Shoe Types: How to Determine the Best Shoe for You
by Bob "Wish" Wischnia on August 1, 2011
The most frequently asked question in every running store in America is which shoe is the best?
It’s a fair question—we all want to wear the very best--but there isn’t a simple answer for one basic reason: There isn’t any single best shoe (or brand) which fits and functions perfectly for every runner. It just doesn’t work that way because every runner has different needs. There are also various foot types, biomechanics and fit requirements to consider. So even though your friend might rave about a particular shoe as being the absolute best, that same shoe might not be the best shoe for you.
But if you are an inexperienced runner, how do you determine which is the best shoe for your needs when you don’t even know what those needs are?
Your first step for locating the best shoe for you is to go to a running specialty store. That means go to a store which specializes in running—and only running. There’s nothing wrong with the big sporting goods stores, but those stores usually don’t have the expert advice you’ll need if you are new to running.
If you don’t know of a running store, ask your running friends for a recommendation. They undoubtedly know a good one in your area. Or go to www.mizunousa.com and click on the running link. There, you’ll find a running store locator (“Find A Store”) which will direct you to a running store near you.
Once you get to the running store, you will likely be immediately drawn to the shoe wall. That’s where all the top shoes will be displayed. For a newbie, that can be very intimidating. Don’t worry. We’re here to help.
To help clarify the confusion, running shoes generally fall into one of four general classifications: motion control, stability, cushioned (or neutral), or lightweight performance.
Assuming you don’t know which shoe type is best suited for you, ask to consult with one of the fitting experts at the store. You will be asked to take off your shoes and socks and go through a brief foot exam to determine your foot type. Once the foot type is determined, your feet will be measured and the shoe expert will also probably ask you to jog around the store or on a treadmill to evaluate your gait. This doesn’t take long and once the exam is completed, the shoe expert will usually select several shoes to try on that match your needs.
Here are the four basic shoe types you’ll need to consider:
Cushioned (or neutral) shoes: This type of training shoe places an emphasis on cushioning and de-emphasizes stability or support. This type of shoe usually has a higher heel height with a split heel (also called decoupled) and added cushioning in the rearfoot for good shock absorption upon heel strike. These shoes are the least supportive trainers, but also are the most flexible and responsive—and have the best cushioning.
Best suited for: Runners who are biomechanically efficient (they don’t overpronate and/or have support needs) and often have a high or rigid arch. Runners with this foot type typically don’t do well in support shoes. Also underpronators (they don’t pronate enough) and fast, lean runners do well in these shoes.
Top Mizuno neutral cushioned shoes: Mizuno Wave Prophecy, Wave Creation, Wave Enigma, Wave Rider and Wave Precision.
Support shoes: The most popular category of shoes, support shoes offer external and internal devices that will reduce overpronation (the distinctive inward roll which is a leading cause of injuries). Support shoes generally have added devices to reduce overpronation, a supportive upper and a midfoot shank or reinforcement to add torsional stability. Mizuno support shoes accomplish this by its distinctive Wave design which cushions and stabilizes the foot. Mizuno support shoes offer different degrees of support. They run from the most supportive (Wave Alchemy and Wave Nirvana) to moderately supportive (Wave Inspire and Wave Nexus) to performance support (Wave Elixir).
Best suited for: Runners who overpronate and/or need some added support and stability. Runners with normal or flat arches. Runners who wear orthotics generally do well in stability shoes. If you have any doubt about which type of shoe to wear, you will probably be safe in a stability shoe.
Top Mizuno support shoes: Mizuno Wave Alchemy, Wave Nirvana, Wave Inspire, Wave Nexus and Wave Elixir.
Motion-control shoes: Designed primarily for severe overpronators and/or big, heavy runners, motion control shoes offer maximum support and stability. Generally, motion-control shoes have a broad base of support, sturdy heel counter, supportive upper and external support devices. These shoes are all about keeping the pronated foot in balance during the running gait.
Best suited for: Overpronators or big, heavy runners who need all the support they can get. Runners with low arches also do well in motion-control shoes. Also good for orthotics wearers.
Top Mizuno control shoes: Mizuno Wave Alchemy, Wave Nirvana and Wave Cabrakan (trail).
Lightweight performance trainers: As the name implies, these are lightweight shoes that are designed for runners who want to fly in training—or racing. These shoes have a performance fit and feel, are highly flexible, have highly breathable uppers and good toe spring. Performance trainers are generally about 2-3 ounces lighters than conventional training shoes but there is a tradeoff in cushioning, stability and durability. They aren’t typically for beginning runners.
Best suited for: Runners who train (or race) fast. Runners who prefer an unencumbered, light, flexible ride.
Top Mizuno performance trainers: Mizuno Wave Precision, Wave Elixir, Wave Musha and Wave Ronin.
There are two other types of shoes you will see on the shoe wall—road-racing shoes and trail shoes. As a beginning runner, you probably don’t need to consider shoes in either of these categories just yet, but might eventually.
Road-racing shoes: Racers (or flats) are the sports cars of the shoe wall. They are designed for only one thing: road-racing. Weighing between 3 ½ and eight ounces, flats don’t offer much cushioning or stability. Flats have a low-profile midsole and a minimalist upper and outsole and some experienced runners are now using them as daily training shoes. Road-racing shoes are not recommended for beginners.
Best suited for: Serious racers who don’t want (or need) a shoe which will slow them down. (The Mizuno Wave Universe is the lightest road-racing shoe on the market.) Efficient, lightweight runners do best in flats.
Top Mizuno road-racing shoes: Mizuno Wave Universe, Wave Ronin and Wave Musha.
Trail shoes: The SUVs of running. These are heavy duty, well-cushioned shoes that place an emphasis on upper protection and traction. Trail shoes generally have heavily lugged outsoles (especially around the rim of the heel and forefoot) for going up or down steep, soft dirt trails. Many trail shoes have weather-resistant uppers that provide some protection from the elements.
Best suited for: Runners who do a lot of mileage on soft, dirt trails. Also runners who cover a lot of hilly terrain in wet, inclement weather. Some runners prefer trail shoes in cold, wet weather because of the upper protection the shoes provide. The Mizuno Wave Cabrakan has a water-resistant upper and exceptional forefoot traction. The Mizuno Wave Ascend is more of an all-terrain shoe which works fine on the roads or trails.
Top Mizuno trail shoes: Mizuno Wave Ascend and Wave Cabrakan.
The Mizuno Shoe Guy will be glad to answer all your shoe-related questions. Email him at email@example.com for a personal response.