previous year’s model. Your foot may have changed slightly since your last pair of shoes, but more often than not it is just that the shoe is fitting differently. It’s great to have an idea of what size you wear, but just remember that size is a somewhat fluid thing based on the make of the shoe.

Arch Support: The truth is, most shoes don’t have great arch support in them. As I mentioned above, stability shoes were associated with having more of an arch in them for a long time. But they don’t. Some brands have an archier feel inside of the shoe, but the insole is generally just a piece of foam and the strobel board underneath is completely flat. If you are looking for some arch support in a shoe, a good insole is the best way to go.

Drop: You may hear us mention something about a shoe having a lower or higher drop than another shoe. The drop of a shoe is the difference in height from the heel of the shoe to the toebox. Most traditional shoes have your heel sitting about 12 mm higher than the toe. With the minimalist movement over the past few years, some shoes companies have lowered this offset with some brands even having a 0-drop from the heel to the toe. There is no one offset that works perfectly for everyone. Injuries and personal preference play a large part in the type of drop you want or need.   

Color: The vast majority of the time, we only carry one color of any given shoe. Our priority is to help you find a shoe that provides you with the right support for your foot and is comfortable. Color is something we tend to not think about in the fit process unless it is brought up. We’re happy to try to help you find a color you like, but generally what you see on the wall is what we have!

I hope this brief guide to shoes was helpful, and hopefully we’ll see you soon! Happy Running!

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