Why are there so many types of running shoes on the market? Aren’t we all fundamentally the same? Well, not entirely; everybody is different, which means running shoe choices will be different too.
When I worked at a running shoe shop, the art of finding the right pair of shoes for each customer was an ever-changing landscape because each customer’s body type is different.
In this blog post, I want to look at running shoes for overweight runners and explore what you should consider when choosing your next pair to make sure you get the best shoes for you. So if you’re in the market for new shoes and don’t know where to start, I’m going to help –and if you’re carrying a little extra weight and wondering what the best running shoes are for you, keep on reading.
Because I’m here to tell you that just because you may be a heavier runner doesn’t mean that your running shoe choices are limited. But rather than just giving you a list of current shoes that you should consider, I want to equip you with the tools to help you to choose future shoes so you’re always able to find your ideal running shoe no matter how much weight you’re carrying. Because everyone who runs deserves a running shoe that works for them.
Let’s get started!
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By no means is the following a prescription, and by no means am I a doctor. When making any changes in your life and using new products, ensure you discuss them with your doctor.
The first step to assessing anybody’s feet is to build up some visual observations that could point to a specific type of shoe. For people carrying a few extra pounds, that often means looking for high-volume, wider shoes that accommodate flat feet.
Knowing you’re looking for a wider shoe eliminates many brands right away, often European brands like La Sportiva, some Salomon shoes, and Vivobarefoot.
Next, it can be beneficial to ask a few key questions to assess your running history.
- What running shoes are you using now?
- What running shoes have worked in the past?
- How far are you running, and on what surface?
- Have you had any recent or recurring injuries?
These four questions usually present a brand and model pretty quickly.
Knowing that a brand or specific model has worked in the past (that’s where shoe history comes in) also helps identify similar solutions in the present-day lineup.
Also, the distance and running surface that you’ll be running on could eliminate another whole line of shoe options. For example, are you running on a trail or road? Are you running a short or long distance? If you’re running long, you might need a bit more cushion. Maybe a more straightforward low-end shoe could do the job if you want to complete 5km. But if you’re expecting to run a marathon, you’d have to find a shoe that would last throughout the training and potentially the marathon itself.
Lastly, you need to be honest with yourself about injuries. If you’ve ever suffered from plantar fasciitis, shin splints, or any type of injury, even if it’s “a little foot pain,” this can affect your choice of running shoes, but more importantly, the best advice may be to go and see a doctor or podiatrist.
Some foot problems would push you to look for extra support, and others, such as knee and hip problems, may prompt a complete change in shoe choice such as walking barefoot every now and then.
Running shoes, how different can they be?
Surprisingly there’s a wide variety of running shoe shapes, materials, and designs, which means doing your research first is critical.
If you’re looking for a shoe as a heavier runner, you want to be looking at designs that encourage an optimal running gait for you. And that choice will be very personal, so if you can, I’d suggest heading down to your local running shop and asking for advice.
With that said, it’s possible to make some general assumptions right now to help put you on the right track.
You’ll want to be looking for a stable shoe. None of these super-light, super-soft cushioned sloppy shoes (like Nike ZoomX shoes or some of the older New Balance Fresh Foam shoes). They’ll just make your ankles roll all over.
Instead, stable options usually consist of a few of the following features.
- Wide platform
- Your heel sits deep in the shoe (sometimes called guide rails)
- Stiff heel counter (non-flexible heel)
- Harder cushions placed in strategic areas.
A shoe doesn’t have to have all those features. Some of the options come down to personal choice.
First and foremost, you want to make sure you choose comfortable shoes. And while that may sound obvious, it’s often easy to get sucked into the marketing of the latest and greatest, but if that shoe does feel good. It’s not for you!
That brings us to the next point.
No matter who you are, if the shoe is uncomfortable, it will not work. No matter what new-fangled shoe technology it uses.
If you’re carrying a little extra body weight, you likely have a slightly broader and more voluminous foot. And you need to account for this with additional space in the shoe.
For that reason, many European brands will not work. They tend to be narrow and unforgiving.
So as a general rule, look at North American brands and even consider wide size options if available.
Some brands are even known for their forgiving fits, such as Altra, or wide options in New Balance. Others, such as Nike, not so much.
So that’s it. You’re looking for a wider, voluminous shoe with stability features such as:
- A wide platform
- Guide rails
- Hard heel counter, and
- Strategically placed firm cushion
Now we know what to look for in a shoe, let’s look at some brands and models which may suit you. We’ll assess many different types of shoes from max cushioning, rocked soles, traditional running shoes, and more.
Altra is not known for creating stable shoes specifically. The designs work in a slightly different way.
If you know anything about the brand, you most likely know they’re “Zero-Drop.”
That means your heel and forefoot are at the same distance from the ground. Other shoe companies have designs up to 12mm difference! Strange, eh?
This means your heel is likely closer to the ground –but does that equal stability? Not really.
Altra is known for its wide platform. Because the front of the shoe is naturally wide, you’re less likely to roll over the edge of the shoe. That wider aspect also follows through to the heel, but the heel space is not as dramatic as the front.
The wide platform also bleeds into the upper, meaning there’s ample room for wider and more voluminous feet. Altras will likely be the most comfortable shoe you’ll try on because it is so forgiving.
Lastly, Altra has some highly cushioned options, and while I’m not a massive fan of lots of cushion, using it strategically to slowly build your tolerance to running can be a wise move. Over time, I would advise trying other shoes with less cushion, but only on a long-term basis, and very slowly.
But overall, if you’re looking for a shoe with maximal space to accommodate a larger foot, Altra is a good choice.
So what models should you look at?
Number one for me would be the Altra Paradigm.
Because it’s highly cushioned and has some stability features, with 30mm of cushion and a wide platform throughout the whole shoe, you’ll have no issue with rolling your ankles.
In addition to the wide platform, the soles of the Paradigm wrap high around the heel and side of the foot to prevent rolling. These are commonly named guide rails.
The Paradigm is the closest to a true stability shoe that Altra has ever been, and for new runners, or runners that carry a few extra pounds, that is a good thing.
The Altra Olympus. The trail sister of the Altra Paradigm.
You’ll see many similar features in the Olympus as in the Paradigm, such as the super-wide platform and built-up guide rails.
The Olympus also sports 33mm of cushion, helping you roll through any rocks and trails on your journey.
The only drawback to the Olympus is the weight; even though that shouldn’t be a significant concern when considering durable trail shoes, some will find a lighter shoe option a more comfortable and easier ride.
It’s also worth noting that the Olympus uses the “original” Altra last. That means this shoe has the widest and most forgiving upper available. If you ever have issues with narrow shoes, just know that Altra will have an option for you.
You’ve probably heard of Hoka, or at least seen Hoka shoes on people’s feet. They’re a popular shoe in today’s market.
They’re the ones that have the chunky soles and make you look like you’re wearing platforms.
Well, they’ve undoubtedly pushed the shoe market in an exciting direction, with pretty much every brand creating some type of max cushion option within their shoe range.
For Hoka, max cushion is in their DNA. With that cushion comes an attractive rocker shape to the sole, which pushes you forward with every step. It’s a unique feeling but can be just what you need when you’re tired and only halfway through your run.
If you’re looking at running longer distances, Hoka offers a considerable amount of shock absorption, which helps later in the race.
So what Hoka running shoe would I suggest?
The Hoka Arahi is classified as a stability shoe specifically used to correct overpronation, which is the collapsing of the foot and rolling inwards of the ankle. Please note: If you don’t have an issue with overpronation when you walk/run (many do), the Arahi is unlikely for you.
But if you’ve suffered from knee problems or hip problems, it could be a good idea to get a shoe fit from a professional. They’ll likely tell you a little about your running gait and help with shoe selections.
What makes the Hoka Arahi a stability shoe?
The Arahi has what Hoka calls a J-frame. All that means is that they have a strategically placed denser foam around the back and on the medial side of the shoe (inside).
This rigid foam ensures your ankle does not roll inwards and keeps your foot moving in a forward motion.
Sounds great, eh?
This running shoe can be a great option for many runners who struggle with overpronation. And my advice would be to use these types of shoes as a stop-gap while you focus on lower leg and foot strength to fix the issue at the core.
It’s worth mentioning that Hoka shoes often do not offer a huge amount of width or space in the upper. There are wide options available in various models, but it’s worth checking to see if you’re comfortable with the fit before jumping in and making the purchase.
So if your long runs are mainly road-based, the Arahi is a great choice.
You won’t find the J-Frame stabilization system on any of Hoka’s trail line up. But don’t despair; the good news is that there are still good shoes in the trail shoe offerings.
Usually, brands do not offer stability options on trail shoes because of the nature of trail running.
When running on trails, your feet and ankles are forced in many different directions due to the camber and rocks on the trail. Because of this, many shoe companies opt for generic guidance technologies such as guide rails.
For that reason, I’d suggest trying out the Hoka Stinson. You’ll see some guide rail-like designs around the heel, but nowhere near as pronounced as the Altra.
But if you look at the shoe from the underside, you’ll notice how wide the shoe is! There’s no slimming out underfoot, meaning it’s much less likely that you’ll have an issue with your ankles rolling in or out!
As with the Arahi, the Stinson is not made for wide feet; if you’re looking for width and volume, I suggest trying Altra first.
If you walk into your local running store and ask for a stable road running shoe, you’ll likely walk out with the Brooks Adrenaline GTS on your feet.
Brooks have been making the Adrenaline for a long time now, and they’ve refined the shoe to a point where many runners can keep coming back year after year and know they’re buying a decent, stable shoe.
While the shoe used to be firmer underfoot, Brooks has decided to soften that foam, primarily inline with the rest of the running shoe market, giving a smooth ride you’d see in Brooks Glycerin. But as reported in other reviews, this foam is by no means soft. True to the nature of the Adrenaline shoe, you must be ready for a hard ride.
Again we see the usage of “guide rails” along the outer edges of the heel into the midfoot, attempting to guide the foot down the centerline. It is a feature that pulls the shoe away from its heritage of using a medial post where a firmer foam is used on the inner edge of the shoe.
For some, the lack of the medial post is a step backward for the shoe, but using guide rails opens the shoe up to a wider market in the long run.
The feeling is more like the arch support you’d find in orthotics, so if you’ve used orthotics or removable insoles in the past, or you’re looking to add orthotics in your shoes, it’s worth trying these shoes out first.
The materials used throughout the shoe are plush, smooth, and even silky in some locations giving a premium feel whether you’re walking or running.
Aside from the stability design options, Brooks are always on the more accommodating side of the traditional shoe market. And while you won’t find the width and volume of Altra, many runners find Brooks shoes to have a good or at least familiar fit.
Another blast from the past shoe that’s still trying to stay current with the advent of a new running shoe generation is the Asics Kayano.
Many overpronators rejoice when a new version of the Kayano is released, and the fundamentals have not changed. A true stability shoe that corrects overpronation with a simple solution—medial post.
Again, this shoe is only suitable for those who overpronate; the ankle rolls excessively inwards during your foot strike. And again, if this is you, I encourage you to look at strengthening your feet, ankles, and lower legs to reduce the risk of injury in the future rather than just relying on a shoe.
If you take a quick look at any of your older shoes and notice that the wear pattern tends to run down the inside of the shoe, you’re likely overpronating, and the Kayano could be a good option.
Asics, a brand that originated in Japan, has been a mainstay on the running shoe market for a long while. With its original innovation of gel foot pods offering a softer, bouncier ride, they found their way onto many feet across the world.
You’ll still see gel being used in many shoes of the Asics lineup and even in the Kayano, although it’s more a marketing gimmick than an advantage, mainly because midsole foams have come a long way to mimic the bouncy, soft feel of these shoes.
As I hinted before, the Kayano solves the overpronation issue using a medial post. A more rigid, high-density foam is used on the inner edge of the shoe, encouraging the foot to roll through the midline creating smoother transitions.
As you can imagine, medial posts work well, and in some cases, too well! It’s essential to keep an eye on foam breakdown, especially on the outer edge of the shoe. If the softer foam breaks down too quickly, it can cause you to supinate, which means your ankle is rolling towards outwards instead.
This foam breakdown is one reason why shoe manufacturers are moving away from medial posts and into guide rails. It’s seen as a more generic solution to the issue. But the ultimate decision comes down to you!
Some runners have noted that the guide rails no longer provide enough support, and these runners likely overpronate a lot and need to look for a shoe with maximal support.
The Kayano is a quality shoe offering a softer ride from the stability features than the Adrenaline. It’s certainly in the traditional realm and not attempting any funky business like Hoka, but some appreciate familiarity.
For the fit, it’s not quite as forgiving as Brooks, so if you’re looking for something a little wider, this shoe may not be for you. There are wide options, but that often only helps if you find the forefoot a little snug. The overall volume of the shoe, specifically around the midfoot, can often still be a little tight, so if you’re looking for an overall larger fit, I’d suggest looking at different models from Brooks or Altra.
When I worked in a running shoe store, I got to try out many different brands and models, which allowed me to gain a “feel” for many brands.
One brand that stood out when it comes to traditional shoes was Mizuno. Why?
Because of their wave technology.
In today’s shoe market, carbon plates are flooding the market, offering extra “energy return.” But I’m calling it now; I think Mizuno brought this to the market well before Nike and such.
The wave technology is essentially a plastic plate that runs through the back half of the shoe and creates a spring-like effect. It may differ from the carbon plates we see now, which run the whole shoe length, but the high 12mm difference between the heel and the forefoot heavily favored the heel strikers. Helping create energy return from the heel.
When I first wore these shoes, I honestly did feel like I had little springs in my feet propelling me forward. Now, I didn’t love the 12mm offset, but it did make me stop and think how a shoe should perform on foot.
So how does the wave help heavy runners?
Because plastic generally keeps its form much better than foam, you’ll likely see little break down from the mid-sole and gain excellent stability.
And because the Inspire is a neutral shoe, it offers a good base for most runners. Ensuring the technology does not attempt to “correct” a specific type of running gait. So the shoe offers “good support,” but it should not be an option if you’re looking to correct your gait.
The fit of the shoe is pretty similar to Brooks. Wider and spacious in the forefoot, with a great lockdown in the heel. This does mean if you’re looking for more volume, you’ll have to look at shoes like Altra because the Mizuno is a traditional shoe. But for most buyers, a conventional shoe is what is comfortable.
Over the years, there haven’t been many significant iterations; the breathable mesh looks very much the same. The wave technology is pretty similar, so look for the previous model if you’re looking to grab a bargain. You’ll likely snag yourself a deal for a shoe that’s as up-to-date as the newest version.
Hopefully, now you have all the tools you need to look for your next pair of shoes. Maybe you’ll go for a pair that I’ve mentioned on this post, maybe you want to try something else. At the very least, you now have a set criteria that you want to look for in a new shoe. Remember, wide and stable is key!