Running Shoes Buying Guide

First time running shoes buyer ? Before diving into our reviews, take a moment to read this running shoes buying guide.

1. You need a shoe that was developed for running.

Yes, in theory you can run barefoot and you can run in stilettos. You might have some basketball, tennis or leisure shoes already at home.

All these shoes might be fine for an occasional run here and there, but if you plan to pick up running as a sport you’ll soon realize a pair of shoes that were developed specifically for running will be the best investment you can do.

Running involves a very specific and repetitive movement of the foot, from heel to toe and repeatedly bouncing your whole body weight up and down. The right running shoes need to have the right grip and traction, they need to allow your foot to breathe, they need to be comfortable over the long distance.

We could be talking for hours explaining why shoes meant for other sports are dangerous while you use them for running – but just trust us on this one: buy a running specific shoe and you’ll never look back.

2.You want an expensive shoe, but you don’t need to pay a lot of money for it.

Marketing aside, premium materials and long design/testing processes, do cost more money. And in many cases the difference is sensible.

Want definitive proof? Watch Frank buying the cheapest pair of running shoes he could find (16 USD) and take it through testing.

Better foam or cushioning material used in the sole will make the shoe last longer, better upper materials/construction will make it more comfortable on your foot. A countoured sockliner will keep you foot in place… these are all little things that add to the cost (and therefore the price) of a shoe.

Do you need these features? Comfort is a very important part of a running shoe. True, expensive materials will not automatically make a shoe more comfortable, but cheap ones will definitely render a shoe hell.

But you don’t need to spend much. If you like this year’s version of the Asics Kayano (the 25), check for version 24 – we have been reviewing shoes for years, chances are if a shoe is here, its predecessor will be there as well.

Comparing the two reviews you might noticed maybe not much changed at all – the 24 will still be a premium shoe and it will be as low as half price than the 25. So you might end up paying 75$ for a top-shelf running shoe instead of paying 60$ for a cheap one that might hurt you.

3. Fit is (by far) the most important thing.

Have you ever walked in a shoe that was too small, too large, too wide, too narrow, too shallow, in which your heel would slip off… ? These issues while running are annoying, painful and plain dangerous !

Here are some tips:

  • Make sure the heel is securely locked in. Try lacing the shoe so that the heel is well secured but not so tight that you can’t wiggle your toes.
  • Leave half a centimeter “empty” over the big toe. Your foot swells during exercise and you need to allow some space for the foot to grow.
  • Lace it tight enough for your foot not to wiggle inside it, but it should be possible for you to do so without cutting your circulation off.
  • Breathability. Most running shoes feature a mesh material on the top to allow your foot to breathe. But… match the breathability to the conditions you foresee to run in… If you are going to run on cold, rainy winter mornings, maybe a less breathable shoe is better. If you are running in Arizona in the Summer, maybe that anti-rain treatment is going to give you discomfort.

None of these are rocket-science, but sometimes these things get overlooked – while they should be the first factors in deciding what shoe to wear.

4. Going Minimal vs Going More Protected.

This is actually a very debated topic and we could discuss either option for hours (or years, as the running industry is doing). Here is a summary to help you make your own mind up.

  • In the 70s, the modern running shoe was born. The idea is “running is a high-impact sport that is dangerous for your joints, you need a shoe that cushions your impact and maybe guides your gait to an anatomically correct one”.
  • This gave birth to the traditional split of running shoes between “cushioning” (or “neutral”) and “stability”. Cushioning shoes are recommended for runners with high arches and/or underpronation issues (see here). Stability shoes are recommended for runners with low arches and/or overpronation issues.
  • In the past 5 years, a new current of thought, called “minimalism” (and barefoot running, in its most extreme incarnation), developed (mostly following the influence of the book “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall).
  • “Minimalists” say the running shoes industry had it wrong all along: heavily cushioned or stable shoes are against nature. A shoe should be as close to barefoot as possible (minimal) so the body will naturally get stronger and you’ll not be dependent on a shoe anymore to tell you how to run.

So -> who is right ? Unfortunately there is not a real scientific answer to this question yet.

Running Shoes We Recommend for Beginners

We test more than 100 running shoes a year. It is difficult to narrow down the selection.

The shoes we recommend here are the ones that we believe can serve a wide number of runners well.

– Cushioning Running Shoes

(generally recommended to runners with high arches)

$120 - The Ghost is a very solid, no-nonsense neutral running shoe that delivers on all aspects. A new seamless upper improves on an already great fit. The cushioning is soft and the traction great even on wet surfaces.

$120 - The Pegasus is a neutral trainer, designed to be durable and perform well while running on road and track surfaces. With the large amount of cushioning and ample use of rubber combined with a relatively low weight, the Pegasus could be considered a racing shoe for distances over 10km.

$140 - Newest introduction to the Asics family, the DynaFlyte is a premium well cushioned neutral shoe. It is the first Asics shoe to utilize the FlyteFoam derived from the ultra-expensive MetaRun and makes for a fantastic shoe, although on the expensive side compared to the competition.

– Stability Running Shoes

(generally recommended for runners with low to flat arches).

$120 - The Adrenaline GTS is one of the staple stability running shoes. Combining soft, protective cushioning and a stable construction overall, it's a safe bet for runners in need of stability looking to log the majority of their training miles.

$120 - Long time Running Shoes Guru favorite, the Structure 20 combines the soft cushioning of the Zoom Air with a very stable three density medial post. Engineered mesh in the upper improve massively on the comfort of the 19.

$120 - The Ravenna 8 are some of the first that would come to mind when I would make a recommendation to runners who need a little support. They respond well to speed and distance, which means they can certainly be a go-to shoe.

Online Running Shoe stores we recommend

Why buying running shoes online ? you might not live next to a specialty running store, your store might only have a limited selection or simply prices online are often much cheaper. These are our 3 favourite stores. (All of them have free shipping)

  • Zappos!
  • Obviously Zappos does more than running shoes, but its selection is great. We love the return policy (free shipping, free return shippings) that means that you can order for example three pair of shoes, try them at home and then return, for free, the two you like less. Great in case you are not sure about the size!

  • Holabird Sports
  • What we like about Holabird Sports is that it is a third-generation family business, created and run by people with a passion for sports (Running and Tennis). Based just outside Baltimore city and employing approximately 65 local employees, we feel it’s close to the “Local Running Store” that we like to support. Visit their online store. Many good offers and great customer service!

  • Running Warehouse
  • Running Warehouse has an amazing return policy as well: you can try (even on the road!) your shoes for three months and if you are not happy, you can just send them back. It’s the ultimate satisfaction-guarantee!

Keep in touch!
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