5 Biggest Mistakes People Make When Buying Running Shoes
Whenever you see a runner, you’ll spot some very simple gear. Shoes, shorts, top, maybe a watch, maybe a hat. Some have a few more bits carried along.
Every part of a runner’s gear has its purpose but not one of them is as important as the shoes. There are runners who run barefoot, there have been champions who ran barefoot but let’s just assume that we, mere mortal amateur runners, will need a pair of running shoes.
But which running shoes? Can I buy them online? How can I tell a good shop? Can I avoid buying bad running shoes? What is the best way to buy running shoes, what should I look out for?
What are the early common mistakes when buying running shoes?
Many new runners buy for looks. I did. I wanted the shoes that would match my running top. I also thought that very good meant very expensive.
I had absolutely no clue.
I could name some brands but didn’t know what they were for. I simply bought my first pair from a high street sports shop and made as many novice mistakes as possible right from the start. I got the wrong shoes, no insoles, went for cheap quality and only weeks later I injured my left knee as a result.
At least the shoes matched with my shorts and top. I got that right.
So, as a running shoes buyer, check out the following:
1. Falling for fancy looks and brand names – buying running shoes that are expensive and look good!
Top brand and high price will not guarantee the perfect fit. I tried some very expensive shoes that simply didn’t work for me.
If the sales assistant starts to serenade about ankle collar, heel counter, flax grooves, saddle and forefoot cushioning while theatrically juggling top brands in front of you, run away.
You need a simple but knowledgeable explanation, suggestion and help, not business presentation.
2. ‘I know my size’ syndrome! – or buying running shoes online according to your normal shoe size
Your regular shoe size will not be your running shoe size and different running shoe brands will have different sizes to fit your feet.
Why? Because of how they’re made, what’s inside and how it’s all stitched together. Confusing? Yep, because it can be. You will have to try the shoes on, feel them, test them.
That’s why first time buying running shoes online can be a massive hit and miss. You can buy an ace…..or end up with a dud.
3. Getting confused and overwhelmed by tricky questions – ask for simple answers instead!
It’s easy to get confused when you don’t know much about the product and if the sales assistant asks you whether your feet are neutral, low or high arch, you may feel you are losing the thread altogether.
That question froze me on the spot. I never heard of such arches before.
All I knew was that my feet were long and narrow and had toes attached to them. And all I needed was guidance and advice, not feeling as if I’m talking to a doctor.
If you feel too overwhelmed by the choices in the shop or too much info, simply ask for clarification. Don’t make any choices or buy a pair of shoes until you’re absolutely clear that your questions have been answered. And one of them should be the store’s ‘returns policy’. Just in case.
4. Not doing gait analysis
When Nicola, my osteopath, was treating my inflamed knee–a result of a running injury that was traced directly to my choice of shoes–she asked me about my gait. My vocabulary was expanding rapidly, first with foot arches and then with gait for runners.
She asked me if I had someone to analyse my gait.
As I stared in silence, confused, she went on to explain that without proper gait analysis it’s very difficult to determine what type of running shoes one should wear. And the best place to visit would be a specialist shop, staffed with people who will check my gait and offer the most appropriate and well-fitting shoes. Finally I was getting somewhere.
And so, what to me looked like a normal shop full of shoes, turned out to be a magical place where I could buy my first proper running shoes through gait analysis.
They first got me to run on a treadmill then on a short strip through the shop. I then set down and watched myself on the screen whilst the assistant pointed at my technique, gait, running economy and stride. She explained how hopelessly out of sync my body was and offered 6 different pairs of shoes to try.
It turned out that my ‘arch was high’ and I needed insoles that they could custom make in the shop for me. She asked me to ignore the shoe brands, prices and designs and simply feel them by walking and running in the shop.
That narrowed it down to two perfect pairs.
Then she asked me to pick the colour, fitted the insoles inside and I walked into a divine pair that was nearly half price lower than the ones I spotted first but they didn’t fit perfectly well.
But, but, but … ‘Gait analysis sounds Hi-Tech and expensive!’
Hi-Tech certainly is expensive, but in terms of price it wasn’t nearly as much as I feared. All together it came cheaper than the amount I spent on treatments for my damaged knee. In that sense it felt like a very good investment.
Good running shoes will help you avoid the injury table.
Not all gait analysis shops are that good though. Some runners complain about service and experience but, just like with anything else, we can find out about the shop and it’s quality through online reviews or personal recommendations.
If you need to travel to one of those because there isn’t any where you live, consider that option. It can help you a lot in the long term.
5. Buying the second pair online – ‘I know what shoes fit me, I’ll simply buy the same pair online’
Generally this should be fine but here is what happened to me. During my first visit to the gait analysis shop I realised that my hips were not perfectly aligned with the knees and that was putting a lot of strain onto my left knee, resulting in a bad injury. My gait was all over the place.
The shoes and insoles helped tweak and balance it and my body got better tuned.
That meant that on my second visit the positioning of my running parts was slightly different from the first visit, a year before. That meant that my replacement shoes were marginally different but those little margins will make a big difference if you are out there running often and for longer.
The insoles have remained intact, for now. I bought a pair of running shoes online, why not, but I noticed that although the make and model were the same as the ones I bought 5 months previously, they didn’t ‘feel’ the same.
They were not bad, but they were NOT the same. The manufacturer may have changed a tiny speck and I could feel it. I had to rearrange the laces, loosen up the grip around the ankles and generally play around with them.
They ARE fine but I should have bought them from the shop.
Few more FAQ’s…
How long will my shiny new running shoes last?
A good shop assistant should give you an estimate. The main factors will be the type of shoe, your weight, mileage, terrain, the type of feet and running technique.
I’m a lighter runner and my shoes go for approximately 700-1000km. That first pair I wore went to nearly 1200km.
What happens if I wear my running shoes for much longer?
They will wear out, lose stability and you will be risking injuries. I noticed that I was losing that soft ‘cushion’ feeling and my shins would hurt sometimes. There was also an ominous signal coming from the knees that felt a bit sore after longish runs.
All those pointers led to a simple conclusion – get the new shoes now!
Ok, does it really have to be all that perfect?
No it doesn’t but that will depend on what you need to achieve and how seriously you take your running. If you are happy to run occasionally, maybe jog short distances, then a simple conversation with a good sales assistant should do and you can get your running shoes online (do remember the potential size issue).
But if your idea of running is going out there 3-5 times per week, every week, and training through various programmes in order to run fast 5-10km or train to run marathons or beyond, then you should use a more safe and sensible approach.
And finally, what are the best running shoes for me?
The ones that fit perfectly well, whatever brand they may be!
Buying running shoes may feel like a confusing task given huge choices available and that’s where a good and knowledgeable shop assistant can help. Shoes make that all important difference between comfortable and safe running, and frustrating and painful jogging. Never compromise when buying running shoes, treat yourself with nothing but what is and what feels the best for you. There’s a perfect pair for everyone!
I hope that sharing my story, and what I have learned along this journey, will inspire you to get started and to keep going. To keep striving and being the best you can be. In running and in life.
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