We all run for different reasons.  The infamous runners’ high, the way your legs start to tone when you first get in shape, and the way it clears the head better than an attempted vacation or a long shower.  There’s really nothing better, unless you have the wrong running shoes.

Picking the right running shoe is nothing short of an investment.  It’s a purchase you make for your health, your body, and the overall quality of the time you spend hitting the pavement.

When your foot strikes the ground you apply a force as high as eight times your body weight.  Your body absorbs the shock of each stride, and finding the right shoe has everything to do with determining the best shock absorption system for you.

As a general rule, running shoes are often separated into three main categories and three subcategories.  The three main categories are are cushioned, stability and motion control, and which you choose depends on how your foot hits the ground.

The three subcategories for buying shoes are performance training, racing, and off-road.  Performance training shoes are light, well balanced, and best for racing, speed work, or daily training.  Racing shoes are lightweight and made for racers with bio-mechanically efficient strides.  Trail shoes, on the other hand, are rugged, stable, water resistant, and made specifically for off-road runners.

For most everyday runners looking for an everyday running shoe, the first step to making the right decision has everything to do with how your foot strikes the ground.  The best way to uncover this pertinent piece of information is to employ The Wet Test.

Conducting a wet test is as easy as taking a look at your wet footprint on a dry surface, and then deciding the type of shoe you need based on whether you have a normal foot, flat foot, or one with a high arch.

Normal Foot

What It Looks Like: A normal footprint has a flare at the arch, but shows a clear connection between the heel and forefoot.  People with normal feet land on the outside of their feet and then roll slightly inward to absorb shock.

The Shoe For You: People with normal feet will benefit from stability shoes with moderate control features.  Performance training shoes are often best designed for people with efficient, normal feet.  Some recommended examples for people with normal feet include the Asics GT 2140, the Nike LunarGlide, or the Mizuno Wave Inspire 6.

Flat Foot

What It Looks Like: People with flat feet will show less (if any) arch in the Wet Test.  A flat foot is usually a sign of over-pronation, which if left unrecognized, can result in a series of overuse injuries.

The Shoe For You: Motion control shoes or high stability footwear that emphasizes medial support by having firm midsoles, roll bars or foot bridges will slow the rate of over pronation and provide excellent support for people with flat feet.  Moderate pronators might consider performance training shoes, but the more you pronate the more support you’ll need.  Some good examples of motion control and high stability shoes include the Asics Evolution and the Brooks Addiction Walker.

High Arch

What It Looks Like: People with high arches will leave a footprint with little or no band between the heel and forefoot.  High arches can be indicators of supination and under pronation.  Because people with high arches don’t pronate enough, their feet aren’t usually good at absorbing shock.

The Shoe For You: Cushioned shoes with lots of flexibility and enhanced shock dispersion in the midsole are optimal for people with high arches.  Enhanced cushioning properties such as air, gel, hydro, flow and others are common features of cushioned featured footwear, and ideal models include the Asics Gel Nimbus, the Adidas adiStar Ride 2, the Under Armour Apparition, and the Saucony ProGrid Jazz 13.

As soon as you narrow down whether you need cushioned, stability, or motion control footwear you can approach your purchase as an informed consumer.  When you know the type of shoe that will address your needs, you can start to consider fit when making your final purchase decision.

The best position for determining fit is standing.  Many people recommend standing on one foot or running downhill to apply extra pressure to the foot and better determine if the shoe will fit correctly.  Everything should feel snug without pinching, and you should feel anchored in your shoes.

When considering width, the sides of your feet should rest lightly on the sides of the shoe. Also, the ball of your foot at its widest point should line up exactly with the widest part of the shoe. Finally, you should also consider when you’re trying the shoes on.  Your feet swell throughout the day, so something that feels snug first thing in the morning may just overwhelm your feet on a long run.

Take these points into account and you’re well on your way to the long, prosperous runs we all dream about while we’re waiting to jump back into action.