What Runners Need in a Distance Shoe

Ashley Lauretta
by Ashley Lauretta
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What Runners Need in a Distance Shoe

When it comes to finding the perfect distance shoe, it isn’t all about the most recent innovations or simply upgrading to the newest model of your old go-to. In fact, the ideal distance shoe is going to be different for every runner. Because of this we can’t just give you a list of the top distance running shoes; however, we can provide you with guidelines to find the right pair for you. We talked to experts to find out the single most important thing to consider when buying your next pair — and the most common mistakes to avoid.


When it comes to choosing a distance shoe, the most important part of the process is to find the perfect fit. This should be prioritized over other features of the shoe because, as Cori Burns, Under Armour’s run footwear category manager, points out, the best cushioning or propulsion system won’t be effective if the shoe doesn’t fit right.

“It’s important that when purchasing a run shoe, you have ample space in the toe-box, to allow your foot to splay properly,” Burns continues. “Your foot also swells over a run and throughout the day, so a little extra room allows your foot to stay comfortable over a long run.”

Because your distance shoes are going to log a lot of miles, Burns adds that your heel should feel “locked-in” and your midfoot should feel secure to reduce the chance of blisters from unnecessary sliding in the shoe. To guarantee the best fit, it is recommended that you are professionally fit by an expert at a specialty running store. Not only will they examine your gait — either by having you walk through the store or run on a treadmill — but they offer multiple styles so you can compare the fit between models.

Brands are constantly evolving their offerings, so trying each new model introduced is important to make sure the fit is still consistent. For example, Under Armour just incorporated gender-specific fit in our UA HOVR Infinite and UA HOVR Guardian with the 2019 models, meaning there is a unique pattern and sockliner construction that caters to the female foot and its unique needs. As companies continue to formulate new technologies, it is important to make sure the fit still works for you from version to version.


Because the fit of a distance shoe is vital, one of the biggest mistakes experts see is runners who buy shoes without trying them on first. “Running shoes change and innovate often and thus it is inappropriate to assume that a version that worked for the runner one year will necessarily work for them the following year,” echoes Kevin Graham, general manager of the specialty running store Phidippides in Atlanta (which was originally opened by Jeff Galloway).

Once you have made your way to a specialty store to be fit, there are a few other common mistakes to avoid when choosing a new distance shoe. Choosing the wrong size — even when trying shoes on — is more common than you’d think. As Burns noted above, your feet swell when you run, meaning you want enough room in the toe box to account for this.

“[I have to steer customers from] buying the wrong size,” admits running coach Phil Clark, owner of The Training Station and Run Shoe Store in Philadelphia. “They tend to think that their casual shoe size is also their running shoe size.”

Burns notes that it is recommended to increase a half size from your casual, everyday shoes, to leave room for this discrepancy. Worried you don’t have enough room? She recommends keeping a fingernails distance from your biggest toe to the front of the shoe.

The other mistake to avoid is simply going after the latest technologies or walking in looking for a specific type of cushioning because your running buddy prefers it. There is a reason you get fit — to find what works best for you — so remembering the process is subjective is important.

“The feel of the midsole (the material directly under the foot) should match [a runner’s] desires,” notes Graham. “One runner’s perception of cushioning is very subjective and unique. One runner may love the cushion feel of a model and the next runner will despise that feel. They are both right.”


There are some common guidelines for how often to replace your running shoes; Graham notes that the current industry standard is every 400–600 miles. This recommendation varies, however — Clark shares that if you are wearing your shoes throughout the day, as well, you need to replace them more frequently — so inspecting your shoes often is recommended.

“There are many factors that can lead to faster or slower wear on a shoe, such as pace, weight, terrain and strike pattern,” adds Burns. “The best measurement of shoe-life is your own intuition — if you start to feel the road more than you would like, treat yourself to another pair of running shoes.”

About the Author

Ashley Lauretta
Ashley Lauretta

Ashley is a journalist based in Austin, Texas. She is the assistant editor at LAVA and her work appears in The Atlantic, ELLE, GOOD Sports, espnW, VICE Sports, Health, Men’s Journal, Women’s Running and more. Find her on Twitter at @ashley_lauretta.


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