Uncertain about how to decide on your next set of neutral running shoes? Consider these key factors before making a purchase:
Cushioning and responsiveness: Decide if you prefer maximum cushioning for impact absorption and comfort or a more responsive feel for speed. Some shoes offer a balance between the two, so choose based on your preferences and running goals.”Cushioning absorbs shock and helps to avoid tissue irritation and damage,” explains Dr. Schaeffer.
Though neutral feet are a good fit for barefoot shoes because they don’t require corrective arch support, there’s a debate about running in these ultra minimalists models. “Our bodies need to find a way to attenuate shock and impact with each foot strike,” explains Dr. Lurie.
Barefoot running, or shoes that mimic it, may feel comfortable for some. But, according to Dr. Lurie, the lack of cushioning may ultimately lead to degenerative changes in our bones and joints, as well as the potential for stress injuries to muscles, tendon, and ligaments.
Weight: If you’re in the market for a neutral running shoe, be sure the models you’re considering are lightweight. Unless we’re talking about a trail shoe, that means under 10.5 ounces.
Drop and stack height: The drop refers to the height difference between the heel and forefoot. Consider your preference for a lower or higher drop (higher drop will pitch you forward more with each step), as well as the stack height for cushioning and impact absorption.
Comfort and fit: “The shoe should have ample space for your toes to have room to move in the forefoot and have a mesh upper that will allow for breathability,” explains Dr. Mendeszoon.
“The heel should fit comfortably and not provide a lot of motion and there should be ample length on the laces to tie the shoes properly.”
Running style and terrain: Do you primarily run on roads, trails, or a mix of both? Do you run races or long distances often? Different shoes are designed for different surfaces and distances, so choose accordingly.
Durability: Although neutral shoes may be a bit more stripped-down and less firm through the midsole, they should still offer durability and withstand regular running sessions. Look for shoes with reinforced areas in high-wear zones and durable outsole materials, as durability can be an issue with the more barebones neutral models.
Consider reviews and feedback: Read reviews from other runners to get an idea of the shoe’s performance, durability, and overall quality. Look for feedback specifically from runners with similar foot types or running preferences.
Budget: While higher-priced models often offer advanced features, there are also affordable options available that can still meet your needs.
Plan to replace them after approximately 300-500 miles of use to maintain optimal performance and reduce the risk of injuries, and consider this when determining your budget.