Runners need running shoes. The clue is in the name. Specifically engineered for the demands of the sport, running shoes are lightweight and cushioning. They provide comfort, ankle and knee support, provide ventilation and absorb most of the shock from floor contact.
What happens if you don’t use suitable running shoes?
If for whatever reason, you don’t wear running shoes or wear old worn out shoes, you will run into problems quickly. Inappropriate footwear can lead to running injuries. Running in such shoes increases the stress and impact on your legs which can cause aches and pains. Not using the proper shoes also speeds up the time taken to experience an overuse injury.
Think of running shoes like car shock absorbers. These absorb an array of potentially damaging shocks to keep you and your car safe whilst driving. The shock absorber makes the journey smoother, reduces vibrations when driving, stops damage when going over bumps, keeps the tyres in contact with the ground at all times and so on. In essence, the absorber makes life easier for the car.
Without the absorber, the car would experience wear and tear much quicker and bumps would be more noticeable, damaging the suspension at a much quicker rate. Running is no different. Proper shoes protect your legs from wear and tear, helping you perform at your best.
Why do you need tips for buying running shoes?
Running shoes are a massive investment. Dependant on quality, the shoes can range from £45 and upwards. They are recommended to last 300-500 miles (though this is dependant on body weight, technique, storage and so on) so lots of effort needs to go into purchasing them.
If you invest in shoes that aren’t suitable for you for whatever reason, you will either have to bite your tongue and run through pain and discomfort (not ideal) or bite the bullet and accept that you have wasted money.
Remember, you won’t be able to return the shoes after the first run as they will not be in sellable condition for the retailer (in-store or online). Therefore, the best thing to do is to have all the best tips for buying the right running shoes in the first place.
Without further ado, here are some top tips for buying running shoes.
1. Commit time to the process
If you want to purchase a decent pair of running shoes, worth your money and to improve your performance, be prepared to spend some time on the process.
You might need to research different shoes, read reviews, ask fellow runners about their shoes, try some on in shops, get a foot analysis and so on. Soon enough, you’ll have a good understanding of what shoes will work for you.
‘Research is formalised curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.‘ Nora Neale Hurston
Don’t short change yourself by rushing the process. If you rush, you will more than likely choose the wrong shoes and will be disappointed. Invest some time into the process and you will reap the rewards!
2. Get foot mapping & a gait analysis
Some stores offer what we call ‘foot mapping and gait analysis’. This test will give you essential information about your running style which will help you select the correct shoes. A ‘gait analysis’ is all about testing the degree of pronation.
The word ‘pronation’ refers to the natural inward roll of the foot as the outside part of the heel contacts the ground. This rolling strike absorbs the shock and distributes it through the foot, ankle and leg. If you are an underpronator, it means your feet don’t feel inward enough. Over pronators roll their feet inward too much.
The gait analysis will work out your unique style and this will match you with the correct shoe type. The idea of this matching is to counter balance over or underpronation, making you a better runner and reducing the risk of injury.
These tests are usually free and form part of the in-store advisers customer service role. Ultimately, the test is trying to evaluate your unique running style so the most appropriate shoe can be recommended to you.
3. Speak to in-store advisers at a running shop
Staff in running shops are well placed to give advice on shoes. These advisers perform a customer service function and will discuss shoes with you in-store.
To maximise your time with an adviser, have an idea of what kind of shoe you want first and then ask some questions. For example, you could say ‘Hi there, I’m interested in size 8 road running shoes with good cushioning. What would you recommend?’
The adviser will usually be happy to walk through 2 or 3 popular options with you, answering any questions you may have. I love speaking to in-store advisers because it is a personal 1-1 experience you just can’t get online. Give it a try and you should buy the right running shoes for you.
4. Research shoes via written reviews, YouTube videos and doing some reading
The 21st Century means we have access to a wealth of information via the internet. We can discover virtually anything we want to on something if we search for it.
You can research running shoes you’re interested in via written reviews, YouTube videos and by doing some reading on the shoe itself. Delve into the origins of the shoe, watch someone running with it on, read customer reviews of their experiences with the shoe.
Research the shoe in depth prior to even thinking about making a purchase will help you mitigate the risk of potentially buying a poorly designed shoe. That way, you guarantee that you will only buy the very best running shoes on the market. A fool proof tip, right? Go and try it!
5. Have an open mind – Don’t be brand biased
According to Survey Monkey and Search Engine Land, 70 percent of US consumers look for ‘known’ brands they have used in the past when purchasing goods. I see this all the time amongst runners.
Some runners purchase Asics once then remain loyal to Asics all through their running career. I’ve had friends who have only ever used Mizuno, reluctant to go with other brands because ‘Mizuno just works’ for them.
It’s true, once we have a good experience with a certain running shoe brand it can be difficult for us to go with something else. What if the other brand isn’t as comfortable? What if a different brand reduces our performance?
Runners who are brand loyal do not want to take the risk of venturing out to another brand and remain brand biased when purchasing. Try not to be one of these brand biased runners when you’r getting new shoes. Keep an open mind, try on other shoes, ask questions and do lots of research on a variety of items.
Remember, you’re shopping around not because you are betraying a particular brand but because you want the shoe which is best for you. It’s about getting a shoe, regardless of brand, that matches your running style and foot shape. Don’t be brand biased, have an open mind when buying running shoes.
6. Be prepared to spend money
I’ve heard so many people moan and complain about the price of running shoes. Yes, £100 can be an expensive price to pay for a pair IF you look at it that way. Be prepared to spend money if you want quality shoes. It’s all about having the right mindset.
I urge you not to think of spending money on shoes as a hassle but a necessary and positive action to take. After all, money is a form of value exchange and – in general – the more you part with the higher quality the shoes you will purchase.
Think of all the hard work that has gone into the creation of that running shoe. The shoe will have taken days to design by a team of specialists. It would have had to go through tens and maybe even hundreds of tests. The materials needed to be sourced, it needed to be assembled before finally being distributed to the retailer.
Lots of hard work and thought go into the creation of running shoes so the exchange of money for them is a necessary and positive action to take. Be prepared to spend money on your running shoes and you will have a great time during the purchasing process.
Check out this video of how Adidas Ultra Boost shoes are made to get a flavour for the high value of running shoes:
If you have limiting beliefs about money, it might be a good idea to read ‘Money: Know More, Make More, Give More: Learn how to make more money and transform your life‘ by Rob Moore. This book changed my perception of money. What is is, how it’s created and why we need it in our lives. #
After I read this, I stopped being such a Scrooge and focused on the amazing value I can get when I spend money. One example being quality running shoes. Give it a try.
7. Make sure the shoes feel comfortable
If your new running shoes are not comfortable, your runs will start turning into nightmares. Uncomfortable shoes are ill-fitting and often hurt, leading to your foot feeling like its under attack. Side affects of wearing uncomfortable shoes include the formation on painful calluses and bunions, nasty blisters and losing toe nails. Ouch!
Instead, make sure the shoes you’re considering are comfortable. Put them on in-store. Walk around with them. Go for a little jog with them on.
Make sure you’re certain the running shoes are comfortable before even thinking about making a purchase. It will save you heaps of misery and pain in the long run.
8. Don’t let in-store staff pressure you into buying
As charming and friendly as the in-store assistant appears, remember they may try to influence you to make a purchase. Please do not be influenced to buy the wrong running shoe for you because of a store assistant pushing you into the purchase.
Though not always the case, many in-store assistants are on commission for each sale they achieve or if they achieve a certain number of sales per day.
If you express an interest in a certain shoe, be careful they do not try and over-inflate its benefits. If you purchase a shoe based on emotional beliefs pushed onto you by store assistants rather than actual practicality, you expose yourself to buying the wrong shoe. Not ideal.
Watch out for phrases like ‘that looks amazing on you’ or ‘these shoes will change your life’ or ‘they’re perfect.’
I’m not saying that salespeople are for you to be wary of. They are trying to make an honest living like the rest of us. However, there is a fine line between having your best interests at heart and being a pushy salesperson.
Your gut feeling will guide you here, just be aware of this potential issue when in stores for your shoes!
9. Ensure there is a thumb width of toe ‘wiggle room’
Having a bit of spare space for your toes to breathe is crucial for comfort during running. You don’t want your toes to be pushed against the edge of the shoe, rubbing it and taking a beating with each step. That’d be agonising and most likely lead to lost toenails. Ouch!
Instead, make sure you have a thumbs width of room between the end of your longest toe and the front of the shoe. It’s called ‘wiggle’ room for a reason; you need to be able to wiggle your toes comfortably. Remember this tip when buying new running shoes and you should be fine.
10. Test the shoes in store
The only real way to know if potential shoes are right for you, is to test them. A quick jog around the store or a quick round of pacing on an in-store treadmill ought to do the trick. Having the chance to try the shoes out for their intended use will be the crucial moment where your decision will most likely be made.
If the shoes feel comfortable, springy, ventilated and cushioned, there’s a high chance you’ll buy them as they are clearly right for you. If they are restricting, tight and difficult to move in, you will more than likely not buy the shoes. It’s common sense, right?
Try before you buy! Don’t go off your gut feeling that the shoes will ‘be alright.’ Don’t second guess yourself. Be absolutely sure with a quick minute jog around the store or on a treadmill. Test the shoes and make sure they’re going to work for you.
11. Choose a terrain relevant shoe i.e. road or trail shoes
Trail and road are separate types of surface which require different running shoes. Trail routes are off road and tend to consist of mountains, hiking routes, woods and forests. Road routes are on road and tend to consist of paved, smooth and predictable surfaces. Dependant on where you run, you should get the right kind of shoes for your surface.
Trail shoes are designed specifically for running off road with deeper lugs, rougher compounds and tougher grips, to name a few of their different features. If you are mainly a trail runner, be sure to search for and purchase a ‘trail running shoe.’
There you have it! 11 top tips for buying running shoes. I wish you the very best on your running journey and hope you will choose the right shoes for the job.
If this article has been useful, pass it along to your fellow runners. Sharing is caring after all, right?