Choosing Your Running Shoes

Unless you’re one of the few crazy people that go running in completely bare feet, you’re going to need running shoes. Good running shoes are going to be your most important purchase as a runner.

The VERY FIRST STEP for you should be to get fitted for a good pair of running shoes by an expert!

I can think of four ways that people go about buying running shoes. I’ll list the reasons, explain the pros and cons, and tell you which option is the best!

The 4 Ways People Shop for Running Shoes

1. Go to Wal-Mart.

Some people, wanting to spend as little money as possible, will go to Wal-Mart or a similar department store and pick out whatever running shoe is cheap and fits on their foot.

Well, when it comes to running shoes, don’t go to Wal-Mart! There are no running shoe experts employed at Wal-Mart, and you probably won’t be lucky enough to pick the right shoes on your own. You’ll almost always end up with bad shoes that will cause health problems like pinched nerves and shin splints. The pain is not worth the $30-40 you saved.

2. Specialty running stores.

Go to a specialty running store and have them look at your feet and pick out a few good shoes for you to try on. Then they watch you run in them to analyze your gait, and they help you decide which one would be best. It’s really a simple process when the experts are helping.

Even better, most stores will let you return the shoes if you don’t like them, even if you wore them a few times! That’s the type of guarantee a reputable store will offer you. If a store isn’t confident enough to give you that type of guarantee, you shouldn’t have confidence in them either!

Most new runners who are smart enough to know they need fitted with the correct running shoes will go this route.

(If you’re in the New England area, I can totally recommend Marathon Sports in and around Boston, MA. I got shoes there and I love them. The people there are the best.)

I HIGHLY suggest you go this route when getting your first pair of running shoes.

3. Buy online.

Buying running shoes online can be good or bad; it depends on your personal knowledge and the quality of the website’s recommendations. If you’ve already been running a while and are just buying another pair of the same shoe, you’ll probably do fine online.

But sometimes the shoe you have been wearing will be discontinued. In that case, I recommend heading back to the running store to try on the new version to make sure it’s still the best choice for you. And yes, buying the shoe at the store is a good plan.

If you’re stuck without a running store, sometimes the online store can give you recommendations based on what you know about your foot (check our shoe selection guide to get an idea of how this works.) This is helpful, but not quite as good as having a running shoe expert at your side.

The best reason to buy shoes online is when the local stores are sold out of your favorite shoe (probably last year’s model) but you can still find it online. If you know you like the shoe and also know it’s discontinued, stock up!

4. Buy a racing flat or minimalist shoe.

These days, I have actually given up on conventional running shoes. I only run in minimalist shoes such as racing flats or the newer “barefoot style” shoes. It might seem crazy, but wearing these types of shoes has helped me improve my running form to the point where I no longer need to worry about fancy, highly-padded motion control shoes.

That’s just me, though. I’ve been running for years and these shoes match my current running plans and goals. If you are new to running, seek guidance at a reputable running shop first!

[Similarly, some runners go completely barefoot. If you do it correctly, you could save money on shoes! But proceed with caution!]


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3 thoughts on “Choosing Your Running Shoes”

  1. My problem with Nike shoes is that they don’t seem to be long enough. Unless you are talking NB, Saucony the toe box is not high enough to be comfortable. No matter what I pay. To buy a man’s shoe, I get the heel rub, because the heel is too big. Ryka, its trademark – “Made for a woman’s foot” is the only one that solves that problem. What I wish I could manufacture/could be manufatured is a shoe that encompasses all of the qualities in one shoe.

    • A lot of runners share your frustrations. That’s why when some people find a particular shoe they like (brand, model, year, and size,) they buy 5-10 pairs of them! It might sound crazy, but if you have a hard time finding the right shoe, it makes sense to stock up.

  2. I’ve been eyeing a pair of Women’s New Balance shoes because my current ones are hanging by a thread, literally. The comfort and durability of New Balance have never disappointed me, and I’m ready for that reliable support in my daily walks and workouts. Thanks for the tip on how to take a look at your feet at a specialized running store, they will choose a couple of pairs of quality shoes for you to try on.


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