Before you just go out and buy that new pair of running shoes, think about what kind of running shoes you really, really need.
You have several options to buy your shoes.
You can buy your new running shoes online, chain stores or local running stores and they all can be good choices, under the right circumstances and I have used them all at one time or another to get my new running shoes.
Each has their strengths and weaknesses.Online/Phone/Mail Order
The online approach to buying new running shoes may be cheaper (depends on shipping costs), but you really need to have done your research, know which shoe you want, find out if the shoe you want is true to size or if it run small or larger than usual, what happens after you try them on you don’t like them and what is their return policy?
I have used several online sites to buy running shoes (disclosure I am a RoadRunner Sports Google Affiliate site) and have been very pleased most of the time with the service and shoes I buy online/mail order from whichever place I have purchased them.
However, I have also gotten shoes that don’t fit quite right and kept the shoe any way because I didn’t want to go through the hassle of returning them, I just wanted to run in my new shoes. This has caused me problems, with blisters, fit, wasted the purchase prices for those shoes and they end up in the closet or under my dresser, until TheWife forgets about them and then I can get rid of them or use them as lawn mowing shoes.
If a runner doesn’t know exactly what they want or how a shoe will fit, there is a lot more risk involved in getting the shoe you want by ordering online, but it does work well for many runners.
There are several different chain stores that sell quality running shoes, at various prices (watching for closeout and special sales can really save you a ton of money). These stores tend to have a selection of the more popular running shoe brands and exclude the smaller specialty brands. However, many of these stores do not usually have people who can really help you figure out which running shoe is right for you.
When I went shopping for my last pair of shoes, I asked the salesperson, where I could find their minimalist trail running shoes and got a deer in the headlight look and a point in the general direction of their road running shoes. This is a common occurrence in those type of stores. The sales person may not even be a runner and they are attempting to tell you which running shoe you should get???
You need to have done your research and have a pretty good idea of what you are looking for in a shoe, when you go to a chain store for your running shoe. However, you can physically put the shoe on, look at it for obvious defects and see how it fits your foot.
Trying on a shoe and walking/running in the store on concrete/carpet can be different from running outside in the shoe, you really need to know the store’s return policy. Will they accept your shoe back if you have run outside with it or not and if you will get your money back or a store credit – that can be a huge thing if the store doesn’t have any other shoes that you want/like.
Local Specialty Running Store
I will be honest and upfront this is my preferred place to buy running shoes. Unfortunately, the nearest one is around 40 miles away and I don’t get down that way very often. Local running stores are invested in having you return as a customer, support the local running community, have workshops and are a great place to hang out and learn more about running, so support them when you can.
Best of all you get to talk with people who are actually runners and usually they have run in those brands or the actual shoes you want to try or someone in the shop has. However, just because they are runners and work in a running store, they do not know your personal running style or needs, so don’t just depend on their recommendations, remember to use your own judgement on which running shoes you finally choose.
You have to talk with them honestly and don’t go in all expert, saying you want this shoe, etc., that is exactly what you will get and it might not be the best shoe for you in the long run.
Use the salesperson’s expertise and if it isn’t too busy, I am willing to bet you will get a couple of them talking with you and trying to figure out the best shoe for you. Actually it can be a fantastic learning experience about different shoes and how they are made, but you have to ask them for their recommendation on what running shoe would be best for you. After they get going, sometimes you can’t shut them up ;-).
Some things I like to see happen when I go to a Local Running Store for the first time.
If they are busy with another runner, listen to what the sales people are saying and recommending.
Does he sales person take their time to talk to you about your running goals, where you are running, the time of year and conditions you are running in, type of running you will be doing before they start talking about which shoe you are interested in?
Do they ask you to take off your shoes, roll up your pant legs and have you walk or jog in a straight line a few times while they watch.
Do they actually measure the size of your feet and don’t just rely upon you telling them what size you usually wear. A lot of people have different size feet or really don’t know what their actual shoe size is also your shoe size/width may change as you age. Ex. I have gone from a 7 1/2 to an 8 1/2 and my foot is wider than it used to be. But I always tell the sales person I wear a size 8. Which size is correct? It depends on the brand/style/model of shoe you buy.
Does the sales person then talk with you about the results of these little observations and measurements and what it means to them and how it affects their shoe recommendation to you. This is when they should make their first recommendations of brand/model/style for you to try on and not before,
Unless you first bring up the fact you would like to try a certain brand/model shoe.
Starts selling too soon
If a sales person starts talking brand/model before this point either they are either in a hurry or other factors are in play. There may be other purposes than finding a running shoe that works best for you.
This is where your research comes into play, if none of the shoes that interested you in your research are discussed by the sales person and you see that they stock them, ask them why they wouldn’t recommend those shoes for you. Let them give you the reason and see if their response seems reasonable to you or if something doesn’t fit?
If you are given a bullshit story or reason, you either need a different sales person or possibly a different store. Believe me you will be able see through most of them, if you have done your research.
99% of Local Specialty Running Stores want you to be happy with your purchase from them and come back when you need your next pair of running shoes, clothes and running accessories – they want to establish a long-term relationship with you. However, sometimes I have experienced a narrowing of choices from employees in a store that is trying to move certain brands, models or styles, just be aware that it happens.
Choices, Choices, Choices
After you have discussed the brands and styles of shoes that you are interested in, the person helping you will probably bring out three pair of shoes, one low-priced, a mid-level and a high-end shoe.
Do not think that these are the only shoes you should try, they are not. What they are doing is a marketing tool designed to get you to see the differences between the high-end and low-priced shoes. They are hoping that you might just buy the high-end shoe right away, because usually there are definite differences between a high-end shoe and low-end and they are usually pretty noticeable.
Remember your research, this is the time to ask to try on those shoes too, even if the salesperson does not recommend them for your style of running. While they might know shoes and general running styles. You know your running style and how you will be using these shoes better than they do. When you researched the shoes that interested you before you went in, you have a pretty good idea of what you were looking for. Try the darn things on it won’t hurt you a bit and you might be surprised at what happens.
While you are trying on these shoes, ask the sales person questions, especially about features that they highlight, look at the little feature highlight brochure that most running shoes market in the shoe box, ask about what this feature does, why it is good for your running style. Be nice about it, but yes be a pain in the ass and keep asking questions, especially if you don’t understand something.
Keep trying on shoes until you find one you like, not just one that they recommend, you will find one and Lord knows it might not be the most expensive shoe in the store. Doing it this way might take longer (sometimes a lot longer) and you might have to try on several pair (I have tried on up to 15 pair of shoes in one sitting before I found the shoes that I wanted to buy) – that’s okay it is the purpose of running shoe shopping – finding the shoe that fits you and that you like.
You are going to be spending many hours and putting on a lot of miles in these shoes, it is important to make sure that they fit and you are happy with them. Therefore, my opinion is to hold out until you find a shoe you like and if they get impatient with you – too bad for them – but you can still be nice and polite while you keep trying on all their shoes that you want to try.
You Found the Shoe
Once you have found a pair of shoes that you like a lot. Ask if you can take it out for a test spin around the block. Different stores have different rules for this, but many will let you go for a couple of hundred yard run in their shoes. This can really help you make a better decision about whether the shoe is right for you or not.
While taking the shoe out for a test run, if the shoe has any hot spots, pinches or just doesn’t feel right – in my experience I do not buy it, thinking my foot will adapt to the shoe – they usually don’t. You will only be miserable, get blisters and have a bad shoe experience = another pair of shoes in the closet, under the bed or where ever you hide the ones that you don’t like after you buy them.
If you are purposely buying a shoe that will change your style of running i.e. going to a more minimalist shoe from a high-end motion control shoe. Those shoes will not feel the same and may not be as comfortable as the shoes you are used to wearing.
If you are staying with a similar style of shoe, no matter how great the salesperson says they are and how much hype around that shoe if it doesn’t feel right now, that probably is not going to change for you later.
Go back and try the next pair that really interested you and repeat until you find the pair that fit you best and that you liked while you were running in them, not just a pair you can live with.
Now that you have selected the shoe that fits ask if there are any discounts for being a member of a running club, you might save a couple of bucks or if the store has a program where after so many shoes you get a preferred customer discount. There may not be anything they can do, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Ask about their return policy. Just because everything feels great now, there is no guarantee after that first run or two that the shoes just don’t work for you. What are the limits on bringing them back and is it store credit or can you get your money back?
Think about it
Something that I believe is very important to talk about is that if you go into a local running specialty shop and go through the fitting process. Bbe ready to buy there if they have the shoe you are looking for.
Don’t just walk out without buying the shoe that fits you, because you can get it a few dollars cheaper somewhere else. To me that is unfair to the running shop that just spent X amount of time helping you, just to save yourself a couple of bucks.
It is not being very ethical.
Specialty running shops try to keep their prices competitive with online and chain stores, but they are providing you something that neither of those can – a different level of service and knowledge about running shoes. You are paying for an intangible benefit at specialty running stores that goes beyond dollars and cents.
Sometimes you might pay a little more for that expertise, but to me it is worth helping support the local running store and the personal support that they give me. These stores are also usually very active in the local running community, supporting races, workshops and other things that help us runners. So buying in a local running store is helping to support the local running community.
It is up to you though let your own conscience guide you.
The reality is you can find high quality running shoes online, at chain stores or a local running store. However you need to know what shoes you are thinking about before you buy anywhere. Researching what shoes you want to look at, before you go running shoe shopping, will help you find the best shoe for how and where you run, so you do not have a closet as full of $100+ running shoes that you don’t like, don’t fit right or just didn’t work for you – like I do.
Most runners will have 3-4 pair of running shoes in their closet any way, it is just a part of running it seems, but you can do a lot to reduce the number of shoes that are not right for you and not be swayed as much by marketing hype.
We all are searching for that perfect shoe that will help use run farther, faster without letting us get injured, now to just find them.
So what did you end up buying for your new running shoe?
- Did you go through a similar process?
- What did I miss?
My last ones were the Saucony Peregrines, which I purchased at a chain store after a couple of weeks of research and they are working very well so far.