Shopping for Running Shoes

How to choose shoes worth running in (my opinions)

With running shoes, I strongly believe that it is well worth investing time and effort into selecting our first proper pair, or the first pair we buy following some time away from running.

With shoes, I believe that they should feel great when you walk around in them in the shop or when you try them out on the shop’s treadmill. If they don’t feel great, then I would recommend that you do not buy them. Modern shoes do not tend to ‘grow on you’ because they are made from man-made materials (not leather) and there is very limited possibility of the fabric or other materials stretching. You are an adult, so your growth days are coming to an end (if you are under 25), or over (those above 25 years of age). So you will not grow into them! Your foot size will not tend to change much, or at least not in any relevant timeframe (see below)!

There are a few practical considerations relating to preparation for shoe fitting. First, do wear a pair of socks similar to the ones you would wear in practice when running. Second, bear in mind that feet swell a little in hot weather, later in the day etc. So fitting shoes first thing on a cold winter’s day will be different to trying them out late in the afternoon of a sweltering summer’s day. Whilst our foot shape and size can change for reasons such as gaining or losing weight, or having a foot injury, this isn’t usually a consideration given the useful lifespan of a pair of running shoes. The shoes we buy today will not last us in regular use for more than a year or so.

As for the latest models and new technologies… well, in general, don’t head for shoes that are extreme versions – e.g. minimal drop, ultra-high cushioned wedges. These shoes tend to be aimed at more seasoned runners rather than the average recreational runner. Most folk run primarily on paths and on roads, so a shoe with reasonable cushioning is sensible in my opinion. As for over and under pronators and the associated corrective shoes, running shop staff can be a very useful source of advice, but whatever shoes are purchased also need to feel good on our feet. Ask for the views of a runner amongst shop staff if possible, as they will have personal experience of choosing their own running shoes (and possibly of having made mistakes in the past regarding shoe selection). Bring your existing trainers with you as the staff can look at the wear pattern and make sensible inferences from that. 

Finally, Greg McMillan has produced a good, and fairly short, video on selecting a new running shoe that you may find useful:

He includes some tips on how to try shoes on in the shop and delves into some detail on various aspects of the shoe that may cause issues. The video has material relevant for new runners, and for those who have been running for years.

In summary:

If in doubt, don’t buy! 

If you are fairly sure about the choice of shoes but want to retain an option to return them if they turn out to be unsuitable, agree on the returns policy before buying. 

Be prepared to request that a different size is ordered in for you to try, and agree on the policy for reimbursing you if you choose not to buy it ultimately. 

Do not be tempted to buy for convenience. Yes, your time is precious, and it may take time and effort to find the right shoes, but you are likely to be wearing them for a year or more.

Shoes should last 500 miles (800km) of running.

Buying the wrong shoe is never a bargain!

High price does not always equate to the best shoes for you.

No shoes (carbon fibre / platform-like cushioning / minimalist etc.) can significantly transform your running speeds or distances! That’s all down to doing chatty running (especially for beginners) and having consistency in training.

Shoe colour and “bling” (flashes, hi viz etc.) are irrelevant for most of us – it’s all about the ‘fit’.

Happy Shopping!