How to buy new running shoes & why you should shop at your local specialty running store
By: Dan Lyne
These days, the search for new running shoes can be unnerving. There are so many brands and styles available. If you get the wrong shoe you may end up with an injury. The purpose of this article is to help you determine how to purchase your next pair of running shoes and why you should buy your running shoes and running clothes at a local specialty running store.
The staff at your local specialty running store can help you successfully navigate the running shoe purchase process. I have spent thousands of dollars over the years purchasing new running shoes for myself and my family. When you buy running shoes from a local specialty store, as opposed to a big box sporting goods store or online retailer, you not only helping yourself, but you are helping to support a store that is an integral part of the community.
You won’t get the same support from a large National Sporting Goods chain or online retailer. Although these retailers may sell running shoes for a lower price than the local specialty store, they don’t come close to the level of service local running store personnel provide.
I’ve become friendly with the owners of some of these stores over the years. These companies typically sponsor local running races and fitness events. They also sponsor or coordinate training groups to ready runners for these events. The 2 different local specialty running shoe stores in my area support all of the area running club activities.
Oftentimes, these same stores partner with both middle and high schools to help young and aspiring runners have access to affordable training and racing shoes. Staffed by runners who are knowledgeable about all the latest shoe models, your local specialty running store plays a critical role in promoting healthy lifestyles within their communities.
Back when you were a kid, it was simple. You probably wore the same pair of sneakers for all of our activities. However, exercise and running have now become an important part of so many people’s physical health. So it’s critical that your running shoes fit and support your feet properly. Regardless if you’re a casual runner who runs about 10 miles per week or an advanced runner training for a marathon, you need a pair of running shoes that will help you avoid injuries.
The first step in this process is to head to a local specialty running store. You need an expert who has experience with fitting people for running shoes. Next you should be prepared for a number of questions that will help narrow down the best shoe for you. The specialist will want to know what you will be doing with the shoes. Specifically, are you a jogger or a runner? Do you run 10 miles, 25 or 40+ miles per week? Do you typically run on trails, asphalt, or a treadmill? What kind, if any, injuries have you had in the past year or two. If any, are you still experiencing pain. You may also be asked if you are training for an upcoming race? If so, what distance is the race? Your mileage and workouts and possibly the shoes required to run the race, will vary significantly if you’re training for a 5k or a marathon.
Specialty running stores can analyze gait and running style. At no additional charge, the staff at the running store will likely get you on a treadmill to observe, first-hand, how you run. They will video you while you walk and run barefoot. The goal is to see what your feet and ankles do mid-stance. There’s no “one size fits all shoe.” You’re unique and especially so are your feet. Body type must also be taken into account, because a big person will likely require different shoes than a skinny person. The good news is that there are running shoes out there for every body type and running style. Having your gait and foot type analyzed by an expert sales person at the running shoe store will help you get a shoe with the feel, fit, cushion, and support required to help you run injury free.
Just asking a number of questions and observing your gait and style may not enough to ensure you get the best shoes. When you go to a running shoe store, bring in your old sneakers if this is your first purchase of running shoes, otherwise, simply bring in your latest pair of running shoes. The experts at the store will look at the wear on your shoes to help confirm their observations from your treadmill exercise (specifically your gait, foot strike, and foot type). Older shoes showing wear on the treads and on the sides, such as overstretching, provide indications of where you typically land and how your foot moves when you run.
Know How You Run and Your Size
Be sure to identify any previous or current injuries you may have developed from running. Common injuries like shin splints, blisters, knee soreness, Achilles tendonitis and other injuries experienced by runners can be caused by running in an incorrect running shoe for your running gait, style or body size, etc. Get your foot size measured. Your foot size and shape can change as you age. Obviously for younger people in their teens, who are still growing, their feet get bigger. My shoe size, now at age 50, is ½ a size larger than it was in my 20s and 30s. It only takes a minute or two to confirm your shoe size, but it’s vital for a comfortable fit. Also, it’s possible that the size you wear in a Nike, Asics or other shoe brand may not be the same as what you wear in an Adidas, Brooks or other shoe. If your foot shape changes, causing you to land and role your feet (inwards or outwards, which is referred to as pronating or supinating) you may need to change the type of shoe you buy from one designed for stability to one with motion control. An expert from your local running store will use all of this information to select 3-4 shoes that are appropriate for you to try. I recommend that you try them all to ensure the shoe you want is comfortable right there in the store. You simply can’t get this same service from an online shoe retailer.
Test the fit 360 Degrees
Once you start trying on the various shoes, it’s not only important that there is enough space in the toe box when you stand. The running shoe shouldn’t squeeze your foot, and the entire width of your foot should be touching the base of the shoe.
Shop For Your Shoes Late
Feet swell during the day. They also swell during a run, so trying on running shoes when your feet are at their largest is going to give you the most comfortable fit.
How should it fit?
The shoe should feel comfortable as soon as you put it on. Ensure you run 50+ yards with the shoes on both feet. Walk around with the shoes on before you complete your purchase. If you can’t leave the shop, try running on their treadmill. In the end, purchase the shoe that feels best when you’re running in it, not just standing. Don’t be concerned that you may suddenly feel some discomfort after running in the shoes for a week, because one of the best things about most local specialty running stores is that they offer a 30 day return period, sometimes longer. It has always been my experience, that within 30 days of my purchase, I could return my new running shoes for credit of the original purchase price. I actually took advantage of this benefit once and the owner of the store took personal care to ensure I was properly fitted with an appropriate replacement shoe. I know that I could never get this same return policy and support from an online retailer.
Don’t Be Cheap
My last words of advice are that you should be prepared to invest. One of the main reasons that you run is because you want to take care of yourself. Accordingly, unless all things are equal, you shouldn’t choose one pair of running shoes over another based on price. You want the best shoe for your needs and you want it to last 300 to 500 miles before you have to buy another pair. A specialty running store salesperson is the most qualified person to assist you in selecting a quality shoe that will fit your specific needs and help prevent injury from the wear and tear on your muscles and joints and ultimately, save you money by preventing a trip to the doctor.
Author Bio: Dan Lyne is a long distance runner from Camas, WA. With over 36 years of running experience, he specializes in coaching long distance runners and helping them achieve their half and full marathon goals through his website, middleagemarathoner.com.