Running shoe buyers guide
Buying your running shoes
Selecting the right pair of running shoes for you is no easy task. With so many different makes and models, and even width fittings, the easiest thing would be to go for the cheapest option. However, getting your hands on the best that you can possibly afford will be a good way of ensuring you are starting out with running shoes that will provide the maximum in comfort and injury prevention - provided of course you choose the right ones!
If your running shoes are ready for replacement, or you are buying your first proper pair of running shoes, then read on. This realbuzz guide lists the dos and don'ts of buying running shoes, including a few tips on how to maintain your shoes when you have bought them.
When buying running shoes, do …
- Visit a specialist shoe retailer. A proper running shoe specialist retailer will be able to provide you with invaluable advice regarding the most appropriate shoes. Correct shoes are an investment in injury prevention so you shouldn't scrimp and look for the cheapest option from the bargain bin. Also, older shoes will provide less cushioning, whether they have been worn or not, as they deteriorate over time. A model from two year stored in a shop won't offer as much protection as this year's latest model.
- Select shoes for your running purpose. Consider where you’re looking at going running and what the terrain will be. If the majority of your training is off-road, then road shoes with built-up heels are going to be unsuitable. Similarly, a pair of out-and-out fell shoes with studded outsoles will be very uncomfortable on the road as the studs will press into the soles of your feet.
- Wear your running socks. The thickness of your sock can make a big difference to the fit and feel of your shoe, particularly as your feet expand in the heat. You should therefore always wear the socks that you intend to run in when you go for a shoe fitting.
- Consider gait analysis. Increasingly, many retailers are offering a ‘video gait analysis’ service, so that the right shoe relative to your personal running style and biomechanics can be selected. You are videoed running on a treadmill for a couple of minutes and the resultant footage is then played back (in freeze-frame if necessary) to accurately assess your foot plant, stride and running pattern. This information can then be used to find the best shoe for you.
- Ask for a trial run. It’s important to remember that buying your running shoes is a big investment – and so you should always test any shoes properly before buying them. Padding around on a carpet in the shop certainly won’t replicate how the shoes will feel when you’re running in them! Instead, you should ‘road test’ them on an in-store treadmill (which will usually be available at specialist retailers) – or even venture outside to check how the shoes feel in action, provided the retailer allows you to so. Never be afraid to ask for these services, as they could be the difference between supreme comfort and blisters!
When buying new running shoes, don’t …
- Buy in the morning. If possible, save your shoe shopping until the afternoon. After lunch your feet will have expanded, which can make a significant difference to your foot size. When you run, your feet heat up and swell – particularly on hot days – so if you buy a snug fit in the morning, you could easily find that your shoes become too tight during your runs, which will cause discomfort and blisters.
- Go for designer labels. Your running shoes are not fashion items; they’re functional pieces of equipment designed to protect your feet and legs from injury. So you should avoid being swayed by aggressive marketing campaigns for particular brands or simply choosing a shoe because it sports this season’s colours. Choose only according to comfort, fit and functionality, as this way you’ll get hundreds of miles of trouble-free running out of your shoes.
- Attempt to over-extend your shoe life. Your running shoes will take a great deal of pounding across a wide range of surfaces and in all weathers, so they will need to be replaced typically every 500 miles or so. How often you need to buy new shoes will depend on your weight, running style and choice of terrain, but you should always avoid trying to squeeze a few extra weeks out of shoes that are evidently worn out, because the shoes won’t afford the protection you need and will increase the chances of you getting injured.
- Assume that ‘any old trainer will do’. Running shoes are specifically designed for running and have evolved into sophisticated, supportive, injury-preventing pieces of fitness equipment. Everyone has an old pair of tennis shoes or similar lying around, but these are entirely unsuitable for coping with the demands of running. Running is a cheap activity, and the only real investment that you need to make is by purchasing good footwear. Don’t stint on your shoes and you’ll get much more out of each and every run.
- Shop solely on running shoe price. When you go hunting for your running shoes you’ll probably have a budget that you won’t want to exceed. However, if you find a pair of fantastic shoes that are perfectly matched to you in terms of comfort, fit and function, but are a few pounds more than you intended to spend, then don’t readily dismiss them. Think about how about how far you’re going to run in the shoes, and caculate the cost per mile! This will justify you exceeding the budget and remember, buying and wearing the wrong shoes will certainly curb your running enjoyment.
Running shoe care
When you’ve bought the right shoes for you, it’s important that you look after them. To get the most out of your shoes, simply follow the realbuzz top shoe-care protocols below:
- Allow wet shoes to dry out naturally rather than in a tumble dryer or on a radiator, because intense heat can degrade the cushioning properties of the mid-sole.
- Avoid washing shoes in a washing machine, as the glue used in the shoes’ manufacture will be diluted and can come unstuck which will cause your shoes to fall apart!
- If you are a very frequent runner (every day or even twice a day), consider buying two pairs of shoes to run in alternately. By doing this you’ll actually get more miles out of each pair, because by alternating them the mid-soles will have longer to recover after each use, and will therefore provide better cushioning for longer.