Support: “Arch support is a must in ALL footwear–no matter what type of foot you have, this is probably the most critical item that can help prevent a myriad of issues,” explains Dr. Schaeffer.
“For those with flat feet, arch support! If the shoe itself doesn’t offer enough, I always advise an insert. Dr. Scholls for example makes great over-the-counter options for sports and one can always go to a board-certified podiatrist for custom-made orthotics.”
Stability: Stability comes next, according to Dr. Schaeffer. “The goal is to keep your lower body in alignment as much as possible.”
Consider your foot type and running gait. While stability shoes aren’t typically the lightest running shoe models, there are plenty of lightweight running shoes that offer stability features or additional support for over- or underpronation. If stability is a concern for you, don’t let shoe weight guide your choice.
Cushioning and responsiveness: Decide if you prefer maximum cushioning for impact absorption and comfort or a more responsive feel for speed. Some shoes offer a balance between the two, so choose based on your preferences and running goals.
“Cushioning absorbs shock and helps to avoid tissue irritation and damage,” explains Dr. Schaeffer.
Weight: If you’re in the market for a lightweight running shoe, be sure the models you’re considering are actually lightweight. Unless we’re talking about a stability shoe, that means under 8.5 ounces.
Drop and stack height: The drop refers to the height difference between the heel and forefoot. Consider your preference for a lower or higher drop (higher drop will pitch you forward more with each step), as well as the stack height for cushioning and impact absorption.
Comfort and fit: We asked Dr. Schaeffer how lightweight running shoes should fit, here’s his take:
“All running shoes should feel snug around your foot, have good arch support, the heel shouldn’t slip around, and there should be adequate room in the toebox. Wear the same socks you wear when you run when trying them on and remember that our feet expand while running. Also, we all have one foot that is slightly larger than the other, one may pronate when walking or running, or the opposite, supination.”
Running style and terrain: Do you primarily run on roads, trails, or a mix of both? Do you run races or long distances often? Different shoes are designed for different surfaces and distances, so choose accordingly.
Durability: Although lightweight shoes prioritize reduced weight, they should still offer durability and withstand regular running sessions. Look for shoes with reinforced areas in high-wear zones and durable outsole materials, as durability can be an issue with the more barebones lightweight models.
Consider reviews and feedback: Read reviews from other runners to get an idea of the shoe’s performance, durability, and overall quality. Look for feedback specifically from runners with similar foot types or running preferences.
Budget: While higher-priced models often offer advanced features, there are also affordable options available that can still meet your needs.
“It is important to know that a lightweight running shoe generally will break down quicker than a more traditional stability shoe or supportive shoe and are gently used for speed workouts, road races and faster type of intervals,” says Dr. Mendeszoon, a board-certified podiatrist and foot and ankle surgeon at Precision Orthopaedic Specialties in Chardon, Ohio. So, plan to replace them after approximately 300-500 miles of use to maintain optimal performance and reduce the risk of injuries, and consider this when determining your budget.