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I have heard there are really three main classes of running shoe types:

  • Neutral
  • Motion Control
  • Stability

How would I decide which kind I should purchase?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Classification of running shoes can be done in different ways, as follows:

  • motion control shoes compensate for pronation, when feet "rock in" at the ankle
  • cushioning shoes compensate for supination, when feet "rock out" at the ankle
  • neutral shoes are neutral in relation to pronation and supination
  • stability shoes offer some extra stiffness in the inner mid-sole

These all can be further divided according to the running style:

  • heel striking shoes add extra padding under the heel
  • mid/fore-foot striking have a minimal heel to avoid it contacting the ground first

And finally, there is an emerging no-artificial-support category:

  • minimal shoes, with thin, flexible outsoles for close-to-barefoot feeling (this generally induces mid/fore-foot striking), and extra room to naturally spread toes (or with separate toe pockets)

But that was only about your health and your running style. Now, what type of terrain you aim for?

  • track shoes are lightweight with spikes at the bottom for better grip
  • road running shoes, with more cushioning, offer extra wear resistance for hard surfaces
  • trail shoes for cross-country, off-road tracks, with aggressive outsole, sometimes with spikes, usually with better water-resistance

And which length of the track?

  • sprint shoes tend to be stiff, lightweight, and again with spikes (essentially track shoes)
  • middle distance shoes vary the most, weight is not important, choose by the terrain
  • marathon and beyond, a soft and lightweight shoe as the weight becomes important again

A more exhaustive guide you can find at:

http://www.rei.com/expertadvice/articles/running+shoes.html

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You REALLY need to go to a good running shoe store, and have them help you with your selection. This selection will typically be guided by your:

  • running mechanics (do your ankles rock in, out, or neither)
  • foot mechanics (flat or not)
  • running volume (do you run long, etc.)
  • The type of surface you will run on (trail, road, track, wet environment)

From there, they will direct you to "the wall" of shoes, and point out the 2-5 which are appropriate for you. Then it goes to fit, feel, and aesthetics.

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3  
In case you were really asking about what the difference is between these kinds of shoes, motion control shoes offer extra support for over pronators - people whose feet rock in at the ankle. Neutral shoes are for people who don't over pronate. Support shoes are in the middle of the two - offering some support, but not as much as motion control. –  Mike Hedman Feb 8 '12 at 20:32
1  
And to add to the above comment and the above answer, not having the proper shoe can cause physical damage to your shoes as well as muscle damage/strain to your legs/feet. –  Jason N. Gaylord Feb 8 '12 at 21:03
    
+1 for recommending a good running store. Getting my running style evaluated and getting the right shoes for me made all the difference. –  BillN Feb 9 '12 at 22:02

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