Tips for buying running shoes

By Brianne, Foot Tools Staffer

I had the realization that I have been working at Foot Tools for three years.  And I still cannot believe how much there is to learn when it comes to running shoes.  So I can only imagine how terribly confusing it is for the average person walking in hoping to pick up a pair of their first, good pair of running shoes.

Whether you are new to running or just finished your 10th marathon, there is always something new to learn about the latest shoes and trends.  Yet buying running shoes does not have to be complicated, especially if you know and/or understand what you are looking for.  Here are some helpful tips for you:

1. What do you need the shoes for?  Strictly running? Cross training? Walking? Speedwork? These are all very good things to think about, since there are certain shoes that can improve your performance depending on your need.  Some shoes have a specific heel design meant to absorb the impact when heel striking, which is great for walkers.  Some of the more minimal shoes now available can really benefit those looking for a light, fast shoe for track work, or someone branching out into the world of Crossfit.  Long distance runners may consider a more cushioned shoe versus someone only focusing on 5km races.

2. Your running style: A good running shoe store will do a gait analysis on you to determine the type of shoe you will need.  At Foot Tools, we look at your feet, ask you to squat and sometimes walk back and forth.  It seems strange to you, but for us, we want to know if you supinate (underpronation) or pronate (overpronation).  Once we know how your foot moves, we can then start selecting either neutral or structured running shoes for you.

Your running gait determines the type of shoe you need.

Someone who supinates or has a normal running gait will need a neutral running shoe.  Someone who pronates will usually need a shoe that has structure or motion control.  With structured running shoes, there are different levels of stability, from light to moderate to maximum.  To know the difference between the two shoes, look at the arch on the running shoe.  Most structured shoes will have a dark grey area, a marbled design, or a grey plate that indicates that there is support in the shoe.

Sometimes knee pain can be an indicator that you are currently running in the wrong shoe.  Pain can also indicate that your current shoe needs to be replaced.  Don’t assume a new shoe will correct pain, however; if the pain continues after you buy a new pair, consider having it looked at professionally and get it taken care of.  A few months off for physio and recovery is better than taking off years because you tried to run through the pain.

3. Budget: Your quality running shoe will cost you between $120-$200, with most falling under the $150 category.  The price levels can reflect the type of shoe, cushion, company, etc.  Sometimes the right shoe for you might be on sale (bonus!), but understand that you can’t really put a limit on purchasing the right pair of shoes that will minimize injury and maximize performance.

My last piece of advice?  FIT over FASHION!  You may or may not be surprised by how many people will walk away from a shoe that is the best fit because they didn’t like the colour.  There have been many times where I have seen someone talk themselves into liking a shoe simply because they like how it looked.  Shoe companies try to come out with flashy colours and coordinations that will appeal to everyone.  It never does and so for one season you might be stuck with that pink/blue/purple/orange/red shoe that you can’t stand.  Did you blissfully say ‘ahhh’ when you put the shoe on your foot, because it felt amazing?  GREAT! That’s what you want!  A pink swooshy design won’t change how it feels. Do you run looking down at your feet?  Hopefully not!  Trust us – as soon as you go out for your first run and realize how awesome your feet feel, you won’t be so focused on that annoying colour palette.

When it comes to fit, we follow a rule of thumb.  Literally.  When we measure your foot, we like to see almost a thumb width of space between the end of the shoe and your big toe. Having a little extra space for your toes and foot means less risk of blisters and room for minor swelling when running.  Too little room can lead to black toes, numbness and foot pain issues.  Running shoes often fit differently then your street shoes, so don’t stress when we tell you we are fitting you in a size 9 when you are normally a size 8 in other shoes.  A larger shoe size doesn’t mean you are hideous and gross and less than perfect.  It just means, that is the size of your running shoe for your foot.

See? It doesn’t have to be complicated! But don’t worry! Just leave everything to us and we’ll take care of you.  🙂

2 replies
  1. ArizonaOrthotics
    ArizonaOrthotics says:

    Instead of buying a shoe to support a deformed gait pattern, why not correct the deformed pattern? Shoe’s that support a heel-striker type of running is silly as heel-striking is a sign of poor technique.

    • says:

      Good point and one we do suggest when someone is prone to heel striking. Keep in mind, however, that we are a running shoe store. We can suggest ideas and tips for improving their gait, yet it is up to the individual person whether or not it works for them. When a client comes in with moderate to extreme heel striking form, we tend to refer them to a specialist, because they are the experts at helping them fix poor technique. We also deal with a broad range of running experience, including die hards who may know they have poor technique, but aren’t overly interested in changing their style, or are convinced that everyone else is wrong. There is only so much we can do. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.