Home » Featured » How To Buy The Right (and left) Running Shoes

How To Buy The Right (and left) Running Shoes

Like favorite courses or training partners, runners often remain loyal to shoe brands. But the running shoe industry has changed so drastically in recent years, it’s wise to consider new brands and styles to help avoid injuries.

Manufacturers used to keep styles in circulation for many years, but it’s rare now to find styles today that remain on store shelves or available via mail order on the internet for more than one year.

Depending upon your frequency of running and the miles you accumulate, the running shoes you’re wearing now might not be available the next time you’re in the market to purchase shoes.

A a young runner in running shoes takes a long stride on a beach.
A young runner in running shoes strides on a beach.

New runners should visit a reputable specialty running store and work with a sales associate who suggests three-to-five brands and styles. A new runner should detail to the sales associate their running habits, including distance, frequency and running surface. In response, the sales associate should allow the customer to run a short distance in several pairs of shoes while determining the proper fit and comfort of each pair and then selecting accordingly.

Learning About Running Shoes

Two of the most popular shoe brand names – Nike and Asics – provide good examples of how the industry has changed. Nike once sold more than 50 percent of all running shoes, but its market share has substantially dropped.

Nike running shoe sales are leaning toward the fashion end of the industry, with styles sometimes changing within a one-year time frame. Asics maintains many of its most popular shoe characteristics in new styles. New Balance is known for providing multiple widths in their styles.

When a shoe manufacturer introduces a new style, long-time wearers of the style may no longer be interested. Likewise, a new style can attract new customers.

Asics is among the manufacturers that have had success keeping its styles consistent over the years. Still if it changes one characteristic, the shoe may or may no properly fit.

Experienced runners should consider that their feet change in width and in other ways as they age. As such, one shoe brand that may have fit perfectly for years may no longer be the proper shoe.

Perhaps another factor in the changes in the running shoe industry is an increased public awareness in the importance of proper footwear.

Orthopedic Rehabilitation experts often stress to clients the basic but often overlooked function of running shoes. It’s to provide foot stability and shock absorption.

If a running shoe is defective and doesn’t properly hold a runner’s foot in a neutral position, a new or preexisting biomechanical problem could occur.

Types of Running Shoes

Just as there many shapes and sizes of runners, so too are there many types of running shoes. Depending upon their body and foot size, surface of where they run, how often and what distances, a runner may opt for a more stable shoe or one with more cushioning. And then there are runners with more neutral strides and others who have more pronation or supination.

Here are some common definitions:

Pronation: During a foot strike, a runner’s foot rolls inward and the arch flattens. It’s the way feet adapt to various running surfaces.

Supination: After pronation occurs, a runner’s turns outward and begins more rigid to push off the running surface. The arch of a foot becomes higher and the foot rolls properly.

According to physicians and other foot mechanic experts, all runners pronate and supinate with muscle imbalance among several factors that can charge a runner’s normal gait.

When To Buy Running Shoes

Increased sales and changes styles increasingly require runners to be more aware of the possibility of shoe defects and their shoes are wearing.

One simple test is to place a new pair of shoes on a flat surface and hold the top of the shoe while rocking in it and out. Shoe should remain even and not roll.

The American Running Association, the national advocacy and educational organization in Bethesda, Md., recommends checking shoes throughout their entire “life.” A well-designed and properly fitting running shoe, the organization says, should last 300-500 miles.

Where To Shop for Running Shoes

Major department stores and their respective websites and specialty sporting goods and running stores sell myriad brands of running shoes. Free shipping is available with many online retailers, but buying online also prevents buyers from examining or “test driving” products.

Whether you’re a new runner of a veteran ultra-distance trail athlete, the most important reason to buy the right running shoes is provide proper foot stability and proper shock absorption.

Price and style are not the best way to determine running shoe quality. A $100 of running shoes that looks great but doesn’t fit properly or is defective can harm. A closeout pair from the bargain bin and that may not match your running outfit but fit your feet properly may be ideal.

(This article was originally published in a slightly different format by The Los Angeles Times Syndicate.)