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Men's Asics Gel Nimbus
Men's Asics Gel Nimbus

How to Buy Running Shoes

Thinking about hitting the pavement or the trails to shed a few extra pounds? Contemplating your first marathon? You'll need to find the best pair of running shoes you can afford. So, before laying out the cash, make sure you know the specifics on what makes the perfect shoe for your needs.

The Basics

Step 1Foot Shape and Movement: Determine the actual shape of your foot, as different types of shoes are made for different kinds of feet. Are you an overpronator, an underpronator or simply neutral? Are you essentially flat-footed, or do you have excessively high arches? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you select the most supportive shoe for your running style.
Step 2Weight: Honestly assessing your weight is critical here. Heavier people put more pressure on the shoe. As a result, the shoe must be capable of absorbing greater force. Your body will adapt to the shoe, and it will be reflected in your running form. Therefore, it's essential that you find the right support for your body type.
Step 3Terrain: Are you doing some easy jogging on a treadmill, or are you heading out for a little off-road action? Understanding the surface on which you intend to run will help you understand what type of tread and shoe construction you need.
Step 4Duration: If you're only going for a brief jog a couple times a week, you will need a different shoe than if you're going to be training daily for a marathon. Know that all running shoes should be replaced after about 300 miles of running.
Step 5Budget: If you're just starting out and plan on doing a small amount of running, investing in a high-end shoe loaded with stability components and motion control makes little sense. However, going too cheap could cost you in medical bills and injury. Develop a realistic budget that allows for you to buy a quality shoe that will defend your body and preserve your health.

The Lingo

Insole: A removable foam insert, also called the sock liner, that sits under your foot in the shoe. Often conforms to the shape of your foot for a better fit.
Outsole: The sneaker treads. Made from either carbon rubber, which is more durable and traction based, or blown rubber, which is generally lighter, softer and more flexible.
Midsole: The foam layer above the outsole that gives the shoe its cushioning and support. Some manufacturers inject plastic inserts into the foam for additional support and performance.
Upper: The top part of the sneaker that gives it comfort and style. Be sure to find shoes that allow your toes free movement, have a breathable mesh and do not have seams that rub against your foot.
Wet Test: A test to see the type of foot you have. Simply wet the bottoms of your feet with water and stand on a cement surface, then carefully step back and observe.
Overpronation: When your foot strike, or the way your foot lands, hits on the outside of the foot and rolls inward. The wet test will show the heel clearly with a thick line on the outside and middle of the foot up to your forefoot and toes. Runners with flat feet (severe overpronators) and extremely low arches tend to fit this category. Look for shoes with good stability and motion control for proper support.
Underpronation: When your foot strike is primarily on the extreme outside of your foot and on the forefoot. The wet test will reveal almost all toes and forefoot, with a thin line running down the outside of the foot. No arches seen here. To take the place of the high arch, find a shoe with lots of cushioning.

The Experts

Fitness magazine calls the Brooks Ghost 2 the best running shoe on the market. With extra cushion in the forefoot and tiny fluid packs added to make impact more bearable, the Ghost 2 is designed to cradle your foot without being too heavy or clunky.
Runner's World says that the Asics Gel Kayano 16 offers foot-hugging support and provides more than enough impact protection to serve as an everyday training shoe. Testers loved its supportive landing pad and true fit.

The Brands

Nike offers a huge selection ranging from the affordable to the elite. Runners with wider feet, beware, as the shoes tend to be a touch narrow.
Adidas produces performance shoes that range in price. Mid-range shoes are used for jogging and competition.
Brooks A high-quality shoe used by serious runners. Each model has a specific target audience and is designed for a certain type of foot.
Asics An industry leader in performance and variety. Runners just starting out or elite athletes will both find what they need.
Saucony A shoe used by avid runners, the brand has a loyal following and strong record for performance.
Mizuno A sleek series that is coming of age in the running world. A good buy for a new runner, as most models conform well to the individual's foot shape.
New Balance Good entry-level shoes, but exceptional high-end products. A quality investment for those looking to increase mileage and performance.
Zoot Sports A high-end training and competition series generally marketed for triathletes.

The Price

$: An entry-level shoe design for basic support. Ranges from $40 to $65. Try the Asics Gel 150 TR.
$$: A mid-range shoe for runners who have learned their foot type and can be more specific in their needs. Good performance and durability. Ranges from $70 to $100. Try the Brooks Defyance 2.
$$$: A high-end shoe that offers exceptional performance and design. Made for the serious runner who intends on challenging the shoe almost daily; $100 and up. Try the New Balance WR1225.