Running is as easy as putting one foot in front of the other but sometimes it can get complicated.  Here are 25 common running questions and the answers that will set you on your way.

General Questions

What should I wear on my run?

Comfort is key when deciding what to wear on a run. Materials like DryFit, Thermamax and CoolMax or polypropolene wick away sweat whereas cotton gets wet and stays wet. Loose, light colored clothes are ideal for the summer, and in winter add 15-20 degrees F to the outside temperature to determine how much you should wear to stay warm.

Can I run in my sneakers or street shoes?

Those Nike Uptowns might look good but they aren’t going to cut it on long runs.  Running shoes are specially designed to absorb shock and help your foot strike the ground properly. Casual shoes don’t necessarily address those needs. Head to the store and give yourself an excuse to buy a proper pair of running shoes.

How do I find the best running shoe for me?

Finding the right running shoe is a personalized process, and one that friend recommendations can’t always answer.  Check out our Running Shoes 101 guide to finding the best running shoes.

Is it true that you need two to three different pairs of shoes as a runner?

If you run frequently, a couple different models of shoes will help prevent overuse injuries because your bio-mechanics adapt slightly to every pair of shoe.  Also, midsole foam requires 24 hours before it’s fully recovered from a run. Switching shoes regularly will help give you support and provide a little change of pace.

Does the weight of a running shoe affect performance?

Researchers have found that lighter shoes impact performance minimally. The difference of a few ounces doesn’t impact the overall weight you need to propel forward in order to run much, but research has shown that you use less oxygen when wearing lighter shoes. Also, it takes less energy to runner to run in lightweight shoes. Put simply, you might run a little faster.

Who makes running sandals and what do I look for in buying them?

Teva, Merrel, Bite, and Keen all make running sandals that cost about the same as a regular pair of running shoes. Everything you consider when buying running shoes applies to the world of running sandals. They need to feel snug in the heel, give you room for your toes, etc.

What’s the deal with the five finger shoes?

Shoes like the Vibram Five Fingers are made to fit like a glove and bring runners back to their natural, almost barefoot running state and build small foot muscles that regular shoes supposedly weaken. The world of science is divided on this though, and you should consider both sides of the debate before making a final decision.

Overall Fit

I’ve heard you should buy running shoes that are a half size larger than your street shoes? Is this true?

Yes, this is true. Running shoes should have about a quarter inch of additional room between your toes and the end of the shoe.  In other words, you should have about a thumbnail’s space between the tip of the shoe and your longest toe. This gives you room for your foot to flex and your toes to move forward with each stride.

Is it true that you need to tie your shoes tightly for optimal running shoe performance?

Yes, you should make sure your shoelaces are relatively tight but they should not create any tingling or discomfort. Ideally, a properly laced shoelace will wrap your arch, giving you solid support and stability.

Why aren’t there more width options for running shoes?

The lack of available widths is a matter of economics. For every width a shoe manufacturer offers they must build an entirely different midsole and outsole mold.  This cuts into profits.  Some shoes such as the New Balance 1225 and Nike Air Pegasus+ 26 have width options though, and specialty running shops can order what you need.

One of my feet is slightly bigger than the other. What should I do?

Studies show that 80% of runners buy shoes that are too small for them, partly because they shop for their smaller foot. When buying shoes, go with the pair that fit your bigger foot the best.  If you have an extreme difference some stores have a Brooks mismatch program that allow you to buy mismatched shoes for an extra $25. You can also consult a podiatrist for other solutions.

As a female runner, my heels slip out of every shoe I buy and my female running partners experience the same problem. How can we fix this?

Unfortunately, many women’s running shoes are just male shoes with different colorways. Gender specific designs are becoming more common though. For a quick fix, experiment with different lacing methods and try adding a flat insole to create a narrower fit.

Health and Injury Prevention

I overpronate on one side but not the other. How do I make a compromise and buy the right shoe?

Body asymmetry is actually very typical. Start by purchasing a shoe that addresses the foot that gives you the most grief.  In your case, you should try motion control or stability shoes to provide you with ample support. If this doesn’t solve the problem, consider custom orthotics.

I have high arches but the tendency to overpronate. What shoe should I get?

In most cases high arches prevent the ankle from moving inward too much.  If your foot is flexible though, you have a high risk for overpronation when your arch collapses on longer runs. Many shoes address this high arch overpronation combination, but stability or motion control shoes, as well as over the counter supportive insoles can often provide a fix as well.

I’m a heavy framed runner but I want to try a lightweight shoe. Is this going to hurt me?

You should stick with motion control shoes for longer runs when your bio-mechanics are likely to break down.  On shorter runs though, you can try a pair of stability shoes with a rigid aftermarket orthotic.  This combination lets you move to a lighter shoe that prevents inward rolling of your foot and provides adequate stability.  When it comes to short races and speed work, feel free to wear a light racing shoe.  You’ll be fine in short bursts.

I wear motion control shoes, but during long runs the balls of my feet hurt. Is this just me getting old?  And what can I do to alleviate the issue?

When we age the natural cushioning in our feet become less reliable. Shoes with good cushioning are especially important for older runners. To help take away some soreness, consider buying shoes with good support and excellent cushioning.

I get a rash on my feet every time I run. What can I do?

Your socks are likely the culprit here.  The Lycra in socks irritates a lot of people’s skin. Try using foot powder or Blister Shield on your feet prior to running. If it still bothers you, get a very thin pair of silk socks and wear them under your regular running socks.

My heels are killing me. Is there a shoe that can help?

You may have plantar fascilitis. Heel stretches can help, as does anything that works the smaller muscles of the foot. Additional shoe support can also help realign your foot and prevent overpronation, a common cause of plantar fascilitis.

I have shin splints. Can you recommend a shoe to help ease the pain?

Shin splints are common to new runners.  Soft, stable shoes will help absorb some of the shock you’re experiencing and keep you from pronating, reducing some of the stress on your shins.

Wear and Tear

Does where you run affect how your shoes break down?

Running on the road results in faster wear than trail running, but how you run is even more crucial to how quickly your shoes break down.  When the midsole material is visible through your outsole, or when the sole under your feet loses its grooves, your shoes need to be replaced.

How do I know when to retire an old pair of running shoes?

Running shoes are pretty much shot after 300 to 500 miles. If you land on your heels when you stride than you’re going to need new shoes more quickly than a more efficient runner, but generally it’s time to turn you old shoes in when you don’t feel like your shoes are providing you with the protection you need anymore.

The heels of my shoes wear much faster than the rest of my shoe.  Is there something I can do to extend the life of my shoe?

It sounds like you’re a heavy heel striker, something that can often be the result of overstriding.  Shoe goo can provide a quick fix but when you make your next purchase take your heel wear into account. Shoes with more outsole rubber in the landing zone and fewer deep flex grooves in the heel will provide added durability. Look into Echelons, the Asics Gel-Kayano 15 and the Saucony Progrid.

I use Shoo Goo on the heels of my shoes to make them last longer. Is this unsafe or am I okay?

Shoo Goo is extremely durable but it’s not designed to absorb shock. Your shoes will last longer if you apply some Shoe Goo here and there, but you sacrifice cushioning.  Try using thinner layers more often to reduce wear as opposed to trying to fix the problem before it’s too late.

Should I wear new running shoes for a marathon?

Put about 40 to 50 miles on your racing shoes.  Go on a long run to make sure they feel good, and then wear a different pair of shoes the day before the race so your soles have time to decompress.  Then lace them up and enjoy your marathon.

Is there anything productive I can do with my old running shoes?

Absolutely. Some people would love to have your running shoes. Consult this guide to see some of your donation options.