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The Art of Choosing a Running Shoe

Put your best foot forward with running shoes that can go the distance.

Whether you are a marathoner or training for your first 5K, your running shoes can propel you forward or stop you in your tracks.

Is there a method to choosing the right shoe? According to Eric Tan, MD, assistant professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery at the USC Department Orthopaedic Surgery of Keck Medicine of USC, running shoes are a very personal choice.

“The best shoe is one that makes your foot feel the most comfortable,” said Dr. Tan. “Most shoes are lightweight but they should have some stiffness to the sole to help absorb the impact from your foot striking the ground. An insole may also help provide additional comfort and support. And don’t forget to replace your shoes every 500 miles to maintain continued structural integrity of the shoe and its support to your foot and ankle.”

In the right shoes, your feet will stay comfortable and fend off common running injuries such as plantar fasciitis, shin splints and stress fractures.

Dr. Tan says to keep the following considerations in mind when shopping for running shoes:

1. What type of running will you do?

Road race or trail run? Road shoes are designed to support repetitive strikes on hard surfaces. Trail-running shoes have more tread and offer more traction for gripping rocks, mud and roots. Soles are structured to provide stability and protection for your mid-foot.

2. Do you have special needs such as a high mileage shoe, extra support or cushioning?

Are you a marathoner or training for ultra-distance? Shoes designed for higher mileage will have more cushion and support compared to their shorter lighter distance cousins.

3. What is your running style?

Look at an old pair of shoes: Are the soles worn evenly, or varied? Is one side of the shoe more worn that the other? Is the padding on the inside worn away in areas?

Over-pronators wear down the outside of the shoe first and need a motion control or stability shoe.

Under-pronators wear down the outside of the shoe and need a neutral or extra-cushioning shoe.

Finally, if you are experiencing any pain during running, it may be an indication of a more serious issue like plantar fasciitis and stress fractures. Make an appointment with an orthopaedic specialist to assess your problem and get you back on your feet.

If you are unsure about which option is best for you, take a pair of old shoes to a running store. Specialty running shops have sales experts who are trained to identify your gait and help you select a shoe to support your gait, terrain and mileage goals.

By Heidi Tyline King

If you suffer from foot or heel pain, make an appointment with an orthopaedic specialist. To learn more about USC Orthopaedic Surgery, visit

To schedule an appointment, call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visit

Keck Medicine of USC
Univeristy of Southern California
Keck Medicine of USC
Keck Medicine of USC
Keck Medicine of USC is the University of Southern California’s medical enterprise, one of only two university-owned academic medical centers in the Los Angeles area.