How to Buy Running Shoes

How to Buy Running Shoes

Mark Kennedy
Founder of None to Run
November 14, 2023

Starting off in many sports and physical activities requires big upfront costs to get equipped.

Luckily, running is not that expensive when compared to most.

A pair of running shoes and some appropriate running attire (spandex and short-shorts are optional!) and you’re off.

For a new runners however, buying a pair of running shoes can be a daunting task.

  • What does a proper running shoe look like?
  • How much do I need to spend?
  • Blue or neon yellow?
  • What’s this talk of supination and pronation?

I totally get it and I hope this article will provide you with a game plan and the knowledge you need to get the right pair of running shoes.

Let’s dive in.

Don’t take running shoe recommendations from anyone.

We’re all different. Body shapes, weight, height, running experience, running surface, goals – the list goes on.

You need a running shoe that works for you.

Just because your best friend crushed her 10 KM personal best in a pair of nice looking Asics certainly does not mean that shoe will work for you.

Cross trainers are not running shoes.

Cross training shoes are heavier and are made to provide control and support for lateral movements.

Unless you’re getting chased by a dog, running involves only forward movement.

Here’s an image with a cross trainer and running shoe side by side. It’s getting more and more difficult to distinguish between the two.       

Mainly, running shoes are lighter and offer less lateral support (narrower outsole).

If you go to a running specialty store to buy your shoes, they will ensure you get running shoes.

A more general sports store may direct you to cross training shoes because they can be used for many activities (e.g. running, basketball, tennis, weightlifting) – don’t go for it.

Running shoes are best for running.

Buy your running shoes from a running specialty store.

Not only are the staff in these types of shops incredibly knowledgeable, but they are also passionate runners who love getting others introduced to the sport.

I once heard that runners are much more likely to confide with the staff at their local running shop about their running injuries before seeking medical advice.

Maybe not the best thing to do, but it speaks volumes about the knowledge and value that running store sales staff generally provide.

What do I say to the salesperson at the running shop?

Firstly, explain to them that you’re new to running.

Jay Dicharry advises looking for a shoe that doesn’t mask too much of your senses.

This is important because if you start running in something super supportive and cushioned, your body will never be able to get the proprioceptive feedback it needs to improve your form and help start strengthening the muscles in your feet and lower legs.

Jay Dicharry compares this to trying to tie your shoes with gloves on versus your bare hands. Using your bare hands provides the tactile feedback you need to accurately get the job done.

This doesn’t mean start running in Vibram 5-Finger shoes or a shoe with the cushioning of the HOKA (see image below).

Find a nice middle ground.

A running shoe that is thin, relatively firm (a bit of cushioning is okay) and light is a good place to start.

Getting fitted.

I recommend trying on 4-5 different types of shoes when you visit your running shop.

Go for a short run in each shoe.

Running outside is best if they let you, but the treadmill will also work.

Running is not walking so please, do not buy your running shoes based on how they felt during a 10 meter walk in the store.

Running shoes require a bit of space for the toes to splay when you plant your foot. So don’t buy a shoe that feels tight in and around the toes and forefoot.

The video below illustrates the toe splay on a 4-year old – it would be even more profound on an adult.

The width of your running shoe is just as important as the length. Take your time with both.

Don’t rely on the “wet foot” test.

The “wet foot” test is overrated.

The wet foot test is commonly used to determine if you have a normal, flat or high-arched foot.

Running shoes would be assigned based your arch. For example, if you have a high arch, a cushioned running shoe would be recommended. A flat arch means you would be better in a motion-controlled (more support)running shoe.

Based on current research however, this approach is flawed.

This is a tip I received from Ian Griffiths, a Sports Podiatrist in the UK.

Do not use or assign any value to the ‘wet foot test’ or to picking shoes based on static foot posture. Research has unequivocally shown that this has no greater influence on reducing injury than just giving everyone a stability shoe.

What should the best running shoe feel like?

Above all, focus on comfort.

Let comfort be your guiding principle.

Of course, don’t forget the advice I’ve provided above. Once you’ve narrowed your choice down to 2-3 pairs of running shoes, which shoe feels the best when you run?

That’s the running shoe for you.

Not the running shoe that’s on sale or the running shoe in the cool new colour.

Comfort really is king.

Stick with what works (for now).

When you find a pair of running shoes you like, stick with it for a while.

Perhaps after a couple of years of running you can start experimenting.

In fact, there is research that suggests that rotating between different running shoes may play an injury prevention role (research).

But for now, stick with what works for you.

Further Resources:

My podcast episode with Jay Dicharry (we start talking about running shoes around the 29 minutes left mark).

  1. Chevy Tahoe or a Mini Cooper? A tip on running shoe selection. – An Athlete’s Body
  2. Finding the Right Running Shoes - None to Run
  3. Running Shoes – How do we choose them? – Video from Ian Griffiths
  4. When Should You Replace Your Running Shoes?

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