Choosing the Right Running Shoe

Imagine how much money we could all save if we ran barefoot like runner Zola Budd. Unfortunately, the reality is that most of us run on pavement that can be unforgiving so we need shoes that will absorb the pounding we put our bodies through when we run. Concrete is 2.5 times harder than asphalt, which in turn is harder than trails or grass. That's why it's important to find a pair of shoes that protect your feet and fit properly to avoid injuries.

Dr. Anthony Luke, a primary care doctor at the UCSF Sports Medicine Center recommends buying shoes based on your foot shape and for the type of running you intend to do. Over time and miles, your shoes start losing elasticity so you'll need to get new shoes based on the amount of mileage you put in your shoes.

Suggestions for selecting shoes:

  • A good rule of thumb is to change shoes at 450–600 miles.
  • Get two pairs of shoes and alternate them.
  • If shoes get wet, do not throw them in the dryer. Crumble up newspaper and place inside shoes to soak up the moisture.
  • Make sure you have at least 1/2-inch space before the toe box.
  • Try shoes on late in the day since the foot swells later in the day.
  • Women tend to have more narrow feet.
  • Squeeze the heel to make sure it is stiff. A solid heel keeps the foot and ankle stable.
  • Bend the front of the shoe up and back. It should break at the ball of the foot.
  • Grab the front of the shoe and the heel and twist the shoe. If it's easy, the shoe usually has less mid-foot support. If it's hard to do so, it has more mid-foot support, which is good for a foot that pronates.

Like running shoes there are just as many varieties of socks to choose from. Here are some tips about socks:

  • Acrylic and cotton mix makes good wicking material.
  • Socks coated with Teflon reduce friction.
  • Try wearing a silk liner.
  • Sprinkle your foot with a bit of absorbing powder like baby powder. It will help to absorb sweat. Wet socks can lead to blisters.
  • Wash socks several times before running to break them in.


Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Sports Medicine Center
1500 Owens St.
San Francisco, CA 94158
Appointments: (415) 353–2808
Main: (415) 353–9400
Fax: (415) 885–3862

1500 Owens St.
San Francisco, CA 94158

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