How to Choose Running Shoes

How to Start Running

Whether you’re just beginning running or are training for a race, finding the best running shoes for you can be a daunting process. Your running shoes provide a base for your body to land on while you run; they can help prevent injuries and make your run overall more enjoyable.

These are our top five tips to choosing the best running shoes:

  1. Plan Ahead: Looking to get into a consistent running routine? Or maybe take on your first race? No matter your goals, create a plan around the surface you want to train on and how you want your shoes to feel while you’re running.
  2. Get Started By Walking: Running shoes are great to walk in, and walking is often a segue for beginning runners as you feel out the way your body moves for prolonged periods of time.
  3. Learn How You Move: The natural alignment of your joints and the degree to which you pronate can make a big difference in how you search for shoes to support your body. Using our in-store fit process or at-home wear analysis can help you determine how much you pronate and what kind of running shoe to buy.
  4. Find Your Fit: A good rule of thumb to determine that you’re wearing the right size is to keep a thumb’s width of space between the end of your toes and the tip of the shoe. Your foot should feel secure from heel to toe, without any squeezing or pinching. Pay attention to the way your foot aligns over the midsole to determine if you need a wide size shoe.
  5. Put On Some Miles: Once you find shoes with the support you need and a comfortable fit, hit the road! The average running shoe lasts about 300 miles for regular runners.

1. Plan Ahead

If you prefer an in-person fitting process, our highly trained Outfitters can help you find the perfect pair of shoes for your specific gait pattern and foot shape through our unique fit process. You can schedule a free, socially distanced fitting appointment at your local Fleet Feet anytime.

Want to shop around online before you buy? No problem. Here’s a few things to think about before you decide on your newest pair of running shoes:

HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR6


  • Surface. Do you plan to run on the roads, the trails, or maybe a combination of the two? Road shoes are designed to cushion your foot against a harder surface and propel each step forward to keep you moving comfortably. Trail shoes offer similar support and cushioning, but often feature grippy lugs on the outsole and protective tech to help you handle technical terrain. Read more on the difference between road shoes and trail shoes in our article: Trail Running Shoes vs. Road Running Shoes
  • Cushion. Your running shoes should feel good from the get-go. More often than not, the shoes that feel the most comfortable are the shoes that are best for you. To narrow down what shoes you want to shop for or try on, think about how much cushion you’d like to feel underfoot. Do you like the plush feeling of a cushioned shoe? Or the neutral footbed of a neutral shoe?
  • Support. Be sure to consider the support your unique habitual motion path may need. If you find that you pronate or supinate, have a high or low arch, you want to find the best running shoe for your foot shape that will provide your foot the support they need.

Running on the Trail

A woman runs on a trail in Saucony Peregrine 11 trail shoes.

Finding the right trail shoes can make a big difference in your confidence on the trail, even if it’s your first trail run. You can find trails in all shapes and sizes, from flat gravel paths to technical mountain terrain. Well-fitting trail shoes provide durable grip and weather proofing so you can tackle variable conditions, and will have enough cushioning to support the trail running technique necessary to effectively and safely.

Once you find the right shoes, prepare to hit the trails with the proper gear and safety tips you need to have an enjoyable run.

Read more about starting trail running in our Beginners Trail Guide.

2. Get Started By Walking

Walking is a great way to get active and even to slowly work yourself into running. While some brands do create specialized walking shoes, running shoes are equally good to walk in. The cushioning and close fit of a running shoe provides support to your foot as it moves, regardless if you are walking or running.

Read more about using running shoes for walking.

3. Learn How You Move

Whether you come in for an in-person fitting or choose running shoes from the comfort of your home, getting a better understanding of the way your body prefers to move is essential to finding the best running shoes for you.

As you start to look for running shoes, you’ll see a word pop up: pronation. Pronation is the natural inward rolling of the ankle and foot while you walk or run. Depending on the degree to which your foot rolls inward or outward while you move, your shoe may wear unevenly or lack the support your foot needs.

One way to determine your pronation from home is to look at the bottom of a pair of well-worn shoes. Here are the three broad categories you may fall into based on the wear pattern of your shoes:

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Basic Pronation: Rolling motion normalizes along the center of the foot

  • Wear is centralized to the ball of the foot and portions of the heel.
  • Consider a neutral running shoe.

Overpronation: Rolling motion normalizes along the inner edge of the foot

Supination: Rolling motion normalizes along the outer edge of the foot

  • Wear is heaviest along the outside edge of the shoe; the outer ball of the foot and the outside of the heel.
  • Consider neutral running shoes or running shoes with greater cushioning along the outsole.

If you can get to a local running store, they can help you figure out if you pronate excessively or if you fall into the average range.

4. Find Your Fit

First and foremost, running shoes should feel good as soon as you put them on, no break-in period required.

When you walk or run in them, your foot should feel secure and snug with no slipping or sliding at the heel, midfoot or forefoot. The upper should hug your midfoot and create a supportive feel, while the toe box provides plenty of space for your forefoot to move naturally.

If you notice your foot spilling over the side of the midsole, that could be an indicator that you need a wide size shoe. Men’s wide sizing typically comes in 2E and 4E, while women’s are typically size D.

A good rule of thumb (pun intended) to determine that you’re wearing the right size is to keep a thumb’s width of space between the end of your toes and the tip of the shoe.

Most Common Types of Running Shoes

With these things in mind, here are some details about the most common types of support and cushioning available in running shoes:

A person wearing the On Cloud X running shoes

Neutral Running Shoes

Neutral runners evenly distribute weight down the center of the shoe and tend to have medium-height arches.

If you find that the wear pattern on your old shoes is centralized on the ball of the foot and heel, you may want to look into shoes with neutral support. These shoes do not include the added support of stability shoes, instead neutral shoes focus on absorbing shock to help you put on miles comfortably.

Best Neutral Running Shoes
A runner wearing the Brooks Adrenaline 21

Stability Running Shoes

Runners whose feet roll inward (pronate) or outward (supinate) as they move benefit the most from stability shoes. About 27 percent of individuals scanned during the fit id® process have a flat foot that warrants more stability.

This excess movement isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is important to keep in mind as you shop for shoes to walk or run in. Stability shoes incorporate medial posts, varying foam densities and other technology to help guide your foot along a more neutral path of motion, taking potential strain away from the knees and hips.

Best Stability Running Shoes
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Cushioned Running Shoes

Runners who heavily heel strike or have a high arch may benefit the most from a cushioned shoe. About 43 percent of individuals scanned during the fit id® process have a high arch that warrants a cushioned shoe.

In general, cushioned shoes are great for runners of all levels as they deliver a super-soft ride and smooth transitions. Adding a cushioned shoe into your rotation can aid in recovery runs, make long walks more comfortable, or take the pressure off your feet during a long day at work. Shoe models employ adaptable foam technologies to contour to the pressure points of your foot and provide the greatest comfort.

Best Cushioned Running Shoes

5. Put On Some Miles

People often ask, how long do running shoes last? While the answer may vary across models, a good pair of running shoes generally lasts between 300-500 miles, or three to four months of regular running. Making sure you replace your shoes when they get worn out is important for preventing injury and maintaining a comfortable fit while you run. Plus, who doesn’t love a new pair of shoes!

You can further customize the fit of your running shoes by changing how you lace them. This can help your shoe hug the contours of your foot as you need.

Read our article: How to Lace Your Running Shoes for a More Comfortable Fit.

It’s hard to know if you’ll love your new running shoes without putting in some miles. If you purchase your shoes at Fleet Feet and don’t love the way they look, feel or perform, bring them back for a full refund. Even better, you can qualify for free shipping with online orders over $99. That’s our Happy Fit Guarantee.

By Sarah Moxham. Sarah has run competitively for over 12 years. When she isn't working as the Digital Copywriter for FleetFeet.com, she can be found nerding out over art and listening to True Crime podcasts.

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