Thursday, July 26, 2012

Running Tip: How to Buy the Right Pair of Shoes

I've rotated through many pairs of running shoes during the last year. The biggest problem I've encountered is really finding a pair that offers enough support without feeling too cushioned. To find out whether a pair of shoes works for me or not I actually have to buy them and try them out for a few long runs. A few little circles around the store simply does not do it for me.

That being said, I can't recommend a specific pair of shoes for you. Each person has their own preference; weight and running stride also factor in to determine which shoe works best for injury avoidance and overall running experience. However, I can tell you what has worked for me in the past.

What's the most important part? Choosing the Right Store 

From personal experience I can say that choosing the right store is key towards purchasing the right pair of shoes. Everything else (finding the right fit, size, etc.) will follow.

I bought my first two pairs of shoes at Foot Locker and would advise against it. They sold me the Asics Gel Kayanos. While I'm sure these shoes work for someone else with a larger build/different stride, they definitely did not work for me. Coincidentally, these shoes also happened to be the most expensive Asics... hmmm interesting... Anyway, the Gel Kayanos are heavy and were weighing me down during long training runs. (at 5'3" and 108lbs I did not need shoes that weighted 9.7 ounces) I was also wearing the wrong size shoe! You're supposed to size up in running shoes to avoid getting the dreaded black toe nail. Unfortunately I didn't know this at the time (evidently neither did the sales person) and purchased the Kayanos anyway. Moral of the story? Don't go to any store where the sales people probably don't know what they're talking about/ aren't runners. BUT! If you do know what shoe you want, then go to Foot Locker/Online Retailers during sales and score yourself a snazzy deal!

Road Runner's Sports is a national running chain that I frequent because of its great customer service and return policies. However, it can be a hit or miss. The first time I went into the store, they had me go through their Shoe Dog program which analyzes your stride to determine your foot arch, flexibility, and pronation. I have high arches and overpronate so I was put into the stability category. (there's also neutral and motion control) Great. However, the woman I worked with seemed unsure about the shoes I was looking at. I was looking at the Pure series by Brooks and asked about the difference between the Cadence, Connect, and Flow shoes. She just brushed off my questions. Another downfall to Road Runners is that they definitely try to sell you more than you come in for. I was told that I needed insoles which were like 100 dollars a pair?! No. I'm sure they just wanted me to spend more money. However, the best part of Road Runners is their VIP program. For 25 dollars a year you get 10% off everything in the store and a 90 day return policy for worn shoes. This is great if you want to try a new pair of shoes but aren't sure about them. You can wear them for a few weeks, and if you decide that you don't like them, return them for your trusty old style of shoes!

I can only speak for the few local running stores I've been to, but for the most part you pay for what you get. You definitely won't find gear on super sale. The upside is that the service is top notch and you work with people who love the sport, love talking about the sport, and most importantly want to help you love the sport as well. I got my first pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS shoes from Movin Shoes in San Diego and they have been my favorite pair of shoes so far. The sales person had me run outside while monitoring my stride, giving me feedback on which pair of shoes helped correct my overpronation/heel striking the best. I believe this is more effective than having your stride monitored on a treadmill first because you want to see how a pair of shoes affects your stride. I think the quality of service and experience of going to a local running store is definitely worth the price. Plus, they usually have run clubs where you can get your run on and meet new people!

My Gear

I currently rotate through three pairs of shoes.

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12- Primarily used for long runs. Great support without weighing me down. My favorite pair of shoes. Ever.
Mizuno Wave Rider 15- A great neutral shoe but not ideal for me as I need more of a stability shoe.
Asics DS Racer 9- Just purchased, but I bought them as a lighter racing shoe that still offers support.

Finally, don't forget to buy new shoes every 400-500 miles or when your knees start to ache! You don't want to risk an injury just because you wanted to get a few more miles out of your shoes. Happy running!

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