Women who run more than 10-15 miles a week for training or exercise should invest in a good pair of running shoes. When you run, your feet absorb 2.5 times your body weight at every impact. Because of the immense stress on your feet, it’s important to find good, supportive running shoes to avoid repetitive-motion injuries and overuse strains. Not all running shoes are made alike, however and there are several things you need to know before you buy. Pronto’s Women’s Running Shoe Buying Guide will help you find the running shoe that’s the best fit for your feet.
Wet your foot and step onto a piece of paper or cardboard. If your foot has a large band connecting the ball to the heel, you have normal arches and don’t need a lot of running shoe technology. If you have a narrow band (or none at all), your foot is underpronated and you need extra cushioning. If your footprint is an outline of your entire foot, you have low arches and need running shoes with extra support.
Midsoles are the most important part of running shoes. Look for EVA for maximum cushioning or PU for maximum support. EVA may compress with use and PU running shoes have less flexibility.
The heel counter should fit snugly and prevent your foot from sliding inside the running shoes. Carbon heel counters provide more stability and blown rubber counters offer better cushioning. Look for women’s running shoes that have outsoles with split heels and flex ridges that encourage proper foot motion.
Runners with normal arches don’t need running shoes with medial posts and can choose shoes with straight or semicurved lasts. Overpronate runners should look for medial posts that don’t reduce flexibility and semicurved or curved lasts. Underpronate runners need the most medial support and should choose women’s running shoes with semicurved or curved lasts.
Choose cushioned running shoes if you have normal arches and simply need to protect your feet. Motion control running shoes are a must for runners with low arches to prevent ankle and foot injuries. Overpronate runners should choose women’s running shoes that offer a good balance of cushioning and support.
Ethylene and Vinyl Acetate foam, a light, flexible cushioning material sometimes used in the midsole of a running shoe. EVA may become compressed over time and become less effective.
The part of a running shoe’s upper that wraps around the base of the heel.
The inside line of a running shoe, from the heel of the foot to the toe. A last may be straight, semicurved or curved.
An extra support in the arch area of a running shoe, useful for those who have low foot arches.
The part of a running shoe between the outsole and the upper, which holds cushioning and support material.
The bottom of a running shoe; the part of a running shoe that makes contact with the ground.
A foot type where the outside of the heel makes contact with the ground and movement rolls inward toward the arch. Overpronate runners need motion control shoes for maximum support to avoid injuries.
Polyurethane foam, a dense, semi-flexible material sometimes used to provide cushioning in a running shoe.
A foot type where the body’s weight is carried on the outer edges of the feet. Those with supinate feet typically have low arches and need a running shoe with good arch support.
A foot type with a very high arch that carries much of the body’s weight. Underpronate runners need a combination of arch support and cushioning to prevent foot injuries.
The parts of a running shoe above the sole.
The key to finding your ideal running shoes is to figure out how your foot is shaped, as this determines the amount of support and cushioning you need. Competitive runners seek the advice of podiatrists and biomechanical specialists to fit their running shoes. If that’s beyond your means, wet your foot and then stride onto a piece of paper or cardboard. The shape that your foot makes tells you a lot about how you carry your weight when you run.
If your foot has a large band connecting the ball to the heel of your foot, you have a normal arch size. This type of footprint indicates a biometrically efficient runner who doesn’t need a lot of advanced running shoe technology.
If your foot shows a very narrow band (or no band at all) between the ball and the heel, you have a foot with a high arch, which is considered underpronated. If the outer edge of your sole bears your weight, your foot is supinated. Women’s running shoes for these foot types should offer extra cushioning, as the foot is not an effective shock absorber.
If your foot print looks like an outline of your entire foot, you have low arches. With this type of foot, a runner tends to strike on the outside of the heel and then roll inward, or overpronate. A running shoe with proper support is essential to prevent injuries to the foot and ankles over time.
The most important part of a running shoe is its midsole, which is the layer of material between the outsole (the part of a running shoe that contacts the ground) and the upper (the soft top part of a running shoe). Women’s running shoe midsoles provide support and cushioning for your feet, using lightweight ethylene and vinyl acetate foam (EVA) or Polyurethane (PU), a denser material that adds weight. Some running shoes use both materials to achieve a balance of cushioning and support.
Because EVA is less dense, it can compress over time, resulting in a loss of support. If you like the light weight and feel of EVA running shoes, look for compression-molded EVA that is better at resisting compression. Denser PU midsoles provide more support and last longer, but they are far less flexible than running shoes with EVA midsoles.
Heels are another key running shoe component. Women’s running shoe heels are either made with heavy, durable carbon rubber or more lightweight blown rubber. The part of the upper that wraps around your foot is known as the heel counter. It should fit snugly to prevent your foot from sliding around and to offer the correct level of support. If you have an overpronate foot, look for a heel counter that provides extra stability.
Running shoe outsoles should provide traction and stability on wet or uneven surfaces. Split heels improve heel-to-toe motion by dividing a running shoe’s heel into inner and outer surfaces. Flex grooves cut across the forefoot provide flexibility for the ball of your foot to encourage a natural roll from the ball to the ankle.
Some running shoes offer contoured foot beds for greater arch support and high-density medial posts that offer firmer support for overpronate feet. Last, the inside line of the shoe, is not the least consideration when buying a running shoe; choosing a rounded or straight last depends on the shape of your foot. Women’s running shoes with straight lasts are a good choice for those with normal arches; over- and underpronated runners should choose running shoes with curved lasts.
Running shoes fall into three general categories based on the amount of support provided and foot movement allowed.
Women’s Cushioned Running Shoes are the best choice for people who have feet with high arches that are supinated or underpronated. These runners require running shoes that incorporate flexibility and promote foot motion while providing a bit of stability. A semicurved or curved last fulfills both of these functions. Running shoes with EVA midsoles provide the maximum in cushioning, and with high arches, compression over the long term is less of an issue than with other types of feet. You likely don’t need any additional medial support, but you should look for running shoes with a heel that combines carbon rubber and blown rubber for the maximum combination of durability and flexibility.
Women’s Motion Control Running Shoes are the best choice if you are flat-footed or overpronated. While all running shoes incorporate stability features, motion control running shoes combine high-stability design with motion-control features that reduce pronation. Look for a straight or semicurved last for stability and maximum support. Midsoles that are constructed primarily with PU will last longer and provide better support for lengthy runs. Choose running shoes with a supportive medial post for extra stability and a heel constructed of carbon rubber for maximum durability and reduced heel motion.
Women’s Stability Running Shoes are the best choice for people who have natural feet with a normal arch size. These running shoes allow some flexibility and cushioning while still providing support. Let comfort determine whether you prefer running shoes with a straight or semicurved last. Look for a midsole constructed with a blend of EVA and PU for the ultimate combination of comfort and support. If you have a tendency to overpronate, choose running shoes with a moderate medial post for extra support but be sure it doesn’t reduce flexibility too much. Look for a heel that combines carbon rubber and blown rubber for the maximum combination of durability and flexibility.