Running Average: Tips for choosing new running shoes

There are a lot of variables in running, including your body (your muscles, fatigue) how well it’s trained, the weather (hot, cold, dry, humid), and even how stressed you are.

So it stands to reason that you should try and control what you can control to remove at least one variable in the equation – and to that end, let’s talk about running shoes and how you might pick your new running shoes.

A brief disclaimer: I’m relatively new to running so take my advice as such, but I’ve bought a fair few pairs of shoes myself and I hope I can share my experiences with the whole process.

So without further ado, here’s my first tip:

Tip #1: Run with the shoe

If I can get only one point across this whole post, it will be this one: if at all possible, try to run with the shoe you’re trying before you buy.

Walking around with the runners is all well and good to gauge general comfort, but unless you run in them, you won’t notice issues like the insole creating a pressure point on your foot or the tongue chafing on your ankle – these are all things that you won’t see just walking around the store.

Many of the specialist running shoe stores will have a treadmill, so make sure to make use of that as that’s exactly what they are there for. If there isn’t a treadmill, just do a few laps of the store – don’t be afraid of being “that weird runner” who is running around the store; it’s your money, so make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.

Enough space for your toes?

Tip #2: Ignore the brand

We live in a pretty consumer-centric world which tends to reward those brands who spend the most on marketing their products. However, if we runners only pay attention to that, not only would we all be in Nike and Adidas runners, we’d also be missing out on all the brilliant brands that don’t spend as much on marketing but have shoes that you really should be aware of and trying.

Lesser known brands like Brooks, Saucony or Mizuno (I’m sure there are more too!) might not be at the top of everyone’s list, but they have great ranges to suit various needs and years of experience in running shoes. If you get the chance, do try them out during your running shoes search and you may just find what you’re looking for.

Big fan of Mizuno now, though I never considered them prior to running

Tip #3: Find what’s comfortable for you

Related to tip #1 is finding the shoe that is comfortable to you. There is a lot of information online about what shoes suit what kind of running style and shoes that stop pronation, etc. While this is all well and good (I’m not going to dive into the science right now – maybe in a future post), nothing can substitute how you feel with the shoes on your feet.

I myself am a moderate over-pronator, however the two shoes that I use the most for daily runs and for my races are the HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 6 and the HOKA ONE ONE Carbon X, respectively. Both are technically neutral shoes which some people will tell you I shouldn’t be using, but I find them to be extremely comfortable and I haven’t looked back since.

Of course, there are those of you who will have actual medical advice to get a certain type of shoe, or to get orthotics, which you should definitely be following – but just remember that if it’s uncomfortable when you’re trying it on, those running shoes are probably going to be uncomfortable when you’re running too, despite what your feet may need.

So, so comfortable – my HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 6

Tip #4: Know what the shoe is for

Before going out to buy new running shoes, it’s important to know what the shoe you’re about to buy is for – is it a daily trainer, or is it a shoe for marathon racing?

Using the marathon as an example, while most shoes can be used for lesser distances, the needs of a marathon (and longer) will be quite different to that of a 5km race. Marathon shoes will tend to have a bit more cushioning to give you that little bit more protection as you fatigue over the course of your marathon, whereas a shoe for a shorter race may prioritise being light, hence having less cushioning.

This may require a bit of research to find out what kind of shoe is recommended for your intended usage – alternatively, finding a specialist running shoe store will also give you the opportunity to talk to their highly trained staff, who will often be avid runners as well and will likely have some good recommendations based on what you think you need.

Tip #5: Budget accordingly

It can be tempting to set a hard budget prior to searching for new running shoes (and there will be people who need to do this) but if you have a small amount of flexibility, my advice is that it’s best to go out and find the shoe that you’re comfortable in first and then assess whether it’s worth the money.

One way to think about how much you should spend on running shoes goes back to my point at the start of this post – getting a good pair of shoes means you have one less thing to worry about when you go out running, and can potential stop you getting injured in the long run too.

You can also always look online or buy second hand as well – there will always be people who haven’t followed tips like these and put down money before realising their new shoes are actually not great for them – this can be an opportunity to pick up a bargain!

Got these for a steal online; you can always find a bargain!

Tip #6: Ignore the gimmicks

Running shoe brands are always trying to find a way to differentiate themselves from other brands, and often come up with unique technologies which apparently give runners certain benefits.

Some of these are really quite effective, while others have varying degrees of effectiveness depending on a whole lot, like how you run, etc. The recent carbon plate movement is a great example of this – while there are certainly benefits to this new technology, but it’s not always going to be applicable for everyone, nor will it suit everyone’s taste.

Really, the best thing to do is to just ignore all of the hype and the gimmicks and just make sure that the shoe feels right for you.

Carbon plates are cool, but do you need one?

So those are my tips for picking your new running shoes. If you have any tips that you have of your own, do drop me a comment below.

Otherwise, I’ll catch you on my next post

Published by Stephen Yuen

I've been many things in my life, but right now, I'm an engineer, a runner, a husband, and a cat daddy. Who knows what comes next.

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