Types of Running Shoes
Neutral shoes are designed for feet with a high arch. Lighter weight runners with normal arches may be able to get away with neutral shoes as well. These shoes offer very little additional support for the foot. Ideally, most runners wearing a neutral shoe will have pretty efficient biomechanics and won’t pronate too much. Neutral shoes have a very curved shape and posting (use of different density midsoles), or denser cushioning in order to slow the foot’s natural rate of pronation.
Support shoes are designed for the runner with a moderate or "normal" arch. These runners need some additional support for their foot since they will pronate some. Support shoes generally use cushioning of different densities to slow the foot’s rate of pronation and prevent injuries. The use of different density midsoles is referred to as “posting.” The outside (lateral side) of the heel will generally be a regular density foam and as the foot rolls inward, it will encounter a denser foam that slows the foot’s pronation and keeps it from rolling too far inward. Support shoes are cut along a straighter line than neutral shoes, but they still have some curve.
Motion control shoes are designed for maximum support of the foot. These shoes are targeted towards a flat foot with a low arch. They use the same method as support shoes to "block" the foot from overpronating. Many motion control shoes also use a hard TPU (thermal plastic unit) piece in conjunction with denser cushioning to really support the foot. Motion control shoes are generally cut along a pretty straight line that creates a wider base for flat feet. Unfortunately, motion control shoes are usually heavier than neutral or support shoes simply because of the extra support features that are built-in.
Other Shoe Types
There are some other types of shoes that fall into the running category. Many of these are specialized shoes based around activity.
Many trail running shoes are designed similarly to a support shoe. Trail shoes are often made with water resistant or in some cases waterproof uppers. Be sure to check each individual shoe as they are not all necessarily water resistant. Also, trail running shoes feature bigger "lugs" on the outsole. Essentially, the tread will be larger and more aggressive. While trail running shoes can also be worn for road running, you have to be careful that the tread won’t become caught and cause you to trip.
Racing flats or lightweight trainers are all about speed. These shoes offer little or no support for flatter feet and only provide minimal cushion. These are generally for serious racers, but they also make great training shoes for speed workout days.
These are for high school or college track and field athletes. There are spikes designed for different distance events as well as jumping or throwing. Spikes that are for longer distances have a bit more cushion built into the heel than shorter distance or sprint spikes. Depending on the distance or type of event, there will often be different spike patterns in the outsole. These shoes are extremely lightweight, very curved and offer no extra support for the foot. Track spikes are specialty shoes that are usually only worn during competition.
Cross Country Spikes
Cross country spikes are similar to long distance track spikes, except they are not designed for use on a track. Instead, cross country spikes are designed for trail and off-road racing. These shoes don’t offer much cushioning or support and are really intended for race day wear only. They feature interchangeable spikes for customizable traction. If the track is going to be sloppy, you may need longer spikes for more traction than if the track will be mostly dry.
Although walking shoes are not technically for running, they are built around the same kind of platform. However, while running shoes are ideal for walking, the reverse isn’t true. Running shoes actually provide more cushioning and ventilation than most walking shoes; however, walking shoes offer mostly leather uppers and a variety colors that some people prefer.
For more information check our Running Shoe Fit Tips page!