Choosing a Shoe: The Very Basics

New and improved! A beginner's guide to choosing a shoe, with links to all of our reviews

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There’s no single 'best shoe' – everyone has different needs. All sorts of things - your biomechanics, your weight, the surfaces you run on, and obviously, the shape of your feet - mean that one person's ideal shoe can be terrible for another person.

We divide our shoes into three main categories (stability, performance, neutral and minimalist):


Recommended for runners who are mild tomoderate overpronators and who generally have low to normal arches. These runners tend to need a shoe with a combination of good support and midsole cushioning.


Recommended either for racing or, ifyou’re biomechanically efficient, for training. They have varying degrees ofsupport and cushioning, but at 250-300g, they’re generally lighter and narrower than other running shoes.


Recommended for runners who need maximummidsole cushioning and minimum medial support. These shoes are best for biomechanically efficient runners (with minimum pronation) and midfoot orforefoot strikers with high or normal arches.


Recommended for biomechanically efficient runners who want maximum responsiveness and a stripped-down shoe while retaining an element of cushioning. These are seen as the mid point between neutral cushioned and performance shoes

The first step in finding your basic shoe needs is to try our 'Wet Test', below or, preferably, to visit a biomechanics expert or experienced shoe retailer.

The Wet Test works on the basis that the shape of your wet footprint on a dry floor or piece of paper roughly correlates with the amount of stability you might need in your shoe. It will show you what features you should look for and equip you with the basic knowledge you need to make the most of our RW Shoe Finder, the next step in your search.

The Normal Foot
Normal feet have a normal-sized arch and will leave a wet footprint that has a flare, but shows the forefoot and heel connected by a broad band. A normal foot lands on the outside of the heel and rolls inwards slightly to absorb shock. It’s the foot of a runner who is biomechanically efficient and therefore doesn’t need a motion control shoe.
Best shoes: Stability shoes with moderate control features.
Next step: RW Shoe Finder
More about stability shoes | Just show me the reviews
The Flat Foot
This has a low arch and leaves a print which looks like the whole sole of the foot. It usually indicates an overpronated foot – one that strikes on the outside of the heel and rolls inwards (pronates) excessively. Over time, this can cause many different types of overuse injuries.
Best shoes: Motion control shoes, or high stability shoes with firm midsoles and control features that reduce the degree of pronation. Stay away from highly cushioned, highly curved shoes, which lack stability features.
Next step: RW Shoe Finder
More about motion control shoes | Just show me the reviews
The High-Arched Foot
This leaves a print showing a very narrow band or no band at all between the forefoot and the heel. A curved, highly arched foot is generally supinated or underpronated. Because it doesn’t pronate enough, it’s not usually an effective shock absorber.
Best shoes: Cushioned (or 'neutral') shoes with plenty of flexibility to encourage foot motion. Stay away from motion control or stability shoes, which reduce foot mobility.
Next step: RW Shoe Finder
More about cushioned shoes | Just show me the reviews

The Other Shoe Types
Our other shoe categories are for faster runners, and off-road runners:

Previous article
Autumn 03 Shoe Guide
Next article
Shoe Index - Racing Shoes

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Discuss this article

I've only been running a few months and am taking part in my first 5K race on Sunday. I could do with getting a decent pair of trainers and i can get to London or anywhere in Herts on Saturday but don't know where to go to get someone who can help rather than a Saturday kid who doesn't know anything about the trainers they sell - any ideas?
Posted: 13/05/2003 at 17:07

Difficult to advise on trainers - different people need different things - shoes one person raves about aren't necessarily right for someone else. Best go to a specialist running shop (if you can find one in your area).

Not sure it's a good idea to run your first race in brand new shoes (however, others may know better). I feel I always need to break mine in a couple of times before they feel really comfy. Maybe best to do the race in the shoes you've been training in and then look for some new ones?

Anyhow, good luck on Sunday. Let us know how you get on.

Posted: 13/05/2003 at 17:19

Hi Claire,

I'm definately no expert but I would say don't under any circumstances change to new shoes the day before a race.

Sounds like a recipe for pain anguish and a DNF!! Stick with what you've trained in and then change.

Best of Luck for Sunday.

Posted: 13/05/2003 at 17:21

I agree with the others - go with what you have for the race. It would be a shame to spoil the day with blisters from new shoes (been there, done that...)

As for getting new shoes in the future, you are dead right about the "Saturday kid" tyoe shop assistant - basically steer clear of any "sports" shop that sells mainly football strips and only cotton t-shirts.

I don't know London, but there are Sweatshops there which come recommended.
Posted: 13/05/2003 at 17:47

Claire, check out

They have a shop directory on there which will tell you where your nearest shop is. THere's at least one in London (Covent Garden) but you might find one closer.

But, as the others have said, it might not be best to run a race in new shoes.

I got my first running shoes at the Maidstone branch not long ago and they were really very helpful. I said to one of the members of staff that I wanted to buy some running shoes but I didn't know what sort to get. I didn't whether I was an overpronator (feet roll inwards) or supinator (feet roll outwards) or neutral (all of which require different shoe types). They asked me to run across their footscan (in bare feet) to assess my gait and then they recommended a few pairs for me to try on. I seemed to spend ages running around the shop trying shoes on. I found I was a supinator and needed cushioning shoes so I got Mizuno Wave Riders. V. comfy, no blisters so far.

Enjoy your race and let us know how you get on

Posted: 13/05/2003 at 18:50

Thanks everyone, I'll run the race in my old trainers but I'll look on the sweatshop website to find my nearest sweatshop to buy new shoes afterwards. It sounds like the people there will be able to advise me as i don't know anything about what trainers i need.
Posted: 14/05/2003 at 08:54

Claire, veto what the others said about running on the old trainers for the race. With regards to new ones, Sweatshop shop are not bad, and they do have a footscan analysis system to tailor find your perfect running shoe. There's one on the high road in north finchley, about 200yards from the tally ho pub. The best shop i go to is runners need in camden, and they have a new shop in liverpool street. They use video footage analysis with you running on a treadmill, just as effective, but the staff in my opinion are more technical and knowledgable, and they have more shoes and variety tailored for running. If you are a member of a running club and show your membership card, there is also a 10% discount at the sweatshop too.
Posted: 14/05/2003 at 11:05

Sorry Claire,
Just remembered too, that there's a shop in Bishop's Stortford called fast feet and the owner Paul, is a lovely chap, and he's a running fanatic too. Again 10% discount is offered to club memebers
Posted: 14/05/2003 at 11:07

There's a Running Specialist shop in Bancroft, Hitchin, Herts. It's called ARO Sports and is run by Tony Osborne (a Runner)and Race Organiser with lots of experience.
Tri- Sports in The Wynd, Letchworth, Herts is also run by a Runner. Both should be able to offer good advice as well. As everyone else said ....I would race in brand new shoes, break them in a bit first. In my humble opinion..NEVER EVER try to buy decent running shoes from a so-called "Sports" store flogging footy shirts, non-running brand t shirts and fashion trainers. This type of superstore is not going to have knowledgable staff who can focus on your specific needs.
Also, check out shoe buying guides such as on Runnersworld site to check whether you pronate etc and ensure you get suitable cushioning for your intended use and weight etc.
Personally I make quite a bit of use of mail order via ads in Runners World or from web sites such as promoted on this site.
You can always ring them up, they often provide decent advice too.
Good luck

Posted: 17/05/2003 at 11:01

Hi Claire,

If you are in London then Run and Become are really helpful or indeed sweatshop in Harolds - they offer a foot scan that detemines if you over pronate etc and can then reccommend the right shoe. As everyone else has said, might not be a good idea to run in new shoes - break them in first,
Good luck!
Posted: 10/10/2003 at 17:28

I am thouroughly confused by this article - I have a normal foot based on the wet test and therefore am advised by article that I am biomechanically efficient runner and the best shoe is stability shoes with moderate control features.

For High-Arched Foot - this article states that best shoes is "Cushioned (or "neutral") shoes and to stay away from stability shoes.

However, in the Shoes Review / Cushioned Shoes Review section of Runner's World
, it mentions that "the cushioned shoes are best suited for biomechanically efficient runner (minimum pronation) and midfoot or forefoot strikers."

So, these two Runner's World articles contradict - for the biomechanically efficient runner - one recommends Cushioned Shoes while the other recommends Stability shoes. I don't get. Can anyone shed light on what's the best shoe for biomechanically efficient runners with a neutral gait cycle?
Posted: 03/11/2003 at 04:32

if you are neutral, go for cushioned shoes, which are also known as neutral shoes

(this doesnt mean that stability shoes aren't cushioned by the way, its just that some people refer to neutral shoes as cushioned shoes)

but are you neutral? if you have a normal foot then youre more likely to overpronate,however...

if you have a high arched foot (not a 'normal' foot-well obviously not abnormal...! just not in the majority!) then you are more likely to be neutral.

(the wet foot test is fairly accurate, but its best to go to somewhere where they can tell you what type of running gait you have, e.g. I work in a running shop)
Posted: 04/11/2003 at 16:48

I have been running for about a year now, I never bought any running shoes by visiting any shops. I did the foot print test and ordered my running shoes online, which saved me a few pounds.
I have two pairs now, and I am very happy with them. So it depends how you feel about trusting your own judgement.

Posted: 22/01/2004 at 11:35

I got my shoes by doing the foot print test, The going to a specialist running shop. Both the test and the shop suggested I tend to overpronate slightly (more on one foot than the other, I'm apparently lopsided). after lots of running round the shops trying on different shoes, I decided the shoe for me was the Asics Gel 1080, which they were selling at £65.00. Due to a bank error, my card was refused and I went home sad and shoeless. Browsing start fitness website I found the same shoes, in my size for £35.00. Ordered them and haven't looked back since. So it's worth remembering that the shoes you want may be cheaper on the web.
Posted: 22/01/2004 at 11:47

Startfitness are a great place to buy shoes, I bought my two pairs from there.
It is worth calling them before placing order as I found their website not always up to date with what is really available.
Posted: 22/01/2004 at 14:03


I've been running for a while now and need to get a new pair of trianers. Does anyone know of any shops in the Leicester/nottinghamshire area where I could get some advice?

Posted: 24/02/2004 at 14:28

Nottingham - Total Fitness Nottingham (Beeston), Sweatshop (inside Holmes Place Gym) or Up and Running (Huntingdon Street or there's one in Long Eaton)
Loughborough - The Running Fox
Leicester - bit of a vacuum as far as i know
I can also recommend The Derby Runner at Spondon just off the A52
Good luck.
Posted: 25/02/2004 at 10:05

Hi, I'm looking at buying my first pair of running shoes. Any recommendations for shops in the South-East London/Kent borders?

Posted: 24/06/2004 at 12:00

Has anyone tried running in MBTs or Chung Shi trainers? x
Posted: 09/02/2006 at 09:27

Those MBT trainers must weigh about a ton each ? Cant see how anyone could run in them ?

<waits to be proven wrong>
Posted: 09/02/2006 at 09:29

We'd always recommend that you visit and buy your shoes from a specialist retailer in the first instance.

If you are averse to visiting a specialist store, some now over gait analysis online! Failing that your next best option is to take a close look at the wear of your existing running shoes and combine this information with your foot type to identify what shoes you require.

If you need any further help but don't wont to visit a store I'd definitely recommend using the RW forum or posting a comment on our blog where one of our experts will only be too happy to help.

Posted: 07/04/2010 at 18:59

Like a previous posting I also recommend Fast Feet in Bishop Stortford. Paul the owner is brilliant. Have bought two pairs there for myself and a pair for my daughter. It's a small shop but he has a huge selection, is very chatty and personable and happy to spend all the time you need.


Posted: 07/04/2010 at 23:05

I'm giving all my other shoes to the charity shop; I never want to wear anything else. I know they look silly, but what the hell? To be able to walk miles without pain is the most important thing, love best shoes

Posted: 21/09/2010 at 17:40

This is a great article. Wow, so many of these things I never thought of before.

it is very imformative.

Posted: 16/10/2010 at 16:10

This blog is amazing!!!i stay impressive with the whole information because is absolutely interesting and wonderful .I like the new ideas raised in this blog. Simply wonderful. i love the shoes, it drives me crazy.i usually go shopping, specially to buy shoes.
Posted: 12/11/2010 at 15:02


i m Mani

i m a good racer

trying to take participate in college level race

first of all i get a mens trainer a pair of beautiful shoesa and and then practice on racing in ground

Posted: 13/11/2010 at 14:48

Good article with lots of sound advice. However, don't forget to check out the rest of your running technique and not just assume that because the foot is in the right shoes that everything else will be fixed!

Sometimes the right pair of shoes is all it takes to solve injury problems, but often the underlying problem is with running technique not just footwear.

Posted: 04/12/2010 at 13:31

Agree James.

Almost all running injuries are overuse injuries…

You can have perfect technique/biomechanics and the perfect shoes and still get injured if do too much too fast and / overtrain.

Obviously the bad technique/biomechanics and/or the wrong shoes will mean that overuse injury will probably happen sooner.

You can run with bad technique/biomechanics and wrong shoes and not get injured if you don’t run too far / often – the body can cope with a certain amount stress & strain and recover.

Unfortunately, when someone gets injured, they are much more likely to immediately blame the shoes rather than consider that their own weaknesses or actions could have anything to do with it.

Posted: 05/12/2010 at 01:21


 Very nice post which defines shoes types with explantion.Its informative post for Running persons gives ideas for running preparation.


Posted: 03/02/2011 at 11:00

I can highly reccomend a little shop call 'run and become' it's on palmer street just off victoria street london (about 5 mins walk from st james park station). They fitted me with my shoes and were realiy attentive to the process. Tried lots on, ran up and down the street in each pair while they watched my gait. I'll be going back when i next need a new pair.
Posted: 03/02/2011 at 13:15

Please would somebody help in my ordeal to try and run without injury...

i`ve been running for about two years, only small distance`s up to about 4 miles, then i started to get a pain down the outside of my right knee! some say IT syndrome, after checks and measurements found that i was wearing the wrong type of shoe!asics 1110.. so this time i  bought a cushioning shoe/naterual shoe. asics gel balance....great first few times out no problems, then when on a run about 3 miles in my left calf pops,rested for a week, ice, anti-inflammatory`s compression.....then next time out my right calf pops,i stopped as soon as i felt it go and limped back home, rested again for a week, then tried a small training run 1.5 miles nice and steady about a mile in it really tightened up again only to limp back home......

i warm up correctly, i don`t push to hard, i only want to keep fit, 4-5 miles 10 minute mile pace is my goal can anybody help please.....i`m 39 weigh 12st and very active.

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Posted: 12/05/2011 at 12:51

I could do with getting a decent pair of trainers and i can get to London or anywhere in Herts on Saturday but don't know where to go to get someone who can help rather than a Saturday kid who doesn't know anything about the trainers they sell - any ideas? <a href="">premium wordpress themes</a>
Posted: 18/05/2011 at 14:10

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