A recent study suggests THIS is the only thing that matters for safe running shoes.

October 08, 2015

Shopping for running shoes can be a real pain in the butt. There, I said it. Do you want a minimal style or one with tons of cushioning? Do you have high arches or flat feet? Do you want a funky print, pops of color, or a neutral hue? And most importantly, we've been taught, do you pronate or supinate? How does your foot hit the ground?

Seriously, I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

But color choices aside, it looks like you may now be able to streamline your decision-making process on your next purchase. According to a recent study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine, all you really need to do to pick up the right pair is find running shoes that feel comfortable to you.

Yep, that's it. After analyzing decades of research on running injuries, how the foot hits the ground, pronation, and what role shoes play in said injuries, the researchers concluded that "a runner intuitively selects a comfortable product using their own comfort filter that allows them to remain in the preferred movement path. This may automatically reduce the injury risk." This may also explain why studies on running injuries and shoes have been conflicting throughout the years.

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“As a species we've evolved, improved, and protected ourselves to the point of diminishing returns. And so it is with shoes,” adds Lisa Halbower–Feton, an industrial designer and the former director of product development and design at Reebok International. “The first minimalist shoes to hit the market reminded us that we used to run just fine, thank you, in our PF Flyers. The minimalist movement exposed that we may have become too dependent on extraneous, shoe-geek ‘technologies’ that not only didn't improve our performance, but may have dumbed down our body's ability to function properly.”

For example, Halbower-Fenton says: “We've ‘protected’ ourselves right out of one of our natural, survival instincts, proprioception, that instant reaction to buckle at the knee when you're about to turn your ankle. Further, the resilience of our muscles, ligaments, tendons and our healing abilities have been compromised by years of over built shoes.”

The problem with getting back to basics, though, is that after all this time, it’s hard to quantify and qualify exactly what “comfortable” means. Fortunately, there are Halbower-Fenton has some guidance. Here are five tips for feeling out your next pair of ultra-comfy running shoes.

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Say no to slippage

Your foot should be securely locked into your shoe (think snug, not tight)

Beware pinches or pressure points

While consistent contact pressure throughout the shoe is good, you don’t want any pinching points in the forefoot or instep when flexed. And any rubbing you feel now, will only be amplified during your miles.

Watch for flex appeal

Shoes should move with you; if they don’t bend along the same line that your foot flexes, toss ‘em.

Watch for incorrectly placed arch support

How do you know if this is the case? You'll feel a bump, like something is out of place, or uncomfortable pressure under your arch; this undo stress on the foot, as you may have guessed, is a no-no.

Seek out structure

Those fatty pads under your foot are a natural way of providing cushioning; a shoe with a molded footbed actually keeps the fat pads under your feet while you run so they can do their job.

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Now, to narrow the search...

We've tried out (and loved) these new fall kicks. We can't promise one of these is your perfect fit of course, but we can say that each is super cute and high-quality. Here's hoping one of these cool shoes will be your very own glass slipper.

Out kick your competition with the Nike Air Zoom Odyssey ($150, nike.com); the extra bounce you get with every supported step will help you fly to the finish.

Your speed days just got a whole lot faster thanks to the light-as-a-feather New Balance Vazee Rush ($90, amazon.com) And you can’t beat the price.

Don’t let those miles spook you; the eighth version of the Brooks Ghost 8 ($120, zappos.com) can totally take the pavement pounding.

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After exposure to UV light, the knitted APL TechLoom Pro ($140, athleticpropulsionlabs.com) gives off a glow; perfect for night runs!

With a wider toe box that's shaped like your actual foot, the Altra Torin 2.0 ($125, amazon.com) allows toes to splay and maneuver in their natural movement pattern. Translation: No more cramped feet.

With lots of padding underfoot, the Hoka Clifton 2 ($130, amazon.com) is a favorite of endurance racers, but any runner can benefit from these beef up kicks. Bonus: strategically placed rubber sole pods add extra durability.

This version of the Asics Gel-Quantum ($170, footlocker.com) gives a nod to the New York City Marathon, of which Asics is a sponsor, through it’s graffiti upper. More importantly, it has tiny individual gel sections that surround the midsole for a cushier ride.

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Remember the original pump from 1988? Well the new Reebok ZPump Fusion PU ($100, ladyfootlocker.com) offers that same great feature– just squeeze the side node to fill it with air– in a much more streamlined package, giving you extra cushion when you need it (think long runs!).

You'll feel like the Under Armour Charge Bandit ($100, underarmour.com) was made specifically for you, thanks to the foam cushioned footbed which molds to fit your tooties. Plus the no-sew upper puts the kibosh on rubbing from seams.

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