When it’s your shoes, the pavement, and 26.2 miles between you and the finish line, you don’t want to have to worry about your shoes.

Here’s a guide to picking the best shoes for your next long race to the finish line.

Shoes Aren’t One Size Fits All

Beginning runners ask the same questions constantly.  “Nike, Adidas, Saucony, etc?  Which shoe should I get?”  The world of running might be easier if we could just answer with one specific brand or shoe type, or even if I could say that you can buy yourself into the best running shoe in the world, but this isn’t the case.  There isn’t one brand, kind, or style of running shoe that fits everybody.

Everyone Is Different

Your stride and foot type have a significant impact on the kind of shoes you get.  Use this guide as a starting point for finding out which shoes work best for you personally and then head over to a specialty running shoe store to try on a few pairs for yourself.

Trying It On – Tips to Get The Perfect Running Shoe

A lot of people believe they can walk into a shoe store, put on a pair of shoes, take a few steps here or there, and then head out of the store with the right running shoes for them.  Unfortunately it’s not quite that simple, but if you follow a couple rules you’ll be able to judge fit much more easily.

Note that if you don’t get the right sized running shoe, you can damage your feet during long runs. And if you pick the wrong type of shoe for your foot arch type, you can end up with painful foot conditions such as Plantar Fasciitis.

Figure Out Your Pronation: There are three types of feet – underpronators, overpronators, and neutral. It’ vital that you know the differences AND your foot type. Some running shoes are for different types of pronators.

See our guide to foot pronation here. You don’t want to get this wrong! If you are an underpronator (high arches) and you buy a pair of running shoes for overpronators (flat feet) and run long distances in them, you could end up with Plantar Fasciitis or some other chronic pain injury in your feet.

The Half Inch Rule: There should be a half inch space between the front of your shoe and your longest toe.  If your feet are slightly different sizes, fit for the bigger foot.

Try On Later in the Day: Believe it or not, your feet swell throughout the day.  Try shoes on at the end of the day, when your feet are their maximum size. This simulates the size of your feet on a long run, helping you get fit right the first time.

Wear The Right Socks:When you’re trying on running shoes, wear your running socks so you can simulate what it’s like to run in your new shoes.

For more tips on choice and fit, check out our running shoes FAQ here.

When To Buy

You should be buying a new pair of running shoes every 300-500 miles or so, but when it comes to purchasing the running shoes you’ll wear for your race, buy a brand and model that you know works for you.  This is usually just a new pair of the kind of shoes you’ve already found and enjoyed pounding the pavement (or trails) with.

Buy your race shoes four to six weeks prior to the date of your marathon and break them in by running about 60-70 miles or so.  Just to make sure that you’ll be comfortable in your race shoes on the big day, and make sure that you log at least one long run in your new shoes so that you know you’ll be comfortable when you push your limits.

Some Tips for Running Shoe Care

Taking care of your shoes will help them perform better and last longer.  Taking care of your marathon shoes is especially important because your performance as never as important as on race day.

1. Your Running Shoes are For Running. Your running shoes should only be worn for running.  When your running shoes become your running and then going out to breakfast and walking the dog shoes, you’re eating away at the number of precious miles you can spend in your running shoes.

2. Use Shoe Care Products. A lot of people like to keep their running shoes white by throwing them in the washer and dryer.  All that rotation and chaos puts a strain on your shoe, so if you’re worried about making your feet look like white lightning bolts for the crowd on marathon day, hand wash them or use commercial shoe products.

3. The Newspaper Trick. Running, for marathon runners, is an all weather sport.  If you happen to get the shoes you plan on wearing on race day wet, bundle up newspaper inside of them to help accelerate the amount of time they take to dry.

4. The Most Important Rule. More than anything else, your running shoes just need to feel right on race day.  This includes brand, stride, foot, fit, sentiment, superstition, and everything else.  Whether you walk into race day in Asics or New Balances, just make sure you’re well prepared and confident.  All the work you’ve done will show up in the results on race day.