There are many options to choose from when picking out new running shoes. And with the abundance of running shoes to choose from, runners will often make the wrong choice when picking out their footwear.
The symptoms of wearing the wrong running shoe can vary from poor performance to premature wear and tear, to injury. Thankfully, the signs that you need to replace your current shoes are easy to spot.
Shoes play an important role in protecting your feet when you run, and some models can do that better than others. Different shoes are designed with different purposes in mind – whether that be running on rocky terrain, or offering extra cushioning to counteract supination.
Knowing what you need from your running shoe is important for making sure you aren’t wearing the wrong kind…
- Running Is Uncomfortable and/or Painful
- Constant Blisters and Calluses
- Hammer Toes
- Toenail Issues
- Changes to Your Gait
- Excessive Foot Sweat
- You Need to Loosen the Laces to Get Your Shoes Off
- Toe Issues
- Pain in Your Arches, the Back of Your Heel or Calves
- Heel Doesn’t Fit
- Numbness or Strain
- Knee Pain
- Deep Foot Pain
- Your Running Shoes Show Signs of Wear And Tear
- Your Running Shoes Are Too Old
- You Notice New Discomfort, Pain, or Injury
What Happens When You Wear The Wrong Running Shoe?
Wearing the wrong running shoe can have a significant and negative impact on running.
Not only can improper and inadequate footwear lead to fatigue, stress and even injury, but some running shoes could be contributing to poor running form, while even diminishing your performance.
The Wrong Running Shoes Can Hurt Your Feet
Running in the wrong shoes can have widespread repercussions. When the shoes are unable to provide the physical support needed during running, either because they’re too old, don’t fit properly, or don’t match your foot structure, this puts additional stress on your joints and muscles.
Over time, this stress can lead to foot deformities, chronic pain or injuries like Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis.
Different Runners Need Different Shoes
Some running shoes are better than others for specific purposes.
A marathon runner with neutral pronation wouldn’t need the same shoes as a newcomer with flat feet who only runs short distances.
Wearing the right running shoes for your style of running will help improve your running form and overall time, will make running more fun and comfortable, and will even help your running shoes last longer.
Common Signs That You’re Wearing the Wrong Running Shoe
The symptoms of wearing the wrong running shoe are varied but are still relatively easy to spot. Generally speaking, inadequate footwear will cause discomfort and hamper your performance.
If you experience any of the following, it’s a sign you should start looking to replace your running shoes:
Running Is Uncomfortable and/or Painful
Running is a physical activity and there will always be some discomfort with exercise (especially for beginners). The important distinction here is mild discomfort and fatigue caused by muscle use and moderate to severe discomfort and/or pain while running.
If your feet hurt with every step – especially if you notice swelling – you probably need different shoes. The same is true if you experience pain like plantar fasciitis (stabbing pain in the bottom of your foot near the heel) or an inflamed heel.
Constant Blisters and Calluses
Your running shoes should not be causing blisters and calloused skin. Contrary to popular belief, running shoes should not require a substantive “break-in” period to be comfortable. It’s common to develop some blisters from new shoes, but if it happens continuously, that’s a problem.
Blisters and calluses can be a sign that the shoes either are suited for your foot shape or that the size is wrong. As well, if an old pair of shoes is leading to skin irritation like blisters and calluses, that’s a sign the shoes are too old and need to be replaced.
Hammertoe is a condition that causes the second, third or fourth toe to bend downward rather than forward. It’s a deformity caused by the muscles and ligaments around your toe joint being imbalanced. This can be caused by ill-fitting shoes.
It’s a condition that is easily reversible in the early stages, but if left untreated, can require surgery to correct.
Wearing the wrong running shoes can cause various issues with your toes and your toenails. Jogger’s toe is a condition that causes the blackening of your toenail due to stress. In some cases, a runner’s toenail can fall off, which can be painful (and in rare cases, lead to infection).
If your toes are touching the end of the inside of the shoe, or if there’s little room to move or wiggle them, then your shoes are too tight.
Like hammertoe, bunions are a deformity that can be caused by wearing shoes that don’t fit properly.
Bunions appear as a hard bump on the side of your at the base of your big toe and are an abnormality in the foot bones caused by pressure on the foot joint over time. The condition is very common but can become painful and, in severe cases, could require surgery to correct.
Changes to Your Gait
Incompatible running shoes can encourage poor running form. If after a run you notice a change in your gait or walking pattern, especially if accompanied by pain, then you are wearing the wrong running shoes.
Morton’s neuroma is a painful condition that affects the ball of your foot, typically between the third and fourth toes. Neuroma, or a “pinched nerve” as it’s commonly called, is a thickening of the nerve tissue, and results from a nerve being disrupted, either by injury or pressure. Morton’s neuroma is specific to the feet and is usually caused by wearing shoes that are too tight.
Excessive Foot Sweat
No one likes sweaty feet! Feet that feel uncomfortably sweaty after a run may be a sign that your shoes lack sufficient ventilation – it can also be another sign that the shoes are too tight.
Wearing sweaty shoes is uncomfortable and awkward (dry running shoes are much better), and can lead to other issues like odor and fungus.
Developing tendonitis can be painful, especially in the foot. Tendonitis is when a tendon (the tissues that connect muscle to bone) becomes inflamed or injured. Running with the wrong footwear can cause tendonitis in your ankle, feet or back of your heel (the Achilles tendon).
This is another problem caused by fit: usually because there’s too much foot movement when you step.
Signs You’re Wearing The Wrong Running Shoe Size
The above symptoms can simply be caused by the fact that the shoes you’re wearing just aren’t right for your feet. However, it’s also possible that you’re buying the wrong size.
As we get older, our feet change. They can get wider, and the tissue changes shape as tendons and ligaments lose some of their strength and elasticity.
Furthermore, our feet swell throughout the day. That means that if you tried on new shoes first thing in the morning, they may no longer fit by the end of the day!
The following signs suggest it’s time to reconsider your shoe size and fit:
You Need to Loosen the Laces to Get Your Shoes Off
Shoes that fit properly should be able to be pulled off, even when tied. If you need to loosen the laces just to pull your shoe off, it’s too snug.
Wearing the wrong running shoes can cause a myriad of toe problems, including deformities like hammertoe and bunions.
When the toenail repeatedly makes contact with the inside of your shoe, this can lead to bruising and blood blisters, which eventually can cause the toenail to fall off completely. These toe conditions are almost always caused by shoes that are too tight (although keeping the toenails trimmed helps too!).
Pain in Your Arches, the Back of Your Heel or Calves
If after a run you feel aching in your arches, your Achilles tendon, or your hamstrings, it could be because your foot isn’t able to bend naturally in your shoes.
Your foot has a “flex point” – the spot where it bends naturally. You want to make sure your shoe’s flex point matches up; shoes that are too big or too small won’t.
Heel Doesn’t Fit
Although your heel should have some movement within the shoe, you don’t want it to be slipping out of the shoe when walking or running uphill.
Numbness or Strain
If the top of your foot feels numb or strained, it’s likely that your shoe isn’t fitted correctly. You want your shoes to feel comfortable when laced up, and they should be loose enough to allow flexibility and not restrict the blood flow.
Stabbing pain in your knee, especially when running downhill, is a symptom of ill-fitting shoes causing unnatural changes to your gait. Iliotibial Band Syndrome, or IT Band Syndrome, is an overuse injury involving the IT band (a rope-like tissue that helps stabilize the knee). Although it’s not the only cause, improper footwear can often trigger IT Band Syndrome.
Deep Foot Pain
Pain deep in your foot, especially one that gets worse while running, could be a stress fracture. Often, stress fractures in the foot or ankle are caused when there is inadequate support and shock absorption. This is another overuse injury that is commonly caused by wearing the wrong shoes.
When To Replace Your Running Shoes
Running shoes need to be replaced periodically — especially if you want peak physical performance.
Here are some signs that it’s time to replace your training shoes:
Your Running Shoes Show Signs of Wear And Tear
Any running shoes showing signs of excessive wear and tear should be replaced. This includes physical defects like the treads being worn away, a crease in the midsole, or tears in the toe box.
Deterioration also manifests as the running shoes’ structural integrity breaking down. This might be the heel cushioning feeling harder or the midsole feeling thinner and more flexible.
Your Running Shoes Are Too Old
The common consensus is that you should replace your running shoes after 300 – 400 miles of use.
At this point, a newer pair of shoes is likely to result in considerably better performance.
You Notice New Discomfort, Pain, or Injury
If you experience new or worsening discomfort, pain or injury during or after running, you should consider replacing your running shoes.
How To Pick The Right Running Shoe
The next step after determining if you’re wearing the wrong running shoe is figuring out what the right one is. In order to pick the right running shoe, you’ll need to know what your needs are and what your best fit is.
Let’s take a look at some of the different types of running shoes:
Everyday Running Shoe
These are the most versatile option and are best for everyday use. For people just starting, this is an ideal option.
Everyday running shoes come in a variety of styles to support different runners’ needs. Some have more cushioning than others, which is good for runners with a history of injuries — or simply need a little extra bounce in their step.
Lightweight Running Shoe
The lighter the shoe is, the easier it is to run. This is the logic behind the lightweight running shoe, which is the choice for experienced runners looking to maximize their speed. The downside is that these running shoes are more susceptible to wear and tear, and need to be replaced more frequently.
Trail Running Shoe
Those who like to run in nature would benefit from purchasing this type of shoe. Trail running shoes are designed for use on rocky, uneven terrain. These shoes have improved grip, and tend to be generally more durable; however, the lugs (the deep treads) tend to be uncomfortable when running on hard, smooth surfaces like asphalt.
See more: trail vs road running shoes – which is best (and when?)
Get Properly Fitted For Running Shoes
The best way to know for certain that you have the right fit for your running shoe is to go into a store, talk with a knowledgeable salesperson, and try on different pairs.
A reputable athletics store should be able to assist you in determining your running shoe needs. They can help you determine if you have any foot posture issues, as well as recommend different makes and styles.
Don’t be afraid to take the shoes out for a quick jog (around the store, that is)! To truly get a sense of how the shoes feel while running, you’ll need to take a quick tour around the store. Just because the shoes feel comfortable when standing doesn’t mean they’ll be comfortable from touchdown to toe-off.
Remember to try on shoes in the afternoon or evening, not first thing in the morning, since your feet will swell throughout the day.
What To Look For In A Running Shoe
In addition to buying a running shoe style that matches your intended use, there are other factors to look for when picking out a new pair.
Everyone runs differently: your age, weight, level of fitness, form, and footstrike will all influence how you run, and what level of support you need from your running shoe.
When you run, you strike the ground with a force equal to approximately four times your own body weight. That’s a lot of pressure to put on your joints! Running shoes should be maximizing your performance by absorbing some of that shock and adding enough bounce to keep your going. Your shoes should also offer stability and balance — how much depends on personal preference.
Everyday running shoes can be broadly split into three categories in terms of style. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Stability Running Shoes
Stability shoes are designed for runners who have issues with their foot posture. In other words, overpronation and under pronation (supination). Essentially, this just refers to how the runner lands, with overpronation distributing too much weight on the inside of the landing foot, and supination butting that pressure on the outer edge of the foot.
Stability shoes offer a mix of cushioning and structure that supports the arch and heel of the foot. They are typically more rigid than other running shoe types.
Motion Control Shoes
Similar to stability shoes, motion control shoes are great for runners who struggle with their foot posture. Motion control shoes are the most rigid option, and also offer significant arch and heel cup support.
While stability shoes are good for runners with slight to moderate overpronation, motion control shoes are better for more severe cases — but that additional support means motion control shoes weigh more. These are also excellent for heavier runners and people with flat feet.
Cushioned Running Shoes
Cushioning is an important aspect of virtually all running shoes, but some models have noticeably more than others. Generally speaking, cushioned running shoes offer a soft and comfortable feel, and feature shock absorption around the heel and forefront regions. These shoes tend to be “bouncier” but offer little to no corrective or support features.
Cushioned running shoes are best for runners with neutral foot posture or runners with high arches. They can also be beneficial to counteract supination because of the shock dispersion features.