Overwhelmed By Running Shoe Choices? | A Buyer's Guide
Running shoes are, without question, the most critical piece of gear you will need to buy before you can begin racking up the miles. Whether you are a first time runner or a grizzled vet, the shoes you choose can make an enormous impact on not only the enjoyment you find out of running, but also how able you are to stay healthy and free of injury in the process.
Running can be the most freeing and enjoyable healthy habit (especially as you get better at it), but having the wrong shoes is a serious barrier to entry. So, How can you ensure that you are running in the correct footwear for you and your goals? As someone that entered the running world a few years ago as a complete beginner, I have learned the hard way just how important the decision you make at the store can be in impacting your success or failure at this beautiful sport. Here are the most critical things I have learned in the process of finding the perfect shoes for me.
The first thing I noticed when I walked into the running store and set my eyes on the impressive display of shoes to choose from was how expensive they could be! One of the perks of running is that very little gear is needed to get started, but be aware that the shoes you will be looking at have a pretty substantial price range. If you are newer to running, there is no need to be spending as much money as you may want to at first. Avoid the top-shelf racing options and stick to a budget of around $100 or less. For this price, you can get a great pair of shoes without totally breaking the bank.
Stability Or Nah?
One piece of advice I give all new runners is to seek out a running shoe store than offers for a trained professional to take a look at your stride and arches. New runners often have instable ankles, and arches can vary differently from person to person. Having a professional look at what makes your foot unique will ensure that you are buying shoes that are designed with you in mind. Stability shoes are a significant decision when purchasing running shoes, and it's one you don't want to get wrong! Ask for help!
Just like stability features, running shoes vary widely in how pronounced their heel drop is. This may seem insignificant, but the difference between a high heel and a low or zero drop shoe is enormous. Zero drop shoes mean that your heel is in line with your toes. This will allow for a more natural running form, but can also be hard on your calves and Achilles as they are forced to do a bit extra work. On the flip side, a large 10mm or higher heel lift takes the pressure off of the calf and achilles but can lead to problems down the road if relied on for too long. I recommend finding a heel drop somewhere in the middle, look for a shoe between 6-10mm.
One of the biggest debates in the running world is if a more maximalist or minimalist style of shoe is the best option. Would you prefer to run higher off the ground on a bed of soft, absorbing foam? Or do you like to feel and connect with the ground below you, which offers a more natural feeling while you are cruising around town? One thing that you’ll want to also consider is how long you expect your runs to be. Maximalist sole shoes really shine and provide the optimal benefit to runners who enjoy the longer, slower efforts associated with easy day or long runs. On the flip side, more minimalist soled shoes will benefit those who prefer to go shorter and faster for most of their runs. Try on both styles at the store, and take them both for a jog. There's no right answer here; it all comes down to personal preference.
Follow these tips, and you will set yourself up for success when it comes to finding the right shoes. Most stores offer a return policy of some sort that allows you to try them while still maintaining the ability to return them if they don't work. Running shops do this because they know that to find the perfect shoes, it often takes a bit of experimenting. The best thing you can do is get out there and give them all a try. Trust the process, and have confidence that when you find the perfect shoe, you will know it!