New Guidelines on How to Choose the Right Running Shoes

By Jae Gruenke | Natural Running Form

May 31

Apologies for my silence over the past two weeks; I’ve been flattened by pneumonia. I’m just starting to come back to life again, though, and am back to blogging since at least in this medium you can’t hear me cough.

While I was ill I had a chance to catch up on some running-related reading, listening, and viewing, including this exceptionally important news item from early spring:

The American College of Sports Medicine, the leading authority on sports and fitness in the United States, has just released their ACSM 2014 Running Shoe Guidelines They are a radical change from past advice. Here are the three key criteria they suggest:

  • Minimal heel-to-toe drop: “…shoes with no drop or a small drop 6mm or less are the best choice for allowing the foot to normally support loading during each gait cycle.”
  • Neutral: “This means the shoe does not contain motion control or stability components…”
  • Light in weight

The guidelines also state:

A running shoe should protect the feet against injury, but should not do the work of the foot by providing excessive cushioning and lots of extra support in the arch.

They include this crystal clear explanation as well:

Be aware that all runners pronate, or drop the foot inward. Pronation is a normal foot motion during walking and running. Pronation alone should not be a reason to select a running shoe. Runners may be told while shopping that because pronation is occurring, a shoe with arch support is best. In fact the opposite may be true. Pronation should occur and is a natural shock absorber. Stopping pronation with materials in the shoes may actually cause foot or knee problems to develop. Excessive pronation can occur, but in most cases can be corrected with therapy and exercises to strengthen the foot, leg, and hip rather than by a shoe.

I couldn’t have said it better myself, and I certainly couldn’t have said it as authoritatively. These guidelines were created by Heather K. Vincent, Ph.D., and Kevin R. Vincent, M.D., Ph.D. after a thorough review of the research available on the subject to date. 

Over the past year there’s been much discussion about whether minimalist running shoes are a fad that is already fading. These guidelines make it clear that, on the contrary, the running and footwear industries have been permanently transformed, and now the right running shoes are essentially minimalist running shoes. Over time this will affect not just the fringe of the running community but every single runner, helping us all run better and healthier.

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About the Author

Jae Gruenke, GCFP, is a running technique expert and Feldenkrais Practitioner. Known as a “running form guru,” she is the Founder and CEO of The Balanced Runner™ in New York City and The Balanced Runner UK. She has helped runners from beginner to Olympian improve their form to become pain-free, economical, and fast.

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(13) comments

SCOTT FORRESTER June 1, 2014

jae, so sorry to hear about your recent illness.take and best wishes for eturning to full strength. thanks for sharing. the acsm guidlines

Reply
Charles Velez. June 2, 2014

Get well Jae:All the best.Charles Velez.

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Rahman September 3, 2015

I have these shoes and I also have high arches, which I think might eipalxn why these shoes put painful pressure on the tops of my feet. In the video, you mention that these shoes aren’t ideal for people with high arches because they are shallow Would it be a bad idea if I removed the insoles to make them deeper? I just tried this out and it definitely alleviates most of the pressure that these shoes normally put on the tops of my feet, but I’m worried that exercising without the insole might be a bad idea If it is, is there another solution you could suggest? If I would be best off buying a new pair, could you suggest a pair that provides pronation control for a female with high arches and a normal width foot? Thanks!

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Lilly Derrah October 26, 2015

Very great tips to choose the right shoes for running. Thanks a lot! 🙂

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Windy November 16, 2015

I find a lot of tips how to choose running shoes in the acsm wed site. It is so helpful experience
thank you for your sharing

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James Bergman April 11, 2016

I appreciate you posting these guidelines. I try to take good care of my feet because I love going hiking and running. If it is outside, you bet I’m going to do it. So I have always tried to get shoes that support my arches well. So, it is interesting to hear that I shouldn’t worry too much about this. So, what should the proper arch support look/feel like?

Reply
    Jae Gruenke April 11, 2016

    Thanks for your comment, James! The answer is that there shouldn’t be any arch support. Arches don’t need supporting, they’re the strongest structures in nature and the more you load them from above the stronger they get. However if you push up from below they collapse. You might be interested in looking up Dr. Nick Campetelli, a holistic podiatrist, who has a lot to say about this. I also recommend The Barefoot Book by Daniel Howell.

    A really good shoe should have a wide toe box, be very flexible in every direction (ideally you can roll it up like a scroll), have a thin sole (unless you need insulation from the cold, in which case you’ll want some padding for that purpose), and absolutely nothing in the arch. That’s all I wear, and even though I’m a former dancer who was professionally barefoot for 13 years, my arches actually got higher and stronger once I started running barefoot and switched to this kind of shoe for everyday wear.

    Reply
Jill October 11, 2018

The ACSM link doesn’t work. Do they have a more recent update on their guidelines? Just wondering where the article is now. Also, do you have any shoe recommendations? Thanks!

Reply
    Jae Gruenke November 9, 2018

    Thanks for alerting me to that, Jill. The reason seems to be that the ACSM has taken it down and posted something more recent–a virtually useless document that cites no research and makes no recommendations. It’s so unfortunate, but I would imagine that advising people *against* purchasing such a large proportion of the running shoes currently on the market was too difficult a position for them to maintain.

    Reply
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