One of the most common things that new runners ask about is how to find the most comfortable and durable pair of running shoes. It’s understandable to wonder which types of shoes will provide the best support and reduce the chance of injury. I have recently received some questions about whether memory foam shoes are good for running.
I understand where the question is coming from because memory foam shoes have become increasingly popular lately. Memory foam provides some of the most comfortable shoes. I decided to do a deep dive into the pros and cons of memory foam shoes to help you determine if they are good for running.
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What Are Memory Foam Shoes?
Memory foam shoes are a type of shoe that is made of a special material called polyurethane. You have probably heard of memory foam mattresses and pillows because they seem to be increasingly common.
Memory foam shoes are a very comfortable type of shoes that are increasing in popularity. There are many benefits to wearing memory foam shoes, which is why so many runners have been curious about whether they may also be a good fit for running.
What Are The Benefits of Memory Foam Shoes?
Memory foam shoes actually have a lot of benefits. I will provide a few examples of the benefits below.
The biggest benefit of memory foam shoes is the support they provide. Memory foam shoes offer excellent arch support. They also provide sole support. Because of this, the shoes can reduce and ease pain on the balls of your feet.
It is very common for people who have jobs where they work long hours need to stand for long periods of time (nurses, teachers, etc.) to wear memory foam shoes. They can provide comfort when standing for long periods of time and reduce foot pain from standing and pressure.
Memory foam uses your body heat to form to your exact shape. Your body heat actually softens the memory foam and creates a mold of your body.
Because memory foam shoes are made of polyurethane, which is sensitive to heat, they mold to your feet which can improve stability. They can also provide an even distribution of balance. This can be very beneficial when standing for long periods of time.
This helps to stabilize your body weight and make it so that there isn’t an uneven distribution of weight to a certain part of your foot (which can cause pain).
Another nice benefit of memory foam shoes is they absorb shock. They absorb heel and sole shock. Each time you take a step, your foot strikes the floor which can send a shock up your foot and leg. This is caused by the impact of your foot hitting the ground.
Repetitive shock being absorbed directly by your feet and legs can lead to pain and injury. That is why it is so important to wear shoes that will absorb shock and protect your joints and ligaments.
Prevent Pressure and Rubs
Another positive benefit of memory foam shoes is that they prevent pressure and rubs. Choosing a pair of shoes that rubs your skin will lead to blisters and chafing. No walker or runner wants that.
Memory foam shoes help to prevent this rubbing which will also reduce your chances of getting blisters.
Reduce Risk of Injury
Memory foam shoes are known to reduce the risk of injuries such as plantar fasciitis. Memory foam shoes have so many benefits which can lead to a lower chance of injury. With the extra support and ease of pressure, it is easy to see why these types of shoes are becoming so popular and trendy!
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What Are the Cons of Memory Foam Shoes?
While there are tons of benefits of memory foam shoes, there are also quite a few cons – especially when it comes to running!
The first con of memory foam shoes is heat. Because of the material that the shoes are made of, they retain a lot of heat. This can be good if you’re looking for a shoe that provides warmth. When it comes to running, that is generally not the case. This can be especially bothersome in the hot summer months.
The polyurethane material that memory foam shoes are made of is very dense and doesn’t have much breathability. This can be bad news for a runner since retaining heat while you are running is not a good thing.
Another con of memory foam shoes is sweat. Because of the dense and hot nature of the memory foam material, it can make your feet generate and retain sweat. For runners, this is an important factor to consider.
Runners typically want to look for running equipment that is light, breathable, and does not retain sweat.
Since memory foam shoes retain heat and retain sweat, it’s probably obvious that another major issue that they have is the smell. Since the material is not breathable and it retains sweat, it will eventually lead to an unpleasant odor. It’s a good idea to leave the shoes to air out to dry in between wearings to prevent an unpleasant smell.
New memory foam also can be known to emit a chemical-like smell (referred to as off-gassing). The smell can last several weeks until it has adequate time to air out. The gasses are not harmful, but can just be bothersome.
Just like many other materials, memory foam is not meant to last forever. Over time, memory foam loses elasticity and eventually begins to lose its ability to go back to its original shape. This deterioration can counteract all the benefits that we just talked about and make it so that you are more susceptible to injury and foot pain.
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So What’s the Final Verdict on Memory Foam Shoes for Runners?
The final verdict on whether memory foam shoes are good for runners is “it depends”. We are all unique individuals with different needs. While memory foam can provide a great deal of helpful support and alleviate pressure on the feet, some people need different levels of support in different places.
The great support, shock absorption, and stability make it so that these shoes can be very beneficial for running. But at the same time, there are some important factors that are critical for running shoes that memory foam simply can’t provide (breathability, sweat-wicking, light material, etc.)
Just like how we all have different size feet, we also have different needs when it comes to running shoes. Shoes are not a “one size fits all”. Some people find memory foam shoes to be really beneficial for running, and others find them to be terrible.
The best running shoe advice that I can provide as a running coach is to get a professional shoe fitting done at a running store to determine the right shoes for you. During a professional shoe fitting, they will do an assessment to tell you which type of shoe is best for you.
Are Memory Foam Shoes Good for Running? The Surprising Answer
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thanks for the information, I used to wear running shoes with great cushioning but the con is its heavier so I had my feet test again.
Yeah that makes sense!
I tried a pair a few years back bc I do like an extra cushioned shoe. I remember liking them at the time and do not remember why I switched back. running shoes are so individual and once you find the right one for you it’s hard to switch back
I switch back and forth between a minimalist shoe and a more cushioned shoe. I don’t think I’ve had a memory foam running shoe, though. I sweat a ton — including my feet — and I imagine they would get gross pretty quickly.
Thanks for breaking it down for us!
I never even considered this as an option! But considering how short we really wear our running shoes–300-500 miles, is memory foam something we need? Interesting concept!
I also didn’t realize memory foam was an option in running shoes. But to be honest I don’t pay much attention to the technical details of the shoes I wear (such as what kind of foam is used) other than is it a neutral or stability shoe- so maybe I’ve run in them and not known it! For the reasons you mentioned, I’m not sure they would be good for Florida running though.
I’ve never tried memory foam shoes. I like neutral shoes and I wear some with and some without much cushioning. (I like to alternate between a few styles of shoes). I definitely think getting fitted is a good idea for all runners!
I never knew these even existed! Sounds like a good idea.
I have problems with my Achilles tendon and have customized insoles that go with a particular shoe. So I’m not sure whether memory foam would be a good option for me personally.
This was really interesting! Thanks for doing all the research for us and sharing all the pros and cons.
I had no idea they had memory foam shoes. I don’t love memory foam in my mattress, so I don’t think I would love them in my shoes. But you’re right, there is a shoe for everyone! Thanks for breaking it down!
I have never worn memory foam shoes for running and I wear Dansko clogs at work (ER nurse) because I find them to be the most supportive for 12 hour shifts.
I like a cushioned running shoe and now most are made of such lightweight materials.
I have never worn memory foam shoes and don’t know if I would. I’m pretty picky and like a bit of responsive cushion.