Women's Running Shoes Tips

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Alternate Two Pairs of Shoes

Many sources recommend running in different shoes every other day. If you can't purchase two pairs of shoes at one time, expert runners suggest buying a new pair of shoes halfway through the life of your current pair. Alternating your running shoes gives the cushioning foam a more time to “recover” between uses, and theoretically increases the life expectancy of the shoes.

One thing to remember is not to alternate between a new pair of running shoes and an old pair. Shoes wear down easily, and you want to maintain the cushion and support in your shoes for proper injury prevention.


Choose a Shoe to Match Your Foot Type

As far as running shoe design goes, everyone falls into one of three basic categories: overpronator, neutral, or underpronator/supinator.

Overpronators – whose feet roll inwards more than average – require running shoes designed to correct this excessive roll.

Runners with a neutral gait generally need little or no motion control, and do fine with cushioned running shoes.

Underpronators/supinators, have feet that either roll inward too little (underpronators) – or roll outwards slightly (supinators) – and generally require additional cushioning. These runners may also benefit from a shoe built for greater stability.


Special Shoe Considerations for Women

Women have many of the same considerations as men when it comes to selecting a good running shoe. But they also have some unique needs.

• Wider hips. A woman's relatively wider hips mean that overpronation is more common in women than men. This means that women runners are more likely to benefit from running shoes that control overpronation.

• Bone mass. While running helps promotes denser bones, women – especially older women – are particularly prone to osteoporosis. For this reason, women may want to consider a more cushioned shoe to reduce the shock transmitted to the ankles and legs.

• Narrow feet. Women's feet tend to be narrower than men's, and – nowadays - women's running shoes are designed accordingly. If you're tempted by a small shoe in a men's style because it's on clearance, be prepared for it not to fit, even if the length is right.

• Weight. Women tend to weigh less than men. And lighter runners can often train in lightweight running shoes. This is good news, because lightweight running shoes tend to be more comfortable for more miles than other shoes.


Cushioning Srategies

Most running shoe manufacturers use different – at least in name - cushioning devices. These include various air bladders, gel or liquid pads, and wedges, layers and compressed capsules of foam (typically EVA or polyurethane).

Every cushioned running shoe has its fans, but they're all designed for the same purpose: to reduce the shock that's transferred to your body on impact. While the air, gel and liquid systems may retain their cushioning ability longer than foam, virtually all of them are contained within foam, so the extended life of these shoes is arguable.

Don't worry about air, gels, or other devices. Your best bet is to find a shoe that fits you well and suits how you run (overpronate, neutral, etc.). If it's comfortable for you, run in it. If you find you need more cushioning, most running shoes will accommodate after-market insoles. Simply remove the shoe's original insole, and replace it with one of these cushioned gel or foam inserts.


Where to Buy New Running Shoes

The best prices on running shoes are generally at the big online and catalog retailers. And the most convenient place to try them on is often at the big sporting goods chains or mall athletic shoe stores. But when you're buying a new model of shoe, neither of those options is a good choice.

When you have to go to a new model of shoe – such as when a favorite has been discontinued – your best bet is to visit a running specialty shop. While the specialty shop's inventory can't be as large as at the big catalog retailers, you may be pleasantly surprised at the variety of options they offer. And you can't try on a picture in a catalog.

The mall stores and sporting goods chains often have a very limited selection of running shoes, and the staff is rarely equipped to help you select the right running shoe.

Running specialty stores usually carry a wider selection of shoes - such as narrow running shoes - and their employees are usually runners themselves. Most of them know a great deal about running shoes. It's here that you'll have the best chance of selecting the optimum shoe.

(Note: “If you try the shoe there, buy the shoe there.”)


Know When to Replace Your Shoes

By the time your women's running shoes show signs of significant wear, it's long past the time you should replace them. Critical wear on running shoes is largely invisible. Here's why:

A dense foam called EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) makes up all or part of the midsole – the shock absorbing layer of a shoe – of most running shoes. Each time your foot lands, it compresses the EVA - which absorbs much of the landing's shock - and then the EVA re-expands when you take your weight off the shoe.

Each time your foot lands, the EVA bounces back an infinitesimally smaller amount than the time before. Eventually, it loses much of its ability to bounce back – and absorb shock. You don't notice it happening, because it happens very gradually. But every footfall reduces the foam's effectiveness.

By the time you've used a pair of shoes for 300 – 500 miles, the foam has lost enough “bounce” that the shoes should be replaced. Typically, lightweight runners can go closer to 500 miles before replacing their shoes. Relatively heavy runners, though, should replace them closer to 300 miles.


It's Worth Waiting for the Right One

Just like you know when you've found Mr. Right, it's important to shop around to find the right women's running shoes.

Some factors to keep in mind:

-Orthotics: If you wear orthotics, bring them with you when trying on running shoes.

-Foot issues. Do you have wide feet, bunions, or narrow heels? Some brands, such as New Balance, offer a greater range of widths. If you have narrow heels, look for shoes with enough holes to create a loop with your laces to hold your heels in place.


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Shoes Just for Women

One company – Ryka – designs and manufactures athletic shoes just for women, including women's running shoes. Ryka was founded in 1987 by Sheri Poe, because she saw a need for shoes designed specifically for women. Though now owned by American Sporting Goods, Ryka continues to support women's athletic programs and causes through grants, partnerships and sponsorships.

While we don't endorse any particular brand or model of shoe, most of Ryka's women's running shoes fare very well in the running magazine tests.


Buy a Shoe Built for Your Needs

Running shoes have three basic internal structures. Most running shoes are built in one of three ways: with a board-last, a slip-lasted or a combination-last. To see which type of last a shoe has, simply pull out the inner sole.

A stiff cardboard-like material running the length of the shoe is a board-last. This design works well for runners who need maximum stability.

If fabric is stitched together up the length of the shoe, it's slip-lasted. Slip-lasted shoes provide maximum flexibility, and are ideal for neutral runners.

Combination-lasted shoes are a compromise that offers more stability than a slip-lasted shoe, but less than one with a board last. In a combination-lasted shoe, a “board” is used in the rear portion of the shoe, while the front is slip-lasted.


Shoes for the Trails

More and more women are turning to trail running for the challenge and recreation. If you run on rough trails, you probably need a “multisport” running shoe. These shoes provide additional support and grip on a variety of surfaces, and are built for the extra lateral motion encountered on the trail.

Both major running shoe companies and hiking and climbing shoe manufacturers offer a variety of these multisport running shoes. The models offered by hiking boot manufacturers are often rugged enough to use for serious hiking – something most women's running shoes simply aren't built to do.


What Makes a Running Shoe?

Today, women's running shoes are pretty technical. But the basic components of women's running shoes are the same as with most other shoes. Here, we take a quick look at the major pats of a running shoe:

• The Upper. This is the fabric or leather portion of the shoe that encloses the top and sides of your foot from heel to toe.

• Inner Sole. The inner sole is the (usually) removable padded liner that cradles your foot.

• Mid-sole. This is the shoe's workhorse, and contains the cushioning layers and devices (if any).

• Outer sole. This is where the rubber meets the road – literally. It's the bottom surface of your shoe.

• Heel counter. This is a stiff (usually fiberboard or plastic) insert that cups the heel.

• Toe Box. The forward portion of the shoe that encloses your toes.

• Last. The “frame” on which the shoe was built. It's also used to describe the way the shoe was constructed – either with a board, fabric (slip), or a combination of both beneath the innersole.


Buy a Running Shoe Shaped for Your Foot

Running shoes are built on a “last” – a 3-D model of the foot that determines the shape of the sole. There are basically three shapes of last: straight, semi-curved and curved.

Straight-lasted shoes tend to be very stable, and thus appropriate for runners requiring motion control. Conversely, the greater the curve of the last, the more flexible the shoe is likely to be. These shoes are usually better suited to runners with high, relatively stiff arches.


Women's Running Shoes

Only a few decades ago, women weren't supposed to run. It was dangerous to their health and unfeminine. In 1967, Kathryn Switzer had to “sneak” into the Boston marathon by registering as “K. Switzer.” And the Olympic games' first women's marathon wasn't held until 1984!

Today, women – and women's running shoes – have made great strides. Consider, for example:
• Most running shoe manufacturers have a range of running shoes specifically for women.
• One well-known company (Ryka) designs only athletic footwear for women.
• Manufacturers now make narrow running shoes – with New Balance offering up to three different widths in their women's styles.
• Major running shoe manufacturers sponsor women's running teams around the world.

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