Running Shoe Fit Guide: How To Pick The Right Pair

Zappos Running: Gait Analysis

Watch our gait analysis video and discover how to find the right shoe for you!

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Why and When to Buy New Running Shoes

Fit and comfort are the cornerstones to a properly designed shoe. In fact, it’s often said the best shoes are the ones that cradle your feet. No blisters, no aches, and no pains mean you’ve got a winning pair. For consistent runners, a shoe will last anywhere between 300 to 500 miles, or three to four months. If you’re not into calculating the sum of anything, you can instead see if a shoe’s worn thin simply by pressing the midsole with your fingers. Does the area feel weakened? Is the cushion completely flattened? If so, then that’s a strong indicator for purchasing a new pair of kicks.

To double check your findings, hold the shoe upright, cup your palm around the heel, and try to fold the toe back toward your arm. Any visible creasing or cracking in the middle of the sole means you’re long overdue.

Where You Run Matters

"So, do you run here often?"

This may sound like a cheesy pickup line, but it’s actually a very important question all runners should ask themselves. When it comes to running, it’s vital to your performance, and more importantly to your well being, that you select a pair of shoes that fit the conditions. Believe it or not, going for a jog on the treadmill is incomparable to logging miles on a dirt road or asphalt.

With that said, let’s zero in on the four main categories of running shoes, determine their benefits, and help you score a reliable shoe.

Road Running

Lightweight and breathable, a traditional road running shoe is built with substantial cushioning without that heavy or overly bulky feeling. The high stack heel helps you rebound off of hard, even surfaces, such as pavement or concrete, creating ideal support for feet and joints. Flat or low lug-patterned outsoles help improve speed for more half and full-marathon ribbons!

Suggested top brands: adidas, Mizuno, New Balance, Nike, Brooks

Trail Running

As you maneuver across dirt, rocks, mud, and other off-road obstacles, you demand the best in protection, stability, and support. Trail running shoes offer ample cushioning around the tongue and ankle, and a robust lug pattern for maximum traction as you ascend and descend jagged terrains.

Suggested top brands: La Sportiva, Merrell, Salomon


If you’re a self-declared gym rat or strength training enthusiast, cross-trainers are a sure and safe bet to your workout. Its built-up design protects the ankles and provides extra support for forward and lateral movements. Created with a thinner platform, the sole allows athletes to have increased contact with the ground. While not intended for long runs, these shoes will support jaunts up to 5K in distance.

Suggested top brands: Inov-8, Under Armour, Vivobarefoot

Understanding Your Gait

During whole-body activities, such as swimming, field sports, and running, you’re creating a unique way of movement. This is known as your gait. This pattern is bred from your habits and lifestyle, as well as your body's mobility, stability, flexibility, and strength. Determining your gait analysis can help you map out your pattern of natural movement. For runners, this will heavily factor into the type of shoes and cushioning your feet require due to pronation.

Pronation describes the way the foot rolls inward, or outward, just after it lands on the ground. There are multiple ways to check your pronation. For example, you can videotape yourself running on a treadmill and observe which parts of your foot strike the ground first; you can take a look at the wear pattern on one of your older pairs of running shoes; or you can do the wet foot method by stepping on a paper towel or brown paper bag, as shown in the video below. The outcome will help you determine if you’re an overpronator, supinator/underpronator, or neutral runner.

Time to Define


If you’re an overpronator, you’ll experience an extreme inward roll of the foot after landing. This means the foot and ankle have problems stabilizing the body, and shock isn't absorbed as efficiently throughout the foot. This can easily be identified by wear patterns along the inside edge of your shoe. Motion control or stability shoes from Brooks, New Balance, Saucony will help you correct this rolling-in sensation.


Opposite of an overpronator, a supinator’s foot strike rotates outwards, resulting in insufficient impact reduction and distribution. This landing can be verified along the outer edge of the shoe. Cushioning and flexibility are of utmost importance to this type of runner, therefore, stability brands like Asics, Brooks, and Mizuno are top sellers.


A neutral runner has a normal arch with centralized balance. This means the runner’s foot does not roll more than 15 percent inwards and comes in complete contact with the ground. The rolling of the foot optimally distributes the forces of impact, as well as provides an even push-off at the front of the foot. Adidas, Nike, Saucony, and Under Armour perform well for these types of athletes.