Choosing the right running sneaker might be the most time you’ve ever spent thinking about a pair of shoes—and that’s not an insult to your style game. As runners know, finding the perfect pair can mean hours of pre-shopping research and a whole afternoon spent in the store, where someone will almost certainly ask to watch the way you run and consult with you about your injury record. Key words: Pronation, arches, impact, mileage.
But now, you may be better off not trying quite so hard. A new review from biomechanics expert Benno Nigg has shows that none of those things really matter much. What does make a difference is a single, simple factor: Comfort.
In the review, Nigg and his team sifted through decades of research on the relationship between different kinds of shoes and the rates of injury among the people who wear them. These studies confirmed that pronation doesn’t really matter, and that trying to correct it with a shoe can actually do more harm than good. Nigg’s own 2001 study suggests a more effective alternative: Choosing the shoe that feels the best.
In that particular study, soldiers tested out different shoe inserts and then chose the one they liked best based on comfort. Four months later, those soldiers were faring much better than the control group, who wore standard issue shoes.
Nigg suggests trying on a few different pairs of shoes and moving around in them to get a feel. We pulled together five of the best (in a variety of categories from minimal to max cushion to everything in between) to test out. You can let your feet take over from here.