Overall, the best information on running shoes comes from fitness magazines. Runner's World, in particular, offers insightful reviews of running shoes; many runners consider its quarterly shoe guide to be the gold standard. However, a number of newer publications also publish reviews. Shape, Self, Women's Health and Men's Fitness all offer annual running-shoe guides. These aren't as detailed as the reviews found in Runner's World and the testing methods are less clear, but they're still useful to help narrow down which running shoes are worth considering.
Several dedicated fitness and running websites also offer helpful guides. RunningNetwork.com, a running-news website, has published two shoe guides so far and both are worth a read. Unfortunately, at the time of this report, RunningNetwork.com has yet to release its 2011 road-running shoe guide. The site uses wear-testers to evaluate the latest running shoes, and awards are presented for best shoe, best value, and best renovation/update. Still, its testing process isn't thoroughly explained. Competitor, the company behind the popular Rock 'n' Roll Marathon series as well as the regional publication of the same name, offers a number of running-shoe reviews based on tester feedback on its website, but the shoes aren't rated and no awards are given.
Running Times publishes reviews of running shoes, but it doesn't compare models or pick the best shoes. However, its reviews of more than 40 models are detailed and credible. Women's Running Magazine also provides an annual guide, which includes readers' and editors' selections. Other magazines, such as Men's Journal, Outside, National Geographic Adventure and Fitness, offer valuable feedback that includes picks of their favorite shoes based on road testing. User reviews are also becoming increasingly valuable, especially at user-opinion sites like Buzzillions.com, and online retailers such as RoadRunnerSports.com and Zappos.com. The only downside to these sites is it takes time to accumulate reviews, so shoes with the most feedback are usually older models that have been or are on the brink of being discontinued.
Many products can be graded by how well they perform, regardless of the person using them. A running shoe, however, is graded by how well it does its job relative to the foot of the person wearing it. It's important to remember that user feedback is often subjective. Choosing a great running shoe for the wrong type of foot can result in a poor review.
Running shoes are available in several forms. Stability shoes are for those with normal arches who tend to have mild or moderate overpronation (the foot rolls inward when you run). Motion-control running shoes are designed for runners with low arches who tend to overpronate more than those with normal arches. Neutral-cushioning shoes are meant for runners with high arches who usually don't overpronate excessively, but whose feet tend to absorb less impact. These shoes don't have stability features but include lots of cushioning.
It should be noted that running-shoe styles are often updated on a regular basis. Companies constantly strive to improve the fit and comfort of their shoes. New versions are typically released in two waves -- in January and again in June/July. Often, heritage models of shoes can still be found on online retail sites at a discount price, so if you're running in a shoe you like, you might be able to snag an extra pair as it leaves the market. Users often warn that the sizing of shoes can change between one edition and the next, even if it's the same model name/number. RunningWarehouse.com includes information regarding the original release date, applicable discontinuation date, updates and heritage models.
Since it's impossible to choose the best shoe for every foot, experts emphasize that reviews can take you only so far when choosing a running shoe. Reviews can help you narrow your choices to a handful of models, but a visit to a professional running store is always your best bet. Most good stores will analyze your gait and determine your foot type. Many running stores have in-store treadmills where an employee can examine your stride while you run. If you don't have a good running shop nearby, online shoe stores typically offer free return shipping.