Compare Running Shoes by
These 10 Features

If you want to compare running shoes, there is a lot to consider.  Selecting the best women’s running shoe for maximum comfort, support, safety and style is difficult.

There are hundreds of options and it is difficult to determine the differences between them if you don’t know specifically what you are comparing. This guide will teach you what to look for so that you can make an educated decision when selecting the best running shoes for your next 300 miles.

How to Compare Running Shoes:

The best advice I ever received when buying running shoes is this: choose the shoe you feel the least on your feet.  Anything you feel around your foot will become greatly pronounced during your training runs or races.

1. Sizing

This is not always considered a comparison point for shoes because many people assume that they should order the same size as their other shoes. This often leads to merchandise returns, since women’s running shoes tend to run a bit smaller than dress shoes. It is always better to run in shoes that are slightly too big than slightly too small, so always go up in size.

You want to have about a thumb’s width of breathing room between your big toe and the tip of your shoe. This allows your foot to expand from swelling during long runs without causing discomfort or blisters.

If you compare running shoes and shop in a shoe store, allow the staff to measure your feet and select the best size for you. If you shop online, use the measurements and other tools available to help you select the best size. Check the return policy before buying just in case you need to make a return or request an exchange. Some shoe stores, whether online or not, allow you to actually run in the shoes for up to 30 days and still return them if they don’t work out.

2. Heel

Some runners like to wear their shoes so loose the shoe slips off the heel. Other like a good snug fit. If you like a snug fit, you don’t want it to fit too tight or you will end up with blisters, so there is a bit of a balancing act to the selection process. You may also want a softer, cushioned heel if your feet tend to blister easily. When you compare running shoes, make sure to try new running shoes on with the type of sock that you will wear on your runs. The thickness of the sock can change the fit of the heel.

3. Mid-Foot Volume

Your level of comfort and performance will be affected by the amount of cushioning in the middle of your foot. Medium volume typically offers adequate support for most women, but you may need higher volume to help your feet roll and strike the ground properly. Shoes that offer very little mid-foot volume may give you the feel of running barefoot, but they may not be supportive enough for your feet.

When you compare running shoes, your choice of cushioning depends on what the shoes will be used for. Generally speaking, more mid-foot volume shoes are good for training runs. Lower mid-foot volume shoes can be good for races to decrease bulk.

4. Forefoot

The amount of cushioning offered on the forefoot is not always the same as the amount of cushioning offered in the middle of the foot. Depending how your foot rolls and pushes off of the ground, you may want more or less volume in this area. Many women’s running shoes offer medium cushioning in the forefoot.

5. Toe-Box Height

This refers to the amount of space between the top of your toes and your shoes. The toe box is the front portion of your running shoe that holds your toes. Ideally, when you compare running shoes, you will find shoes that have adequate height to ensure your toes will not be irritated or rubbed by the upper materials. If you cannot find running shoes in your size that give the height you need, look for flexible, soft materials that will not rub against your toes or otherwise cause discomfort.

6. Arch Structure

Do you have a high arch or a flat foot with little to no arch? You may just have a normal foot with a reasonable arch. When you compare running shoes, your preferred running shoes should be made for the specific structure of your arch. This is the only way to ensure that they provide adequate support and comfort for your foot during intense runs.

7. Shoe Shape

Have you ever tried on a pair of women’s running shoes and just found them uncomfortable in general? The problem was likely a shoe shape that did not fit the shape of your foot properly. From highly curved to semi-curved and straight, there are different shapes for every shape of foot.

When trying on the running shoes, try to pay attention to how they feel rather than how they look to find any areas that could potentially be problems during your daily runs.

8. Pronation Control

When your foot strikes the ground during running, the ankle rolls inward as the foot rolls forward toward the toes. This is the body’s natural way of distributing the impact of the ground strike while balancing the body.

If you have a normal or neutral pronation, your foot rolls inward approximately 15%. This is the most common pronation type for runners. If your feet under-pronate, you roll less than 15% and force the outside edge of your foot to absorb more of the impact. If your feet over-pronate, then you roll more than 15% and place more of the impact on the inner edge of your foot.

Motion-control running shoes are the best option if you over-pronate. They will help support your feet to minimize the roll. If you under-pronate, you need a shoe that is cushioned in the right places to encourage a more natural foot roll with each strike.

9. Features

What are the outsoles, insoles and uppers made from? The materials and construction methods used to create a pair of running shoes may determine how long they last, how comfortable they are during intense runs, and how they feel on your feet in general.

10. Heel-to-Toe Drop

Have you noticed that some running shoes elevate your heels over your toes more than others? This design may help some runners, but others prefer less drop and fewer stacks so that they feel more natural running. This is an issue of comfort as well as an issue of maintaining control over the foot and maximizing safety during runs.

A lower heel-to-toe drop can decrease the bulk in your shoe and offer you more control over your feet while running.  However, having a lower drop can place more impact on your Achilles tendon and calf muscles.

I personally alternate shoes with varying heel-to-drop ratios. I prefer a lower drop because they are less bulky. My calf muscles are sorer after running in lower drop shoes, so then I switch to bulkier, higher drop shoes on my next run because of this.

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