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How to Know Which Running Shoes to Buy

Whether you’re hitting the asphalt or the trails, the mountains, the beach or somewhere in between for your run, there are a lot of different factors that go into picking the right shoe.  Foot type, posture, natural bony alignment, running style and running goals should all be considered. With the boundless array of shoes available, we asked physical therapist Matt Erbe for his advice.

  1. What is the best way to figure out what type of shoes are best for me?

To have your feet and running style properly assessed it’s important to visit a store that specializes in running and running shoes. They can observe your gait and help you decide if you need shoes made for overpronation, neutrality, arch issues, motion control, stability or any other specialization.  If you’re already in physical therapy for injury rehabilitation, a physical therapist can perform a thorough assessment to determine what type of shoe you should be in, if a change in footwear is necessary or if you need strength or stretching exercises.

  1. Where should I go to buy running shoes?

Stores that specialize in running and running shoes will be knowledgeable and able to talk about the subtleties of products, such as the differences between each brand and style of shoe. Locally I recommend Charlotte Running Company or Tri Sports.  Once you know what style of shoe to wear you can really buy your shoes anywhere, including the large sports stores or even online if you find a good deal.

  1. Does the brand matter?

It can, but what really matters is the style of shoe.  Do you need barefoot, cushioning, neutrality or stability? Once you have a better idea of what type of shoe you need you can pick between brands.  Each brand of shoe makes at least one shoe if not multiple shoes that fit within each style.  Some brands fit differently so there, is no perfect brand for everyone.  I always recommend you try on the style of shoe that meets your need in each brand and then pick based on comfort.

  1. Is trying shoes on a good way to help decide which to purchase?

In my opinion, trying on the shoes is the only way to pick a pair.  Once you are fit into the correct style of shoe you need to make shoe the brand of shoe you pick feels good on your feet.  If they don’t feel good in the store, they aren’t going to feel good on the road.  You shouldn’t require a break-in period for your shoes.  They should be comfortable from Day One. 

  1. Are the most expensive shoes usually the best?

High cost doesn’t always equal better running shoes.  Some of the most expensive shoes might not fit your foot correctly or may not have the correct amount of stability for your foot and body.  Sometimes the most expensive shoes are priced for the way they look rather than comfort.  Your decision should be made on type of shoe that works for you, with the shoes that feel best, at a price point you can afford.


Matthew Erbe DPT, ATC, is a senior Physical Therapist with OrthoCarolina Sports Medicine Center. Sports physical therapists are able to provide full assessments to help determine the best running shoe fit for individual needs. 

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