Running shoes – part 2. – Let’s go shopping

This is the second part of the post about choosing and buying running shoes. The first part you can read here. In this part I will tell you how do I buy my shoes and what you should consider doing when buying your shoes in order to be happy later on with own decisions.

So, Let’s go shopping for running shoes!

There are two basic kinds of buyers. The first kind wants to make own choices based on own knowledge and experience, and the second kind would rather rely on the salesmen’ advice.

While most runners fall somewhere  between those categories, let’s now consider the extremes:

If you want to rely on a salesman, you actually need to know only one thing – an address of a good running shop, and I mean running shop – not a Nike, Reebok or Adidas store – but a shop for runners. Your salesman will ask you about your weight, mileage, experiences and running preferences. He will measure and evaluate your feet and maybe he will put you on a treadmill or some other device, and hopefully, what is most important – he will give you a good advice about your choice of shoes. You just have to cooperate with him and be honest with yourself. Just remember that if you try to pretend to be someone else, the advice you will get will also be suited for someone else…  Do yourself a favor, and do not learn this lesson the hard way.

Now, if you don’t like to socialize with salesmen and want to make your own choice, you need to do all the work by yourself.

I assume that you already know what kind of shoes are you looking for and if you want to have any motion control elements in them. if you don’t, read the first part of this post.

shoe sizesLet’s say that I want to buy another pair of light trainers, I walk into my favorite running store in Warsaw and I ask a salesman about light trainers for neutral runners. Any salesman in that situation will most probably respond the same way, that is by asking: “what size do you need?”. I don’t know why, but the only consistent size standard among various shoe making companies is the insole size in centimeters, also called Japanese size. I wear running shoes size 31cm, that is (EUR) 47,5 for Brooks and Nike, 48 for Saucony and Adidas and 49 for Asics. Coming back to the salesman’s question, the safest it is to give the size in centimeters, so he/she – as a professional – will give you the correct size shoes to try on. It also happens that even different models of the same company of the same size have actually different feel, as one may have taller toe box or different curve of the insole, so make sure to try every shoe on before making a decision.

If you don’t know the size you need you have an option to either have your feet measured at the shop or to do it yourself at home. There are many ways to measure your feet, everyone had done it and it is not anything particularly difficult – you can just put your heel against the wall, slide a book or box to your toes and just measure the distance between a wall and a book/box with a measuring tape – there’s nothing more to it. No matter how you do it – do it as precisely as you can, and check if there is any difference between your feet too. The other important thing is the type of your foot (toes). (Egyptian – big toe is the longest and each next toe is proportionally shorter; Greek – second toe is the longest; Roman – big toe and the next two are the same length). There are more types than those three, but the important thing to remember is that if you don’t have standard (Egyptian) feet, than you probably need a slightly larger shoes, because your second toe will need more space. That is my case (Roman foot), and so I need running shoes to be at least one centimeter larger than my feet are. Guys with Egyptian feet in most cases are fine with shoes half centimeter larger than their feet. Why do you need a larger shoe? Because your feet get swollen during running, and because feet work in shoes (move slightly back and forward) and you don’t want your toes to touch the front of your shoes for several thousand times, as it will most certainly give you black toes.

Ok, so you know your size now, and you are ready to try the shoes on, now what? Put on your running socks that you have taken with you to the shop, and if you have forgotten to take a pair with you, then buy one. It is important, as running socks are usually thicker than regular socks, and this can make the difference between good and too small shoe.

The next step is to tie your shoelaces properly. Even though it takes some time, and you are just about to try several shoes in a row, the proper tension of laces makes tremendous difference in feel. You want to do this the same way as usual when you go out running.

To get a good feel of a given pair of shoes put both shoes on, not just one as you sometimes do in a normal shoe store – it is not just about the size but it’s also about the feel in motion, so you need to have both feet in the same conditions. Additionally your feet may not be exactly the same size and may not work the same way. You need to take this into account as you don’t want to have only one good shoe.

Now, the most important thing is not to hurry. Don’t go shopping for running shoes if you don’t have enough time. You need to spend few minutes in every pair to get a good impression. Try to walk first, do some jumps (no, you don’t look stupid – stupid would be to run in unfitted shoes) and try to jog a little. Most running shops this days provide treadmills – and it’s great, so use it if it’s available, but do not restrict yourself just to a treadmill. There are no treadmills that give the feel of a normal run. Most of shops will not let you to go outside, but any shop will let you run inside – do it, just for couple of minutes. Feel how your feet are moving inside the shoe. Check if they do not slide to the sides, or to the front too much (too wide shoes). Check if nothing hurts or chafes you, and finally assess the feel they give you (the kind and amount of amortization, the shape of the shoe, the way it bends, the bounce it gives you etc.) The bottom line is that the shoe must be perfectly comfortable. If it is not in a shop then imagine how your foot will feel in it after several thousand steps and swollen.

Lastly, your feet are unique and different companies make different shoes. Do not try to adjust your feet to any given make of shoes just because someone says that it is great. Me for example, I love the looks of Nike shoes, and I honestly think they are very good, but no single model of Nike shoes fits my feet. I own one pair of Nike Pegasus (my first pair of running shoes) and I have run over a thousand kilometers in them, but even though I did some nasty things to them with scissors and clippers, they went on chafing the arches of my feet after more than 5 kilometers of running.

Remember that the most important thing is your comfort and impression – not the advice of the salesman. My latest shoes are Adidas Response Boost 2.0 Techfit. When I was buying them the salesman did everything he could to discourage me from buying them, telling me that they were no good for longer distances and that I was at least 20 pounds too heavy for them and that I should choose a different model. I felt good in them (and they were on 50% sale), so I thought that I would try them anyway. I have already run almost 300 kilometers in them, and this Sunday I used them for a long run. I like them a lot, my feet and legs feel good after running in them even long distances and I am really happy with my choice, especially for less than 60$.

Ok, so just to sum it all up in ten points – when you go shopping for your running shoes you should:

  • Consider models of shoes that you want to try, before going to the shop, not to waste your time (know their specs in case the salesman don’t),
  • Know your feet size in centimeters,
  • Take shoes that are 0,5 – 1 cm longer than your feet,
  • Have your running socks on or buy similar socks in a shop,
  • bear in mind that feet get swollen during the day and while running, so you should visit a running shop preferably in the afternoon (or you should at least take account of this fact when picking the size),
  • wear both shoes, as your feet may not be exactly the same and may not work exactly the same way,
  • tie your laces properly, as you do it normally when going out running,
  • walk, jump and run in every model you try, and don’t just use a treadmill,
  • remember that the comfort and feel is the most important factor for you, (once you have chosen a shoe category),
  • trust yourself and not the salesman – he is not the one that is going to run in your shoes.

Now, all you have to do is start shopping :), get your experience in buying running shoes and If there is anything else that works for you, that was not mentioned here, please share your experience with us.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.