2 Keys For Picking Your Best Marathon Running Shoes

2 Keys For Picking Your Best Marathon Running Shoes

by Dr. Jay C. Goldstein



I don’t know who first made this statement, but it certainly applies to marathons.

No matter how small the item, if you have not used it before, don’t begin to use it during a marathon.

That especially applies to your running shoes, which brings us to our 1st decision point.



Several years ago the qualifying time for Boston was 2:50 for my age group.  I ran three consecutive 2:52 marathons.  Frustrating!  How to cut my time?  Lighter shoes?

Unless you are one of the few who are blessed biomechanically perfect, or unless a minute or two is extremely important (so important that you are willing to significantly increase the risk of injury), lightweight racing shoes are not for you … or me.

Ask yourself how you will feel if you are injured and unable to continue running for several weeks.  Compare that feeling to running one to two minutes faster.  Was it worth the trade?

Most of us are not on the cusp of making the Olympics or winning a plaque or trophy.  We want to run, enjoy the race, and finish healthy.  Most of us are not built as biomechanically perfect runners.

Since “no new is good new” all runners should have run several long (20+ mile) training runs in the same pair of shoes that they are going to use for the marathon.  Most of us would more likely become injured in those lightweight racing shoes if used for long training runs; hence, they are not the shoes for any of us.



The most important feature of your shoes is: The color?  No. …. It’s the fit.

You may not be able to judge the nuances of the fit until mile twenty, or later.   A lot of things can and do go wrong between mile twenty and the finish. 

That nagging rubbing on your toe at mile twenty may turn into a limp by mile twenty-two, but if you do not train in the same shoes in which you run the race, you will never know that, until it is too late.



When you stand, your feet get longer.   When you walk, your feet get longer still.  When you run…well, you get the point.

So, you need to allow for that ever expanding foot.   How?   Take your thumb with you to the running shoe store. Your shoes should be about a full width of your thumb longer than your longest toe when you are standing.

Do not be too shocked if you find yourself in shoes a bit longer.   One half size longer is an enormous one sixth of an inch, which does not seem like much unless it is the fraction of an inch that prevented your toe from rubbing against your shoe for an entire 26.2 miles.

Incidentally, over time your feet slowly get longer.   If you are female, your last pregnancy may have increased the length of your feet.   Also, since there is no industry standard, the sizing may change from one model to another, sometimes even within the same company.

Men’s shoes run longer than women’s sizing. Thus, a male size 8 would be about the same length as a female size 9.



The widest part of your foot, from just behind the great toe to just behind the small toe, should match up to the widest part of the shoe; with a smidgen of room left over to prevent rubbing.

A men’s medium is a D width. A men’s wide is a 2E. An extra wide is a 4E.

A women’s medium is a B width. A women’s wide is a D width. A women’s extra wide is a 2E.

With age, your forefoot may get wider. Many of our female runners need shoes wider than a regular. If a particular model shoe does not come wide enough for them, we put them into men’s running shoes in order to provide for the additional width.

Thus, if a female needed a 9 2E (extra wide female sizing) shoe, but that size was not available, she might try on a male 8 2E (wide in male sizing).



A curved last shoe curves inward toward the inside of the foot, providing a bit more big toe room but stealing a bit of room from the small toe, which is fine as long as that is the shape of your foot.  If not, you will do better with a straight lasted shoe.



When I first started running, I did not have to worry about this decision. My choice was either the Converse or the Converse.

The day arrived when there were choices. The decision was more important then than now, since shoes provided either cushioning or stability, but generally not both.

Shoes are vastly improved. 

Nevertheless, there are differences on the spectrum of shoe characteristics; there are choices to be made.

If your feet tend to flatten (roll inward), you will require more stability.

If your feet manifest less motion (usually a higher arched foot), more cushioning will be desirable.



How many activities bring as much pleasure and as much health as running?

In comparison to the value of other expenditures, getting the right running shoes is not the time to pinch pennies.

Most running shoes provide an average of about 400-500 miles of healthy running.

However, the shoes begin to deteriorate after a few hundred miles, so shoes with 100-200 miles on them come race day is just about right.

Happy trails and Gesundheit!


Dr. Goldstein is a podiatrist who is Board certified by the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, the American Board of Podiatric Medicine, and the American Society of Podiatric Surgeons. He is a member of the American Podiatric Medical Association and the American Society of Podiatric Sports Medicine. He has run about 33 marathons; if his brain had not bounced up and down so much he could probably remember exactly how many.

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