Whether you’re an avid runner or someone who only hits the pavement on occasion, finding the best running shoe for your foot structure and stride is crucial — especially when it comes to more mature athletes.
“As we age, we tend to accumulate more range of motion limitations and a potential reduction in strength and stability, so finding a shoe that accommodates your foot structure and provides support and shock absorption where needed becomes vital,” Alison McGinnis, a senior physical therapist at Finish Line Physical Therapy, tells Woman’s World. “Older runners don’t necessarily need to pick a different shoe than younger runners, but they do need to care about getting into the right running shoe for them more than younger runners do.”
Finding shoes that fit properly and comfortably are key to avoiding injury while running. But what’s right for you might not be right for someone else.
How To Find the Best Running Shoe
Although there aren’t specific shoe recommendations for mature runners, there are certain guidelines you can follow to help you find your perfect match.
“The most important thing for a runner of any age to consider when choosing a running shoe is the fit,” McGinnis says. “None of the bells and whistles will matter if the shoe doesn’t fit in all the right places.” She also noted that “the best time of day to try on running shoes is at the end of the day or after a run, when your feet are at their biggest.”
This is important, since the tip of the shoe should be a thumb’s width longer than the length of your toes when standing. (Have a trusted companion measure this for you, since your foot will shift in the shoe if you bend down to check.) Another important aspect of a running shoe for older women is the toe box. It should be wide enough to accommodate the ball of your foot — as well as your toes — without compressing them inwards. In other words, the toe box shouldn’t feel uncomfortably tight around the ball of your foot.
When it comes to shape, the silhouette of the shoe should match the silhouette of your foot. To check, you can try removing the insole of your shoe and then standing on it. “If any part of your foot is spilling over the sides, or the shape doesn’t match the shape of your foot, move on to another pair,” suggests McGinnis.
After you’ve got the fit just right, features such as cushioning, heel drop, arch support, and firmness can be taken into consideration. Firmer shoes, for instance, are typically recommended by experts for running, particularly when it comes to the toes. McGinnis recommends finding a shoe with a toe box that is “flat and not curling upwards. When the shoe is designed with this feature, it places a constant stretch through your plantar fascia and Achilles and can lead to problems in the future,” she explains.
With so many factors to consider, it can be helpful to consult a professional, whether it be a running shoe store associated, a specialist, or a physical therapist, who can give you specific recommendations based on your foot type. “Make sure someone is well-versed and has a reputation for treating runners or for [recommending running shoes],” Dr. Neal Blitz, DPM, aka “The Bunion King” of New York, tells Woman’s World. Foot specialists that specialize in running or in sports are very well equipped. … And a foot specialist generally has a very solid understanding of biomechanics that can identify the proper shoe for you.”
Running Shoes and Bunions
While bunions can occur at any age, most people experience more problems with this condition as they age, with women in particular experiencing more complications than men as a result of wearing tight shoes and high heels. If you’re an older runner with bunions, there are some additional factors to consider when embarking on a search for proper running shoes.
As Dr. Blitz explains, bunions are the result of “a metatarsal bone that gets shifted out of its normal position.” Blitz says that when this occurs, “the big toe gets pushed over towards the smaller toes — the joint pops out underneath the skin. … It’s a misalignment of the joint. And it creates a bio-mechanical catastrophe for the foot.”
Complications associated with bunions can range from swelling and pain at the ball of the foot and arch to more serious issues, such as arthritis, hammer toe, and ultimately, stress fractures. Finding a running shoe that stabilizes the foot and helps prevents this condition from getting worse or recurring for those who have had bunion surgery is of the utmost importance.
What should I look for in a running shoe?
First, make sure your shoe provides enough room for the bunion. The fit of the shoe shouldn’t be too tight or constricting, since inflammation and sores/cuts can form as a result, Dr. Blitz warns. Look to buy a wider shoe or find a shoe with netting or mesh toe box that provides the least compression over the top of the foot.
Second, Dr. Blitz recommends that patients “find a shoe that is not too flexible.” A running shoe should break at the ball of the foot,” he says. “That will help with some of the instability that the bunion creates.” Steering clear of flimsy shoes is especially important when it comes to the outside of the heel, since the formation of a bunion can collapse your arch enough to the point that it affects this area, according to Dr. Blitz. Ample support on the outside of the heel can counteract the collapse of the arch.
Now that you’re armed with expert advice about what to look for in a sneaker, it’s time to start shopping. Whether you’re looking for a mesh running shoe with extra give at the toe or are need a little extra heel cushioning, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading for Woman’s World’s picks for best running shoes for women over 50.
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Best Running Shoes for Bunions
Brooks Ghost 12
Not only does the Brooks Ghost 12 have a mesh toe box, like the kind Dr. Blitz recommends, which offer feet with bunions slightly more "give," it also has flex grooves located near the big toe that “optimize forefoot flexibility,” according to the Brooks website. There are hundreds of 5-star reviews for this best-selling shoe, with one happy buyer writing, “I feel like I’m running on clouds.”
Where to Buy: $130, Brooks Running
They're also easy on the eyes, with no shortage of color combinations and prints to choose from, including a fun sprinkle-pattern and a vibrant pink-orange combination.
Best Running Shoes With a Curved Heel
Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36
Nike’s Air Zoom Pegasus, sometimes called The Peg, is a long-standing favorite in Nike’s running shoe collection. The Peg 36 features a beveled, or low and rounded, heel. Shoes with a beveled heel are often preferred by runners, since the shape better aligns with that of their heel bone, allowing the foot to land in a more comfortable position.
McGinnis also shared the importance of a well-fitted heel: “You want the back of the [shoe's] heel ... to be rigid and snug to the back of your [foot's] heel," she said. "If you can squish down the back of the [shoe's] heel, then it’s too soft to fully support your foot and keep you from sliding around."
Where to Buy: $90 (Originally $120), Zappos
Best Running Shoes for Knee Pain
For many older runners, knee pain can be an issue, which is why the engineers behind Brooks’ Adrenaline running shoe shifted their focus from your feet to what they call "the most injury-prone part of a runner's body:" your knees! The development of their GuideRails feature, which can be seen along the sides of the shoe, was designed to prevent "excess movement" in this area.
Raved one reviewer: "The rollbar completely controls my foot motion, which is out of control without the shoe. The only pain I have now when walking is inside my knee joint, and that has improved since wearing the shoes."
If you’re looking for a more stable shoe and are prone to knee pain or injury, this is a great option!
Where to Buy: $130, Brooks Running
Best Cushioned Running Shoes
New Balance Fresh Foam More
Shoes that offer more cushioning are often best for heel strikers, or runners who make contact with the ground with their heel first as opposed to their mid-foot or forefoot. "If you’re a heel striker, you may need more cushioning to absorb the forces when your heel hits the ground. If you have any joint issues, you may also feel better with a little bit more cushioning on the shoe,” recommends McGinnis.
If you’re looking for a shoe that’s on the firmer side with plenty of cushion, the New Balance Fresh Foam More is a top contender. It’s engineered with New Balance’s own light, ultra-bouncy proprietary foam (aptly dubbed Fresh Foam), making it a well-padded respite for your foot.
Where to Buy: $95.97 (Originally $159.95), Zappos
Best Affordable Running Shoes
ASICS GEL-Cumulus 20
When compared to monthly gym memberships or pricey group classes, running is a relatively inexpensive form of exercise, but the cost of running shoes can be steep. For a high-quality, budget-friendly shoe, we turn to Ascis. The Gel-Cumulus 20 features an increased landing surface, which allows it to accommodate each and every foot strike. Plus, while you’ll save on the price, you won’t have to sacrifice cushioning: This shoe is made with Asics’ own FlyteFoam technology, providing continuous cushiony underfoot support, as well as ample room for your tootsies in the toe area — both seriously important factors for mature runners.
Where to Buy: From $53.23, Amazon