1. What kind of runner are you?
The first thing to know is what kind of runner you are in terms of foot strike. Being a forefoot runner means your needs differ from those of a heel striker or midfoot runner. Knowing how your foot strikes the floor helps narrow your choices when it comes to finding the best running shoe for your needs – and can also help make sure your shoes last as long as possible.
A simple test to determine your foot strike is to grab your current pair of road running shoes (or those with the most wear and tear), and see where the sole is most worn down. If the back has lost the most grip and tread it likely means you’re a heel striker – if the middle and sides are the most worn areas, then you favor the midfoot – and if the front shows the most use, you’re likely a forefoot runner. This is a quick indicator of course, but it’s not conclusive. Analysis in a reputable running store is the best way to go, but getting a friend to film you as you run can also help identify how your foot strikes the floor.
2. What is your goal: speed, distance, comfort?
Knowing your goals is crucial when searching for the best road running shoe. Most of the time, goals fall into one of three main categories. The first is speed: running to be faster. For this goal, a lighter road running shoe that trades foot support for shoe weight might be the one you’re after – the Cloudrush or Cloudflash, for example. Be aware though, that unless you’re well trained, these shoes are likely better suited to shorter distances.
If your goal is distance and running further, support becomes a consideration, ensuring that your ankles and foot strike remain in the correct position throughout longer runs. The lightweight Cloudflyer and zero-compromise Cloudace are example of shoes that can support you through any longer run.
Finally there’s the goal of running comfortably on hard surfaces. Cushioning is the feature to look for here and, although all the best road running shoes will have some elements of cushioning, some trade a lightweight feel for more cushioned-comfort. That’s never been the On philosophy, and is one of the biggest benefits of On’s patented CloudTec® cushioning. Its hollow elements offer big impact cushioning while keeping wait low – hence the feeling of running on clouds.
3. Training, racing or recovery?
Hand in hand with your goals comes how you will use your shoe. For instance, a training shoe will get much more use (and often have a much shorter life-span) than your competition shoe which may only be used on race day or in key training sessions. A recovery shoe for road running often has more cushioning, to support you as you ease back into training after a race, injury or harder training session. Most coaches recommend alternating between at least two shoes, as each will work slightly different muscle fibers. Having a pair on rotation will also prolong the life of both pairs of shoes (see our guide for how long a pair of shoes should last here for more tips). When it comes to finding your perfect pair, think about what you’ll really be using them for, combined with your goals. From there, choosing the right pair becomes that little bit easier.