Do's and don’ts of buying running shoes

Buying and maintaining your running shoes

Trying to find the pair of running shoes that is exactlly right for your run training can be a daunting task. There are so many models of running shoe out there that it may seem tempting to go for the safest, cheapest option. However, a good pair of running shoes can seriously boost your running training so it's important not to cut corners when buying running shoes. Here's our guide on buying a new pair of running shoes.

With a multitude of shoe manufacturers each marketing a wide range of different running shoes and all competing for your cash, finding and choosing the most suitable model for your personal needs and running style can be challenging to say the least.

The market is flooded with shoes that cater for every aspect of running – including road, off-road, fell, trail, racing, performance, cushioned, motion-controlled, anti-pronation and more – so it’s no surprise that finding your way through the running shoe maze can sometimes be a little daunting.

If your running shoes are ready for replacement or you want to ensure that you make the correct decision when purchasing, then look no further. This guide lists the ten ‘do's and don’ts’ to follow when you’re looking for a new pair of shoes, as well as advice on how to properly maintain your shoes. The guide includes advice on:

  • When and where to buy running shoes
  • What type of running shoes to look for
  • Running shoe care tips

When buying running shoes, do…

  • Visit a specialist retailer. When you buy running shoes, you’re making an investment in your health and fitness – and a knowledgeable retailer will be able to provide you with invaluable advice regarding the most appropriate shoes for you. Correct shoes will protect against injury and repay your initial investment again and again. For this reason, it’s important that you resist any temptation to trawl through the bargain bins, as you’re extremely unlikely to find the right shoe for you in the leftover sale items. Also, the older a shoe is, the less cushioning properties it has – whether it’s been worn or not – so a model from a year or two ago won’t offer as much protection.
  • Select ‘fit for purpose’. Consider where you’re actually going to be running and buy shoes that will be suitable for the terrain. If most of your training is off-road, then road shoes with built-up heels are unsuitable because you will be more unstable and could potentially turn an ankle. Similarly, a pair of out-and-out fell shoes with deeply studded outsoles will be very uncomfortable on tarmac, as the studs will press into the soles of your feet.
  • Wear your running socks. The thickness of your sock can make a big difference to the fit and feel of your shoe, particularly as your feet expand in the heat. You should therefore always wear the socks that you intend to run in when you go for a shoe fitting.
  • Consider running gait analysis. Increasingly, many retailers are offering a ‘video gait analysis’ service, so that the right shoe relative to your personal running style and biomechanics can be selected. You are videoed running on a treadmill for a couple of minutes and the resultant footage is then played back (in freeze-frame if necessary) to accurately assess your foot plant, stride and running pattern. This information can then be used to find the best shoe for you.
  • Ask for a trial run. It’s important to remember that buying your running shoes is a big investment – and so you should always test any shoes properly before buying them. Padding around on a carpet in the shop certainly won’t replicate how the shoes will feel when you’re running in them! Instead, you should ‘road test’ them on an in-store treadmill (which will usually be available at specialist retailers) – or even venture outside to check how the shoes feel in action, provided the retailer allows you to so. Never be afraid to ask for these services, as they could be the difference between supreme comfort and blisters!


When buying new running shoes, don’t…

  • Buy in the morning. If possible, save your shoe shopping until the afternoon. After lunch your feet will have expanded, which can make a significant difference to your foot size. When you run, your feet heat up and swell – particularly on hot days – so if you buy a snug fit in the morning, you could easily find that your shoes become too tight during your runs, which will cause discomfort and blisters.
  • Target designer labels. Your running shoes are not fashion items; they’re functional pieces of equipment designed to protect your feet and legs from injury. So you should avoid being swayed by aggressive marketing campaigns for particular brands or simply choosing a shoe because it sports this season’s colours. Choose only according to comfort, fit and functionality, as this way you’ll get hundreds of miles of trouble-free running out of your shoes.
  • Attempt to over-extend your shoe life. Your running shoes will take a great deal of pounding across a wide range of surfaces and in all weathers, so they will need to be replaced typically every 500 miles or so. How often you need to buy new shoes will depend on your weight, running style and choice of terrain, but you should always avoid trying to squeeze a few extra weeks out of shoes that are evidently worn out, because the shoes won’t afford the protection you need and will increase the chances of you getting injured.
  • Assume that ‘any old trainer will do’. Running shoes are specifically designed for running and have evolved from basic ’plimsoll’-type items into sophisticated, supportive, injury-preventing pieces of fitness equipment. Everyone has an old pair of tennis shoes or similar lying around in the back of a cupboard but these are entirely unsuitable for coping with the demands of running. Running is a cheap activity, and the only real investment that you need to make is by purchasing good footwear. Don’t stint on your shoes and you’ll get much more out of each and every run.
  • Shop solely on running shoe price. When you go hunting for your running shoes you’ll probably have a budget that you won’t want to exceed. However, if you find a pair of fantastic shoes that are perfectly matched to you in terms of comfort, fit and function, but are a few pounds more than you intended to spend, then don’t readily dismiss them. Think about how often and how far you’re going to run in the shoes, or calculate the ‘pence-per-mile’ cost. For example, at 500 miles of usage per pair of shoes, a £10 price difference equates to just two pence per mile more! A few pounds here and there won’t significantly add to your budget, but buying and wearing the wrong shoes will certainly curb your running enjoyment.

Running shoe care
When you’ve bought the right shoes for you, it’s important that you look after them. To get the most out of your shoes, simply follow the shoe-care protocols below:

  • Allow wet shoes to dry out naturally rather than in a tumble dryer or on a radiator, because intense heat can degrade the cushioning properties of the mid-sole.
  • Avoid washing shoes in a washing machine, as the glue used in the shoes’ manufacture will be diluted and can come unstuck – which will cause your shoes to fall apart!
  • If you are a very frequent runner (every day or even twice a day), consider buying two pairs of shoes to run in alternately. By doing this you’ll actually get more miles out of each pair, because by alternating them the mid-soles will have longer to recover after each use, and will therefore provide better cushioning for longer.

Run for miles and miles…
By following the ten shoe commandments above and by spending a little time looking after your shoes, you should be able to get the perfect pair of shoes for your requirements – which will then provide you with many, many miles of trouble-free service.


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