Knowing how to choose the best running shoes for beginners can be tricky. Luckily there are some simple tips that you can follow to help you pick the perfect pair.
I remember when the time came to pick my first pair of proper running shoes. I had signed up for my first half marathon so I decided to invest in a pair so my feet felt supported throughout my training.
But when I entered the running shoe store I was so overwhelmed by the amount of choice on offer. I literally had no idea where to start or what shoe was best for me.
When you’re a beginner runner, picking your first pair of running shoes can feel exhausting. There are lots of things to think about and if you don’t do your research, you risk buying a pair that do not fit.
Fast forward 10 years and I’ve bought many pairs of running shoes over the decade. And I’m happy to say that I’m much more confident when it comes to choosing running shoes.
So how do you choose the perfect pair of running shoes? What are the best running shoes for beginners?
The truth is this all depends on a number of factors that are unique to you and how you run. There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to running shoes.
Here are my top tips on how to choose the best running shoes for beginners.
Understand foot arch types
Your foot arch will impact how you run (your gait) and the amount of impact forces that are placed on the base of your foot when you run.
There are three different types of foot arches: normal, high and low.
If you are unsure what your foot arch type is, then the easiest way to check is looking at an imprint of your foot.
You can do this by wetting both feet and standing on a paper bag for about 10 seconds. Once you step off the bag, look at the imprint of your foot made on the bag.
Here’s what to look out for in order to identify your foot arch type:
- Normal foot arch. If the middle portion of your footprint is about halfway filled, with a curve along the arch, this means you have normal foot arches.
- High foot arch. If the only part of your footprint shown is your heel, the ball of your foot and your toes, this means you have high foot arches.
- Low foot arch. If your footprint looks like a complete foot and it is totally filled in without much of an inward curve in the centre, you like have low foot arches (also known as flat feet.
Determine your gait
Now you understand your foot arch type, you can use this information to determine your gait. Your gait is how your feet behave when you run.
Gait is really important when it comes to choosing running shoes as each running shoe is designed to accommodate certain gait types.
Here are the four types of gait:
- Severe overpronation. This is when your heel hits the ground first and then rolls inward excessively. This is normally because your ankle cannot stabilise your body properly. This is typically seen in runners with flat feet (low arches). The best type of shoe for an overpronator is a motion control shoe.
- Mild overpronation. This is when the outside of your heel hits the ground first and then rolls inward slightly, absorbing the shock. This is typically seen in runners with a low to medium arch. The best type of shoe for an mild overpronator is a stability shoe.
- Neutral. This is when the middle part of the heel hits the ground first and then the foot rolls inward slightly, absorbing the shock. This is typically seen in runners with a medium arch. The best type of shoe for a neutral runner is a neutral cushioning shoe.
- Underpronation (supination). This is when the outside of your heel hits the ground first and then stays on the outside of your foot through the entire footstrike. This is typically seen in runners with high arches. The best type of shoe for underpronators is a neutral cushioning shoe.
Understand different types of running shoe
Once you have understood your foot arch type and your gait (how you run), you are ready to find a running shoe that fits your needs.
As mentioned above, there are different types of running shoes that have been designed to support your feet in various ways.
Here are the main types of running shoe. In order to identify the different types, look at the bottom of the shoe:
- Motion control shoes. These have a wide and straight shape to them. They are designed for flat footed runners who overpronate. This type of shoe will prevent your foot from rolling in too far. It will also give your foot maximum support and the most control.
- Stability shoes. These have a semi-curved shape to them. If you have a normal arch and pronate only slightly, then this is the shoe for you. Stability shoes offer a good balance between cushioning and support.
- Neutral cushioning shoes. These shoes will have the most curved shape to them. If you have a high arched foot and supinate, you should choose this type of shoe. Cushioned shoes absorb the impact that your foot does not naturally absorb.
If you are still unsure from the above what your gait style is, then you can get it tested at a local running shoe store. More on that below.
Visit your local running store
Now you have some idea of the type of running shoe you are looking for, head to your local running store.
I suggest heading to a store that specifically sells running gear and shoes, or has an area in the store that focuses on running gear.
This is because you are more likely to get the support and advice you need, and the staff are more likely trained on how to identify the correct running shoe for you.
In order to help you get the best shoe for you, go armed with answers to the following questions:
- How long have you been running?
- What shoes have you run in in the past? Do you like running in them?
- Where do you do most of your running?
- How many miles a week do you run on average?
- Are you training for a race?
- Are you aware of any foot problems?
You might also consider taking your old running shoes with you to the store. You can sometimes tell from your shoes how you run (e.g. one side of the shoe may be more worn than the other).
Salespeople at a good running shoe store will ask you these questions as a minimum. So if you don’t get asked these questions when you visit a store, I suggest you look elsewhere for shoes.
The salesperson should also measure your feet. Make sure he/she measures both feet as one foot is almost always slightly bigger than the other. If this is the case, make sure the shoe fits the bigger foot so you don’t lose toenails during your run!
Once you have answered the above questions and the salesperson has measured your feet, they will be able to provide you with a range of shoes from different brands.
How to choose the best running shoes for beginners
Now it’s time for the fun part – trying on the shoes! It’s easy to get carried away during this process and simply select the shoe that looks the best or most fashionable.
I get it – we all have our preferences when it comes to brands, colours and styles. However, when it comes to running shoes, substance is much more important than style.
After all, there’s no use buying a pair of running shoes that look amazing but fit poorly.
When you try on the shoes, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is there enough room at the end of the shoe? A good general rule of thumb is to have about a thumb’s width between the top of your toe and the end of the shoe.
- Is there enough room either side of your foot? You will want enough room for your foot to spread out to allow for swelling when you run, especially during the summer months.
- Is there any slipping in the heel? You won’t want too much room at the back of the shoe.
It goes without saying but make sure you wear socks when you try on the shoes.
Most running shoe stores will also get you to run on a treadmill in your shoes so you can test them out in store to make sure they fit correctly.
Don’t be scared of this process – it has not been designed to catch you out!
The salesperson will simply watch you run on a treadmill for roughly 10-30 seconds so they can get more of an idea of how you run in the shoes. They may also film it and play it back to you (with your permission, of course).
Tips on how to choose the best running shoes for beginners
When you have selected the best shoe for you – congratulations! You’ve officially bought your first pair of proper running shoes!
Here are some more tips to help you choose the best running shoes:
- Go for a test run. Brands like Brooks offer a 90-day guarantee on their shoes which is great if you’d like a bit of time to test out your shoes. Check out my review of the Brooks Adrenaline GT19 running shoe if you’re in the market for a Brooks shoe.
- Opt for comfort over style. A shoe may look fashionable, but the fit and feel of it on your foot is what matters. Don’t compromise fit over style, you’ll soon regret it on that long run.
- Haggle a discount. A proper pair of running shoes can set you back between £80-£140. If you’re on a budget, some running shoe stores offer discounts to run leaders and run coaches. If you show them your UK Athletics license, you may be able to get some money off so try it and see.
- Don’t buy new shoes just before a race. As a general rule of thumb, wear your shoes in for a good few months before wearing them during a race.
I hope these tips on how to choose the best running shoes for beginners have helped you understand what to look out for when picking your first pair of proper running shoes.