How to Buy Running Shoes

How to buy running shoes? Perhaps the most important item of gear for any runner is the shoes which make contact with the ground, often with considerable force. It is often claimed that many people do not purchase a pair of shoes without conducting sufficient research into the various types available and those pertaining to individual needs. Buying the correct type of footwear can lead to less injuries and greater enjoyment of the sport, and is not a subject to be taken lightly.

At one time running shoes were very primitive and were just an advanced form of a training shoe. Since the boom of the early 1980’s, a new industry in the manufacturing of running shoes has flourished with companies such as Asics, Adidas, Brooks, New Balance, Nike and Saucony, amongst others, becoming household names. They all compete to produce the perfect shoe for the occasion, but deciding upon purchasing the ideal individual shoe can be a very difficult choice.

Basically, any thoughts on how to choose running shoes are determined by the type of running envisaged…

  • Track running – Shoes for this will need to lightweight with spikes as an option, as track running is usually reserved for high tempo racing.
  • Trail and cross country – A shoe with some grip and traction, as loose surfaces are quite often the norm.
  • Pavements and roads – Running on hard surfaces usually require shoe with cushioning and support to protect the leg joints and muscles.


With these principles in mind, before purchasing a desired pair of shoes, a few minutes spent on the internet will be productive. There are many sportswear sites offering shoes of great variation and some will incorporate quite lengthy reviews of specialised footwear. This is only the first stage of the process of how to buy running shoes.

Barbara Russi Sarnataro, a respected author and certified fitness instructor, stresses that identifying an individual running style is an important step before either trying on or buying shoes. A specialist running shop will be able to offer advice about this and it would be beneficial to take an old pair of trainers to a shop for an initial assessment. Any beginner runner would be encouraged to use trainers for the first weeks, so that when the time approaches for buying a proper shoe, any wear on the trainers becomes evident.

Wear on the inner part of the sole is evidence of the term overpronation, while outer sole wear shows signs of oversupination. There may be other foot characteristics such as determining the first point of contact with the ground and the weight of the runner. All of these points are essential for an advisor to recommend an appropriate shoe.

Sarnataro also suggests that knowing the intended use of the shoe is equally important whether it be high mileage, high tempo, easy jogging or just the occasional run. There is no point in buy racing shoes when only recreational running is envisaged and the occasional athlete should not be trying to buy the state of the art expensive shoe when cheaper models will be more appropriate,

Christine Luff, a respected author on runner, emphasises the skill in how to buy running shoes is to spend as much time as possible in a specialised shop rather than a general sports shop. The staff will be more knowledgeable rather than being a jack of all trades and more importantly they may have a treadmill or running area at the back of the shop for practicing. She also agrees that beginners and experienced performers should take an old trainer or shoe to the shop to allow the staff to assess the running style.

Basically, for the average runner there are three types of running shoe…

  • Cushioning Shoes – Useful for heavier runners and are recommended as good shock absorbers for those tending to mild overpronation or oversupination.
  • Stability shoes – May help to prevent pronation and lessen the effects of awkward running styles.
  • Motion Control Shoes – There are various designs for these and will be specially designed for unusual types of running style.


Most of the staff in a running shop are probably experienced athletes themselves and are also mindful of making a sale and acquiring repeat business and so they will be trying to please the customer. They will usually explain the sometimes rather complex terminology and it is worth noting that if the size of the recommended shoe is not available on the day, some of the more pro-active shops will order the required shoe at no extra charge. There may be a wait of a few days but it will be worthwhile.

Failing this, now that the foot has been assessed and the type of required shoe prescribed, there would be no problem in reverting to the internet for the best possible deal. On-line sites are also competing for your custom, but beware of the persistent email advertisements with special deals following a successful sale.

A visit to running shop can be a far more daunting experience than visiting an internet site as there may be an introduction to other facets not previously considered. For example shoes may have synthetic leather, nylon or breathable/waterproof uppers with different heel composition and lacing structure and this will need to be explained. One important aspect to note is a running shoe should be slightly larger than the normal everyday shoe, as during a training session the foot normally expands. Also take into account that thicker socks may need to be worn to counter the effect of possible blisters and other foot problem. Some runners feel comfortable without wearing socks.

Overall there is fine art in how to buy running shoes. Yet it is important to make the correct choice. There is nothing worse by running in an inappropriate pair of footwear which not only may cause injuries but can lead to diminishing confidence and decreasing enjoyment of the sport.

Running shoe manufacturing is now becoming scientific and the range of shoes is constantly increasing. When a running shoe is purchased and it produces the desired effect, it is extremely worthwhile buying a similar pair when seeking a replacement. Although there may be better shoes, it is worth staying with those which are known to work.