How to buy Running Shoes. How Much do I spend and how do I Choose?

folder_openExercise, Running

If you’re running for the first time or used your previous running shoes for 300 to 500 miles, then you probably need new ones. One of the best times to buy running shoes is in the early spring and fall, when manufacturers tend to bring in new models. In regular stores, brand name running shoes retail between $70.00 and $200.00. As of 2013, you have to spend about $100 to get a good pair of shoes.

If money is an issue, shop at stores that sell last year’s models to get quality shoes that have been marked down. Factory outlet stores are a good option too, but I would strongly recommend against purchasing shoes that are defective, irregular or not specifically designed for running (such as cross trainers or walking shoes). Also, unless you know the exact model and previously tried them on in a brick and mortar store, I would recommend against purchasing running shoes via mail order.

When buying running shoes, wear real running socks (or the same socks you typically wear when running). It’s also a good idea to wear your old running shoes and walk a bit (or even jog) before entering the store. Trying on shoes with “cold” feet is different from when your body is warmed up because feet swell. Your old shoes are useful for comparison and can be extremely helpful to the salesperson to determine your running patterns. In a decent store, with knowledgeable staff, they will analyze the wear on the tread and things like cracking and stress lines in the cushioning above. I would also recommend asking if they can analyze you on a treadmill or watch you run in the store. Some places even let you run outside to do this.

The key is to determine whether you’re a neutral runner (your feet strike the ground level, exactly as they should), whether you pronate (your feet angle inward, the arch tends to collapse, and the inner edge of the sole bears the body’s weight) or supinate (your feet roll outwards, placing most of the weight onto the outside of the foot and raising the arc). Even if you were once a neutral runner in the past, you may not be now. This can change with age or if you have not run in a while. Not correcting these issues can lead to painful injuries. If you’re not a completely neutral runner, then you need a shoe with more stability. Note, this does not necessarily mean padding. Also, some runners buy a stability shoe because when you get tired your form breaks down (even neutral runners may pronate at the end of a marathon).

The top brands of running shoes (offered at most running specialty stores) include Nike, Asics, Mizuno, Saucony, Adidas, Brooks and New Balance. All of these brands have been around for a long time, and every company generally offers shoes for neutral runners (these tend to be narrow in the middle), a stability model for runners who pronate or supinate (they keep you feet level when striking the ground), shoes with lots of support and padding (these are well suited for runners with flat feet or injuries), and a stripped-down, lightweight shoe for road races. Some even offer special shoes for trail running (this is an new category for Nike) which have a more aggressive tread and different kinds of materials on the bottom to grip rocks and prevent slipping.

Note the most expensive shoes (often covered in dust on the top shelf along the shoe wall) are not necessarily the best. They typically just offer improved styling (like multiple color tones) and have loads of extra padding. Ironically, new studies have shown shoes with lots of extra padding (or too much padding) can actually lead to more injuries and more problems. If in doubt, ask the the sales team what the serious runners (such as college cross country runners) are buying.

“Minimalistic” shoes and shoes that simulate “barefoot running” are very popular right now. It seems like everyone is buying them. The idea (developed through the 70s) that running shoes need have a large thick heal (because we’re supposed to strike the ground heal first) is changing. When looking at naturally barefoot runners worldwide, many strike the ground mid-foot (in the center). If you opt for a barefoot running model (these sometimes separate the toes and allow the sole two twist and bend), you’ll probably want to buy a second, traditional pair of shoes too.

Sometimes, when I can’t decide between two brands, I buy them both. It’s okay and even healthy to own and switch between two pairs of running shoes. If you plan on competing in road races, cross country races, and track meets, you’ll need a light weight option for race day and a second for training. Of course when I tried to get some attention for this at the Nike Store, the manager said runners regularly buy as many as five pairs just in case the model is discontinued.

When I was growing up, the salesman always asked “do you want to wear these home?” That’s because the minute you left the white tile and industrial carpet of the store, and walked outside, there was no way to return them. However every reputable running shoe store today lets you return shoes, provided you speak to a manager and have a real problem (like the shoe is causing blisters). Many even let you run outside to test the shoes before you buy them. They all know you could easily just order them online.

Keep in mind, most shoes will “break in” and mold themselves to you feet over time. Also, walking is different from running! You need to run in the shoes before you buy them, even if it means a quick test in the store. I recommend keeping the shoes on for at least ten minutes in the store to verify there are no problems. And finally, if one shoe doesn’t feel right, ask them to bring out a new pair. Sometimes shoes have manufacturing defects.

If you use our fitness software (Weightmania Pro or Weightmania Pro Online) you can track mileage, use count and total time on your running shoes. Just add your shoes to the equipment manager under the main tools menu, then each time you record a running workout, select the shoes you wore (see the “More” button). Use the “Statistics Tool” under the Tools or Reports menu for detailed statistics and analysis.

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