How to Choose Running Shoes: 4 Ways to Find the Perfect Fit

What's the secret to figuring out how to choose running shoes?

Start your search with this in mind: There's no one-size-fits-all perfect running shoe. 

More than likely, there's quite a few running shoes that will feel good on your feet and help you go the distance from the 5K to marathon and beyond.

So how do you find running shoes that work for you?

Maybe you...

  • Order running shoes online, like you're playing the lottery, and hope for the best
  • Buy the same pair your friend wears
  • Pick a running shoe based entirely on making a fashion statement
  • Get the latest and greatest running shoes recommended by an online ad

If you've ever picked a running shoe this way, you're not alone. Maybe it worked out. Maybe it didn't.

Looking for a little help on how to choose running shoes?

You're in the right place. In this post, we're going to...

  • Show you 4 ways to find the right running shoe for you, your foot, and your running goals, and...
  • Introduce you to some pretty dedicated people who know more about running shoes than Google.

The bottom line: Every runner is different

When you're trying to figure out how to choose running shoes, it's easy to get caught up in all the hype and aesthetics, like…

  • Color scheme
  • Stack height
  • Heel drop
  • Cushioning
  • Motion control
  • Tread/Traction
  • Lacing system
  • Breathability
  • And every running shoe company's proprietary design features + promised benefits

Been there, done that? Here's the thing: 

One great beauty of running lies in the fact that all runners approach and engage with this sport differently.

Quick rant break

No matter what stereotypes we may see in the media that try to fit runners into narrow boxes, the truth is that running doesn’t actually discriminate based on:

  • Body type
  • Commitment level
  • Mileage goal
  • Race time
  • Pace
  • Style
  • Gear choice
  • Or any other factor under the sun

I’ll turn myself into a broken record on this one for as long as it takes until we dismantle these expectations in the running community.

As a runner, there’s nothing I want more than to share all the gifts of running with anyone else who could use a peek into the perspective on life that we only find in the time on our feet.

What does matter when it comes to finding success in running is figuring out the details that work best for you as an individual.

No two runners....

  • Are shaped or built the same
  • Have the same motivations, or
  • Chase the same running goals and ambitions

Therefore, no two runners need follow the same plan or choose the same gear.

Different runners, different plans, different needs

The training plan that took Molly Seidel to the Olympic marathon podium, for example, will look much different than the one that gets a new runner to the finish line of their first 5k. 

  • Each plan serves a different human being with a drastically different goal in mind. 
  • Both of these people “count” as runners of equal worth, but they need unique approaches to match their distinct baselines and intentions.

(Rant over, thank you very much.)

No two runner bodies look, move, or function the same way.

Own your individuality & Run your own race

Individuality makes a difference when it comes to gear choices, too—especially when you're trying to figure out how to choose running shoes.

While you may be inclined to order whatever model’s on sale at the moment or take a friend’s word for it, taking care to find shoes that meet your needs can go a long way.

Shoe choice matters because of the diversity we all bring to running

Our feet serve as our instruments for expression and our tools for motion. 

In short, our feet play the most important physical role in our running efforts. 

This means we need to prioritize and take care of our feet.

A big part of that involves recognizing that we each need to treat our feet differently depending on how they’re built and what exactly we’re asking of them. 

It’s simple: Different feet need different shoes for things like:

  • High arches
  • Flat feet
  • Bunions
  • Narrow heels
  • Pronation
  • Supination
  • Heel striker
  • Tiptoer

Guess what? If you're trying to figure out how to choose running shoes, there’s a shoe out there designed for each of these ambulatory quirks.

Your running goals can help you choose the right shoe

Your specific running goals play into your shoe choice as well.

Road runners vs. trail runners

Road runners obviously need different shoes than trail runners, but even the more minute details of your training and intentions can determine what shoe technologies and constructions would best serve you.

Shoe design
There’s a big jump, for example, between a shoe made for comfort and stability over long distances and one designed for nimble movement in speedier situations. 

Pick running shoes to optimize YOUR performance

Working through the process of how to choose running shoes for your feet and your training helps ensure that you make the most of what you’ve got. 

For better or for worse, we don’t have control over our physical features—but we can take the qualities that we’re born with and optimize them by finding the shoes that best suit us. 

Different body types, foot shapes, stride patterns, and terrain choices benefit from different shoe treads.

Get to know your foot type to choose running shoes

There are a few methods runners can use to help them pinpoint their ideal shoes.

The wide range that we have to choose from can seem overwhelming at first glance, but many brands feature quizzes or filters that help to narrow down the astronomical number of options.

Here are a few runner-friendly online tools that can help you:

Most brands have resources like these to help navigate the options they offer. "Shoe finder” resources like these direct you to the most fitting models based on your answers to questions about things like:

  • Running environment
  • Regular mileage
  • Foot shape
  • Stride pattern
  • And more

Brooks even asks about recent injuries, body positioning, and your response to certain exercises to factor into their recommendations. Most other brands offer similar guidance.

When you're trying to figure out how to choose running shoes, these resources can be especially helpful for runners confident in their preference for a particular brand but want to explore various models. 

With just a few questions about your running habits, the Brooks "Shoe Finder" can match you with the best shoe from their lot.

How to choose running shoes: 4 ways to find the perfect fit

Yes, I know; you came here because you're looking for help about how to choose running shoes. We’re getting there. 

There's four primary ways to find running shoes that work for you. 

And one reigns superior over the others. 

1. Read running shoe reviews

Reading running shoe reviews on websites, like our very own WeeViews database, can help point you in the right direction.

Keep in mind that because of all the diversity in running we’ve covered here, one runner’s Cinderella shoe might not work the same for you.

The benefits of running-shoe reviews

  • Solid reviews go beyond the details of the shoes themselves to include background information on the runner behind the gear. 
  • Based on details like body metrics, running goals, and training habits, you can often find other runners whose needs and opinions align well with your own. 

Look for objective reviews: While brand websites include space for reviews on their products, these don’t always offer the most reliable insights because they are associated with that particular brand.

That’s a big reason why WeeViews exists..."To eliminate brand bias as an independent platform, where runners can feel comfortable sharing their honest thoughts on options from all corners of the gear world."

2. Use online resources to find running shoes

Online resources can also help you through the process of how to choose running shoes. Take a peek at articles like:

…and brand briefings like: 

Resources like these can give you a good idea of which features matter most depending on the terrain that you seek out most often. 

  • Surface. Pavement, dirt, and rock surfaces require their own tread patterns and materials for stability. 
  • Responsiveness. The variability in responsiveness between hard and soft surfaces also means that your body will absorb the impact differently, so it's important to choose shoes with support systems that match the terrain at hand. 
  • Options. This means that you'll likely want to accumulate a lineup of shoes to fill every niche. 

3. Choose running shoes based on your foot type

Selecting shoes based on your foot shape and gait narrows down your options even further.

How? All runners come into this sport with their own unique traits and habits. 

  • Our feet are bound to follow suit with different standing and striding positions. 
  • Understanding the range of possible foot postures from pronation to supination and where your feet lie along the spectrum can offer insight on how much support you need in a shoe. 
  • Runners who tend to overpronate upon hitting the ground, for instance, benefit from a more structured design to reinforce a stable stride while softer shoes balance out supinated gaits. 

Fatal flaws

Each of these methods share a common flaw. They’re missing the power of the human eye. 

The convenience of online tools is countered by their impersonal nature. 

No matter how many questions that shoe finder may ask about your running habits or how close a twin you find in a gear review, nothing quite measures up to having a real live human being set you up with the perfect pair of shoes to bring out the best runner in you.

You won't find a better method for how to choose running shoes than this....

4. Get fitted at a local running store

Even with all the tech tools out there, it still can't replace the value of walking into a local running store, chatting with staff, and getting fitted to find a good running shoe.

  • What's your favorite local running store?

A link to the running community
Running stores were once the unquestionable centerpieces of their surrounding running communities. They served as the main hub for:

  • Supplies
  • Advice
  • Meet-ups
  • Race info
  • Shoes and gear, and...
  • Advertising for anyone working in the running industry like coaches, race directors, and physical therapists. 

Tech won't replace running-store customer service anytime soon

  • Technology has inherently changed the way that runners engage with their communities.
  • We spend less time interacting face-to-face in favor of communicating through screens or relying on digital tools. 

BUT...

Even now, the first thing I do when visiting a new town is stop at the closest running store for trail suggestions.

I could search around on apps like Strava, All Trails, or Trail Running Project, but I’ve learned that...

Nothing compares to advice straight from the mouth of one passionate runner to another.

Here's another reason to shop at local running stores: Sometimes I even meet welcoming locals who let me tag along on runs during my stay for an intimate tour of their stomping grounds. 

Now THAT'S what I call a wide selection. Is there anything more alluring than an entire wall of running shoes to pick from?

Visit a local running store for a shoe-fitting experience

Besides route recommendations and new connections, one of the biggest perks of visiting a running store is the opportunity for a personalized shoe fitting. 

With a wealth of knowledge in their minds and resources at their fingertips, these experts make it easy to find your Cinderella running shoe. 

A shoe-fitting expert at a local running store can:

  • Evaluate your natural stride and posture, 
  • Examine patterns of wear and tear on your previous pair,
  • Watch you run in real time while wearing a variety of shoe options to see which supports your body the best. 

The opportunity to try out multiple brands and styles in one go is worth the trip alone.

Think about it this way: How could you possibly recreate that experience online? 

  • You’re probably not going to order ten different models in three different sizes each, so what happens if the one or two you do pick out don’t make the cut?
  • Avoid the hassle of sending them back and starting from scratch. If there’s one thing runners don’t usually have much of to spare, it’s time. 

The hands-on help is the real boon here, though. 

  • There’s no way for runners to monitor themselves and their strides from the same perspective as someone on the outside. 
  • Even taking video recordings of our own runs can give us a skewed view depending on how you set up the camera. 
  • Running store experts study your stride from all angles, and offer their unbiased opinions based on what they observe. 
Patterns of wear and tear on the soles of your shoes say a lot about what parts of your feet bear the brunt of your weight and need the most support.

Running Store Roundup

Not sure where to begin? 

We sat down with a few of our favorite local running stores for some Q&A. Take a pit stop at one of these stores on the road, or find a store in your neighborhood to... 

  • get to know their role in the running community
  • meet runners from all walks of life, and...
  • Learn how they can help you elevate your running
Owner Heather celebrating the 10th anniversary of Morgantown Running.

What: Morgantown Running
Where: Morgantown and Bridgeport, West Virginia
Who: Heather Cleary, owner

Q: Why do you love working in the running industry?

Heather: I love hearing about why people started running and what keeps them going! It brings so much joy to see how running has changed someone's life in a positive way.

Q: What kinds of running events does Morgantown Running help to promote in your community?

Heather: We put on many events throughout the year including the Kids' Running Club, Team Spike Nights, Sports Bra Fittings, the Summer Mile, 4 on the 4th, and the Turkey Trot. We love being involved in the community!

Q: What is the most valuable service that Morgantown Running offers?

Heather: We believe that the most valuable service we offer to our local running community is our 'gait analysis', combined with our knowledge to help customers pick out the best shoe for their feet. People also visit us for running advice from training plans to race selection and strategies.

Q: Why should even experienced runners keep running stores on their radar?

Heather: Advanced runners can be involved and connect with local running stores in many ways. Advanced runners’ needs and gait can change over time with life throughout the years… babies, surgery, injuries, and other physical developments of aging can change the way we run. 

A peek inside the Sandy, UT location of Wasatch Running Center
The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow…

What: Independence Run and Hike
Where: Carbondale, Colorado
Who: Brion After, owner

Q: What’s your own most memorable run or running adventure?

Brion: Without a doubt my most memorable running event was running the 4 pass loop in the Maroon Bells Wilderness, it is a 27-28 mile run circumnavigating the 14,000+ foot Maroon Bell Peaks with four 12,500 foot passes to get over.  I ran the loop 5 years in a row, and each loop was memorable in its own way. 

The first circumnavigation was memorable because I ran with 2 close friends and forgot my running vest, ugh, but we laughed the whole way. Then there was the time we went too early in the season, with insane tree fall, mud, terrifying ice sheets and a crazy lightning storm, and of course the time with the incredible wild flowers, so beautiful!  And finally there was the time when we took our time (a rarity for runners!) and sat on each pass and savored the day.  What a great run!  All great days!

Q: Why should runners visit Independence Run and Hike?

Brion: Our knowledge and time. We spend all our time figuring out the best shoes for our customers so you (they) don’t have to!  People often say to me I really TRY to support you because you are a local store, my first thought is if we don’t do such a good job that you WANT to come to our store then we are doing something wrong! 

All day, every work-day (and most non-work days) I am thinking about the store, the latest products YOU want.  We have the advantage of letting you try on shoes right next to each other and on our treadmill while being videotaped, while having a knowledgeable staff member that has probably helped 1000s of people and met with multiple doctors and physical therapists at your side to help.  Seems like a great deal I hope you want to shop by!

Q: How can local running stores benefit advanced runners that already know their way around shoe brands, features & fit needs?

Brion: Running stores are often full of serious runners & running “geeks” so it is a great forum for “advanced” runners to learn more about products that they might not be fully aware of and to keep up on the latest trends and ideas, try on some of the products you researched, find running buddies at the store group runs and spend time talking about the sport you love.  

It is hard to keep up with all the latest styles, fits and products on your own.  I am also an avid “advanced” golfer, and I always spend extra time in the pro shop before or after rounds talking to the pros and asking about courses or products, etc.  Running stores are the pro shops of the running world!       

Vince Rucci discussing with WeeViews contributor David Moore the role that his local running store, Vertical Runner, plays within the northeast Ohio running community. Bill Stephens center of image at register.

What: Vertical Runner
Where: Hudson, Brecksville and Wooster, Ohio
Who: Vince Rucci, owner

Q: How did you choose the name Vertical Runner?

Vince: It's my initials. When I was in college I was in a marketing class and came up with Vertical Runner as a trail running brand. This was before it became a hot button word for people to use like "how much vertical is in that race?". We've been running trails and doing hills for a long time. In 2003 the idea for the store came around and the name fit.

Q: Do you have any of your own personal stories or stats around running vertical?

Vince: During Covid I did an elevation challenge where I did 100 days in a row with at least 1,000 feet of elevation gain. There were like 20 hills that I would torture myself on. One of the hills is called Initiation Hill, in 2020 I did that hill 400 times.  The hill is .4 miles and it has 210 feet of elevation gain. I did it 20 times one Saturday.

Q: What makes your running store unique that you pride yourself on?

Vince: Our passion for trail running. Road running is great but what's in our DNA is the trails. Any time we can let people know that the trails exist, that's a win. Some people come in and don't even know that we live by a National Park (Cuyahoga Valley). We have the park maps here in the store and share our favorite trails to run.

Q: Can you share how Vertical Runner is involved in connecting runners locally?

Vince: Vertical Runner is a sponsor of Western Reserve Racing (a NE Ohio trail running company). We also have four different trail running groups. We learned that you get some fast people and some slower people. We point people towards the group that will fit them best. All the groups are free too. Then we do some special event runs, where we bring in brands and do product demos.   

Q: What’s one fact about your business mindset that runners should know?

Vince: You don't have to come in to the store with the intention to buy something. Whether you are an experienced runner or new to the sport, just come in and see what the environment is like. We don't mind people window shopping and trying things out. Of course, if they decide to buy, we would love for them to buy from us.

Lucky Road Run Shop gives their shoes an idyllic backdrop.

What: Lucky Road Run Shop
Where: Richmond, Virginia
Who: Jeff Van Horn, owner

Q: What are some of your most memorable running moments? 

Jeff: Running through the woods on a rainy day where the only sounds come from the drops hitting the leaves and my footsteps with each stride. Running a well known route late at night, to avoid the summer heat, in complete silence when the euforia kicks in and the pace increases to a level of effortless flight. These are memorable running events that belong to me and can not be measured. 

Q: What advice do you have for runners on the hunt for their perfect shoe? 

Jeff: Don't believe everything you hear. Don't believe the manufacturer's marketing hype. Don't believe the salesperson's pitch. With big corporations opening stores across the country, understand that not everyone in this business is looking out for your best interest. You have to look out for yourself. Ask questions. Don't just accept any answer. Experts who care will eagerly answer your questions until you are satisfied. The pseudo-expert may become frustrated. That's when it's time to find another store. The single most important factor to consider is your perception of comfort. 

Q: Why do you enjoy working in the running industry? 

Jeff: More than 30 years ago I discovered my purpose in life is to help others. I love owning a run specialty store because it allows me the opportunity to combine my love of running with my degree in sports medicine and my passion/purpose for helping others. 

Q: Why did you choose to open a running store? 

Jeff: The thought first crossed my mind while tossing a football back and forth with a friend from high school, and I never let it go. When the time was right I left my position as the athletic trainer at a local high school. I spent the next three years managing two different run specialty stores where I learned a lot of what and what not to do before opening my own. My goal was to make a decent living doing what I love, serving my community and raising my family.   

Find the perfect shoe at your local running store

Running shops offer a host of unparalleled benefits for runners of all backgrounds, styles, and levels.

Transform the way you run

From services to personalize your run by matching you with the best shoe for your unique foot, to opportunities for building connections with a knowledgeable community, running stores have the potential to transform the way you run.

The interactive experiences and helping hands that welcome runners in these environments simply don't translate to HTML. The expertise that these running stores share requires your physical presence to absorb.

Taking the time to visit running stores, in your own community or on the road, will reward you for the effort with resources that only pay off in person, and you'll go home with the perfect pair of running shoes to go the distance.

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Lucie Hanes
Ambassador
Eagle, CO

Ultrarunner, rock climber, occasional artist, fond of good wordplay. Small human on big adventures with big goals and big feelings.

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