I feel as though I am forever on the hunt for the perfect running shoe. You know, that fantastic footwear that molds perfectly to your foot, doesn’t give you blisters or black toes, has the perfect amount of cushioning, stability, traction to meet your every whim. And lots of awesome fun colours to choose from. Nothing frustrates me more than finding a shoe that could be “the one” only to have it discontinued or the model changed in such a way that it no longer gives you that warm fuzzy feeling every time you lace up.
That’s not a knock against shoe manufacturers. Our frustrations really aren’t their fault. When you consider things such as height, weight, gait, foot size, pronation, arches…it’s a wonder they can keep up with number of possible combinations of feet out there. Yes, they obvious want you to buy their product and will try to woo you with bedtime stories of gel cushioning, stabilization, zero drop or minimalist-friendly. Short of them creating a shoe based on your exact foot measurements and running quirks, perhaps the quest for the perfect running shoe is more myth than fact.
So how then, does one go about shopping for running shoes when the techo-terms sail far beyond their comprehension and all they want is an enjoyable, pain-free running life?
Here are my tips to getting the best running shoes you can, even if you’re like me and know next to nothing about the technology:
1. Do your homework ahead of time. Look at the footwear you already own. What do you like about them? What don’t you like? This can be looking at old workout shoes, walking shoes, casual footwear. Write it down, this is important information that will help your sales rep narrow down a selection of shoes for you to try on. For example, I like and need shoes with a wider toe box but with more support in my ankles.
2. Go to a running store. Think about it: It’s a running store. Which means they specialize in…running. They should be prepared and able to answer all your questions about running shoes. They should also check the tread on your existing shoes (if you can, bring/wear your current running shoes to the store with you), watch your gait and have a solid knowledge base about the footwear they sell. If you have doubts about the advice you’re getting, try somewhere else. Some stores will even have a treadmill to let you run in the shoes to get a feel for them. Always check their return policy. Most will let you return them so long as they haven’t been worn outside so you may need to test them on a treadmill or indoor track before pounding the pavement.
3. Wear a running sock. This is just common sense. You want to know what the shoe will feel like in the socks you’ll be wearing.
4. Be prepared to invest some cash. You don’t have to spend your life savings but investing in a proper running shoe is going to cost you. Trust me when I say it’s money well spent. Running puts a lot of stress on your joints so you want to make sure you’re wearing the best possible shoes to keep your joints happy and your body injury free.
5. Don’t be wooed by beautiful colours. Unlike wearing 4 inch stilettos to dance the night away, running shoes shouldn’t be about suffering in order to look good. I’ve worn some pretty dull-looking runners not because they were what I necessarily wanted but because they were what my feet needed. Big difference. If you must have some pizzazz, opt for a cute running outfit instead.
Another tip for avoiding injury if you don’t want to break the bank, is to invest in some orthotic insoles to put in existing trainers – they’re great for preventing shin splints, knee problems and ankle pains. The best thing to do is have a gait analysis done by a professional to first see if you need orthotics. If you do, this will affect the type of running shoe you buy. Not everyone needs orthotics but they can be lifesaving to a runner who needs extra support when running.
What am I missing? Other tips for us non-savvy runner’s? Sound off in the comments. Happy Running everyone!