Serious runners should go to bed at night thinking about their knees and other joints. Although the impact associated with each stride is quite mild, a half-marathon can comprise upwards of 20,000 of these – on each leg. While most forms of exercise carry some risk of injury, this repeated stress applied over a protracted period is unique to distance running and can even lead to bone fractures.
There are, of course, things you should avoid doing which can keep your tendons and joints from causing you pain, or even being permanently damaged. Training runs should be increased in duration and intensity only gradually, while someone whose body isn’t conditioned for running on slopes (downhill in particular) should probably avoid heavy runs on steep terrain until their legs are capable of these. From their very first run, beginners should be aware of their posture and form when running. While jogging is supposed to be a natural action, it’s no more than the truth that there are better and worse ways to use your body, both in terms of using energy efficiently and avoiding injury. Uncomfortable footwear, such as not choosing wide running shoes if you need them, will hamper your technique.
Importantly, everybody’s running action is different. The shoes worn by Paula Jane Radcliffe are probably fantastically comfortable and marvels of engineering, and might still be totally unsuited to your style. The most important factor here is your typical level of pronation (rolling the foot from the outside to the inside to absorb shock), but how far forward from the heel you tend to land also plays a role. It will be worth your time to figure out what kind of wide running shoes will work best for you.
It’s no secret: good running shoes are expensive, and this has little to do with fashion. They’re also not very durable, and need to be replaced every 600 miles (1,000 km) or so. In the long run, if you’ll excuse the pun, a good pair of wide running shoes will not only save you a ton of aches and recovery time during which you can’t train at all; it will help to prevent long-term, enduring medical problems which will cost you a fortune in treatment. Needing surgery is not unknown, and the damage may only become noticeable once it’s established to the point where it’s irreversible.
The good news is that most manufacturers, realizing the demand for wide running shoes, now offer their most popular products in sizes including wide and extra-wide. We’ve collected some of the best sellers and listed their salient points to help you make an informed decision when shopping. Most of these are marketed as “men’s” shoes, but there’s little practical difference between the feet of the different genders. Women with broader feet will find that wide running shoes aren’t actively marketed to the fairer sex.
Brooks Men’s Ghost 9
Price: Between $100 and $140
This is a very neutral shoe with regards to pronation, offering moderate but not excessive arch support. This makes it a good candidate for those using orthotic inserts, which are generally designed for neutral shoes and don’t work well if this condition isn’t met.
The sturdy construction and terrific heel and mid-foot cushioning will be especially welcome for heavier runners, who often have difficulty finding shoes suitable for their frame. You can expect a very smooth running action without much sensation from the shoes themselves, allowing you to concentrate on your form and enjoy the run.
Unlike the case with some more popular, fashion-conscious brands, these shoes are manufactured in the U.S.A.
New Balance Men’s M990v4
Price: Between $140 and $170
Featuring traditional construction in leather and fabric, these are solid wide running shoes. They’re comfortable for running in or just spending a lot of time on your feet, with decent heel support and an adequately sized toe box.
Sadly for a brand which retains much of its manufacturing in the U.S.A, with a history of focusing on developing and making good athletic shoes rather than splurging on advertising, the production quality seems to have declined in recent years. While this by no means reflects everyone’s experience, many buyers have complained about the shoes emitting a chemical smell, soles coming apart, and other problems you wouldn’t expect from a shoe in this price range. New Balance is aware of and working on these issues, so we hope that this state of affairs is only temporary.
Saucony Men’s Cohesion 8
Price: Between $60 and $100
The uppers of these shoes are extremely comfortable, being well padded and breathing easily. If you want something that looks pretty…well, other models of wide running shoes might be better suited to your needs. On the other hand, if comfort is what you’re after, the Cohesion 8 is worth a look.
This is a great shoe for slight underpronators who tend to come down on their heels. Heel support and cushioning is quite good and the construction is durable. Especially for those who tend to go through several pairs of wide running shoes in a year, the price certainly makes this an attractive option. It’s not just good value for the price, it’s a good shoe for running in, period.
Saucony Men’s Guide 7
Price: Between $70 and $130
Available in a number of different, colorful designs, this shoe offers good cushioning along its whole length. As a stability shoe, it offers more arch support than some other models and is thus nominally intended for overpronators. However, the validity of this kind of reasoning is increasingly being questioned. If you feel most comfortable in wide running shoes with better support, get something like these, otherwise, get whatever type allows you to run with the most relaxed movement.
Heavier runners who tend to run on their toes will likely find this a comfortable fit due to the 8mm drop. They are also good for off-road running. Even in wide sizes, though, the toe box might feel a little snug.
Brooks Mens Ghost 8
Price: Between $70 and $120
Something for the underpronator to neutral runner, this is a very durable athletic shoe. Cushioning is simply excellent and impact is hardly noticeable. Anybody who often experiences knee pain behind the disk will appreciate this, and doubly so if they’re on the heavy side and run on asphalt.
The 12mm differential will not suit everyone’s running style, but is great for runners who like a bit of a heel. If your lower back often complains after a long run, and you strike the road with the rear of your foot, you might want to try this out. The fit around the heel is quite snug, which is also a plus for heel runners. Unfortunately the Ghost 8 doesn’t offer wide options for every size and color scheme.
Saucony Men’s Hurricane 16
Price: Between $90 and $160
The Hurricane series is designed for moderate overpronators and offers reasonable arch support. Available in designs from the modest to the eye-catching, one of its best features is the inclusion of reflective surfaces for road safety after sundown.
Thanks to the use of synthetic materials, these wide running shoes are quite lightweight. An 8mm heel to toe rise will suit the average runner, with cushioning evenly distributed for those who use their whole foot between landing and stepping off. If you are prone to pain in your Achilles tendon, trying a shoe with a differently shaped sole might be just what you need.
Brooks Men’s Glycerin 14
Price: $120 to $150
There is a school of thought that goes: since humans are designed to run barefoot, why not make a shoe as light as possible, use thinner soles and minimal cushioning? If you’re inclined to overpronating, however, you will probably not want to give up that extra support. These wide running shoes are designed for that kind of runner.
Although technically a minimalist shoe, it still offers decent cushioning, impact absorption and a 10mm rise for improved balance. As one aspect of this design philosophy, a heel that’s rounded instead of squared off will help you place your feet in such a way that landing impacts get transmitted through the center of your ankle joint, helping to prevent injury. Breathability is good, but despite being made of rubber, the sole loses much of its traction in wet conditions. Watch out when crossing smooth surfaces.
Brooks Men’s Addiction 12
Price: Between $90 and $130
Runners who pronate more than usual often demand additional support and lateral stability, which is what these wide running shoes offer. Equipped with built-in support saddle and other proprietary technology, the Addiction range is a good choice for any overpronating runner for whom neutral footwear doesn’t feel right. They are also a good choice for everyday wear if you have low, painful arches.
A 12mm differential and shock absorption in the heel aid in transforming a sideways rolling motion of the foot into a forward action. Due to the extra support and padding, wearing your normal size may feel a bit snug. Remember, a little too large is much better than a little too tight when it comes to active footwear.
Brooks Men Ravenna 5 Primer
Price: Between $80 and $140
In terms of styling, this is a neutrally colored shoe with some very prominent day-glo highlights. You will find good padding around the heel and easy ventilation around the front. The construction is quite durable and is executed in materials that don’t mind getting wet, which is essential when doing any trail running. In this regard, the excellent ankle support is also a major plus. Anyone who requires wide running shoe sizes would do well to look closely at the Ravenna range.
Nike Men’s Air Monarch IV
Price: Between $70 and $150
Available in a variety of variations on a black and white theme, these are simply excellent wide running shoes. Although many more expensive Nike ranges can be found on the market, these (although they still look quite nice) are built for comfort and durability, not as a fashion item.
Neutral runners and moderate overpronators will benefit from good arch support, and the comfort level in general is very high. Considering that this is a low-end Nike product, it offers excellent value for money. This model used to produce a very loud squeaking sound as you walked, but this has since been resolved.
For a body part that does so much for us daily, the science behind feet has been disgracefully neglected. Even podiatrists will admit that there are some things about them we understand only imperfectly. This being the case, your best guide when choosing footwear is your own comfort. Far too many runners don’t realize that their feet are actually being pinched by the uppers, because they’ve never tried on wide running shoes. You shouldn’t have to actually stretch a new shoe while breaking it in. If your feet feel confined in any way, checking out extra-wide or wide running shoes in the same size might significantly improve your level of comfort without compromising on support. While your feet shouldn’t be sliding around within your shoe, which will certainly cause blisters, there’s no need to run with pressure on the upper part of your foot. A good rule of thumb is that your heel shouldn’t be drifting while you run, but you should be able to spread out your toes. Also, remember that your feet are certainly going to swell throughout a run – shoes which are comfortable at the start may be cutting off your circulation after an hour or so.
Stretching, before and after your workout, is of course non-negotiable, and skipping this step to “save time” will usually cost you days of discomfort as your muscles and tendons complain about their mistreatment. Another error some runners make in preparation for some particular race is to push their training schedule at the expense of downtime – the small gains they may see in aerobic and muscular endurance come at the expense of cumulative strains that can result in injury, if sufficient rest isn’t part of their exercise plan.
Keeping all this in mind, there’s one crucial factor that’s totally under your control long before you even hit the road: what goes on your feet. Good wide running shoes offer great cushioning to ease the impact on your knees, support your arches appropriately, and fit as if they were shaped only for you. Some people simply require wide running shoes, and compromising on this will only harm your performance and cause discomfort.