You’re heading to a store to get yourself some running shoes, but you really don’t know what kind you should get. You hear people talking about Saucony or maybe you want to try one of the newer companies out there, like On or Hoka. Great. I’m here to tell you that what your friends or the internet tell you about shoes should not have any influence on what shoes are right for YOU.
Did you know that not all running shoes are created equal? You can find some really expensive shoes from [insert any running shoe company] at [insert any big box store] and you can also find really cheap shoes at those same stores from those same companies.
So how do you know which brand to buy and which store to shop from? It’s really tough to make the right call on which shoe is right for you, so in this blog post, I’m going to give you the run down on where you should get your running shoes from, what shoes should roughly cost you, the difference between a neutral shoe and a stability shoe, and tips on making your shoes last as long as possible.
Did you know there are stores specifically designed just for runners? They are usually locally owned and operated and have workers who are runners. These people know running shoes really well and they are there to help you. You get great service and people who want you to be in the best shoe for you – not what looks the best or what’s selling the best – but the shoe that makes you feel like you can run forever.
I’m fortunate to personally know 3 guys who own running stores.
Dave Welsh owns the Haddonfield, Mullica Hill, Moorestown and Medford stores.
Craig Segal owns Runner’s High in Freehold.
And Scott Tantino owns North Wales Running Company.
These guys and their staff know their stuff and are willing to get the extra mile to help you out. Check them out in person or visit their online stores if you aren’t local. If you do visit them, tell them I sent you!
As I mentioned earlier, you can easily find really cheap shoes at outlets or other bargain stores for below $70. While the price tag might look nice, you typically get what you pay for. Cheaper shoes are made with cheaper quality products so not only will they not do the job you’re hoping they’ll do, they will also break down a lot sooner and you’ll end up having to buy a new pair much sooner than you expected.
Running shoes should run you somewhere in the neighborhood of $100. You’ll obviously find some shoes can be much, much higher – hello carbon-plated shoes – but for the most part, shoes that are good quality should be in the $95-$115 range. If you are looking for something unique, like a trail shoe or a special color of a shoe you like, you can expect to pay a bit more.
Typically, shoe companies update their models (they go from the Pegasus 34 to the Pegasus 35) every 12-18 months, so when Nike, for example, updates their shoe, the last year’s model goes on discount. If you can wait that long, that’s one way where you can save yourself a little bit of money.
Since carbon-plated shoes are so light, efficient, and the newest technology, those shoe prices are much, much higher.
Don’t know anything about carbon-plated shoes? You can read some of these articles for a quick run-down:
- The 10 Best Carbon Shoes of 2021
- Are Carbon Plated Shoes Worth The Hype?
- All About Carbon Plated Shoes
These days, there are tons of running shoe brands to choose from. In my intro, I shared with you a quick tidbit about how to choose your shoes. Sure, friendly recommendations are good, but what works for me and my running preference may be totally off for what your needs are. In 2021, running shoe companies do a really good job of making a wide variety of shoes that fit a good portion of the population.
Here’s a list of just a few major running shoe brands – keep in mind that most companies make shoes that are good for runners who have a neutral running pattern and shoes for runners who need stability. I’ll get into that below.
- Hoka Hoka One
- New Balance
Obviously, there are lots more shoe brands than I care to mention. The point is, all brands make similar shoes. So if you don’t like how a Nike shoe fits, you might find you like how Asics or Brooks feel.
A common misunderstanding that I hear a lot is this: “I need stability in my shoes” when in reality, what the runner means is that they feel they “need more cushioning”. While these sound like the same thing, they are actually very different. Stability is the term used for correcting or managing a foot that pronates (turns inward from the ankle bone). Cushioning is the amount of shoe a runner feels underfoot.
You’ll want to pick a neutral running shoe if you do not pronate. Pronation varies from very little to a lot and you can tell by watching you walk or run from behind. In some cases, like someone who mildly pronates, the motion you’re looking for is very minimal and can easily be missed. This is one of the main reasons why a specialty running store is really the only place you should be buying running shoes.
A neutral runner will have no inward turning of their ankle and therefore can wear neutral shoes. Neutral shoes are made by every shoe company and can be on the lightweight side of the pendulum or have a lot of cushioning. By going to a running store, you can try on shoes from different companies to see which shoe feels the best to you.
Stability shoes offer a runner the posting on the inside of a shoe. In this Brooks shoe below, you’ll see the darker color foam. That’s the denser material that acts as a guide to make your foot move in a neutral manner. Some stability shoes have a lot of dense material, some of mild postings. Depending on how much you pronate will determine how much stability you need.
Extend Shoe Life
Shoes are relatively expensive and the typical runner is going to go through a pair of shoes every 3 months or so. The general rule of thumb is shoes should last you between 300-400 miles. The best way to know how many miles your shoes have on them is to track it. TrainwithMarc runners use their training log, but however you want to track your shoe mileage is up to you.
One very simple way to make your shoes last a little longer is by rotating pairs of shoes. Sure, it appears you’re spending more up front, but in the long run, your shoes will be able to last longer. When you switch up your running shoes – daily or weekly – the shoe that is not being used will return to a more cushioned state and when your shoe has the chance to recover, it’ll last longer and withstand more running mileage.
You might want to switch up your shoes for workout days, for long runs, or for trail running. Whatever you choose, there are different styles of shoes for different types of runs. A faster, lighter shoe for workouts will help you get the most out of your workout days. Personally, I wear the Brooks Revel, but I’ve also worn Nike racing flats while training in college and Brooks road racing flats when I first got out of college. These shoes were specific for workout days and for road races.
When marathon training in 2019, I wore a bigger, heavier Brooks shoe called the Levitate. They helped me withstand the higher mileage as they were a more cushioned neutral shoe. In 2021, I rotate pairs of Brooks Launch. They are lighter, less-cushioned shoe that I use for daily training.
Another way to extend your shoe’s lifespan is to only wear your running shoes to run in. I don’t wear my current running shoes to do anything except log mileage, so if I’m walking the dog or playing with my kids, I wear retired running shoes or my kick-arounds to do activities that aren’t running. This obviously extends my shoe’s life because they aren’t being used for non-running things.
Running shoes are the key to having an enjoyable run. You’ll want to make sure you check out a specialty running shop in your area and try on a few brands before deciding which shoe is right for you. Go into it knowing you’re going to spend around $100, but also know that some of that is for the customer service you’re going to get. If the shoe doesn’t work out for you, you’ll be able to return it and get a shoe that is right for you. You can’t do that at a big box store.
Remember the difference between a neutral pattern and one where you pronate. Asics has a really good blog post about the difference between neutral and pronation that can help you when you’re buying shoes. All companies have a shoe that is right for you, you just need to be willing to try on a few pairs first!
Thanks for reading until the end! Ready for more?
Want my weekly running newsletter?
- 9 tips to help you run your next PR
- Set yourself some big goals and then focus on what you can control
- Get ready to ride the train to PR town