Choosing the Right Running Shoes
One of the most common questions that I’m asked as a coach is whether or not changing shoes would make a difference, either in injury prevention or speed. This is a bit of a complicated question to answer, and if I’m being fully honest, I wouldn’t consider myself fully equipped to give advice on shoes. That being said, for any issue, the quick fix is rarely the best fix. If you’re often injured, you’d be much better off going to a PT to see if there is a problem with your movement or a weakness that needs to be addressed **a good coach will always defer to a PT in cases of chronic injury - knowing what you don’t know is an important part of being a resource for someone** If you’re not seeing the types of gains in your workouts that you would expect or want, there are plenty of items in training that can be addressed, but it is rarely the shoes that make the largest difference. A good pair of shoes will just sharpen your overall training, but are not a substitute for work.
That being said, it IS important that you find a pair of shoes that are comfortable for you! You’ll likely be spending a lot of time together. My personal recommendation is to have a rotation of shoes. I typically have one shoe for longer/moderate efforts, another for easier efforts, and one for shorter workouts (I also have trail shoes in my rotation, but if you aren’t running a ton of trails or the trails you run aren’t particular technical, I wouldn’t consider trail shoes a hugely necessary investment). For me, personally, there are two methods I’ve used when I need a new shoe. One is to go into a specialty shoe store and get fitted. Another is simply trial and error.
Specialty Shoe Stores
If you are a beginning runner, this is absolutely the route that I would take when looking for a pair of shoes that works, and that’s for a few reasons.
You can try the shoes on in store
You have people with a particular expertise in shoes who can give you some direction if you have no clue what you want, either by asking you some questions or doing an in store gait analysis
Shoe stores typically have a generous return policy if the shoes you get turn out to not be the right fit. This is especially beneficial because sometimes a pair of shoes that feels great in the store doesn’t feel great after a run or two. (*NOTE* this is not true of every store, so it’s important to check their policy before buying)
Although this isn’t necessarily of benefit to you, it’s always nice to be able to shop local and support your running community! Local shoe stores tend to put money back into the running community through things like race sponsorships or donations to school teams.
Please, please, please do not go get fitted in a running shoe store and then buy shoes online. Many employees at these stores operate on some form of commission and they typically are generous with their time when it comes to fittings because they are passionate about what they do.
If you're in northern Colorado, please feel free to contact me if you're wanting recommendations for good running stores in the area!
Trial and Error
I really only recommend this if you already have a fairly good idea of what type of shoe you’ve had success with in the past, otherwise it can get fairly expensive and takes a bit of time and research.
Research shoes similar to whatever shoe you previously used/liked or complementary to whatever shoe you’re running in if you’re looking for a rotator.
Find the best price on said shoe (try to ignore obnoxious colorways because those are usually the ones on sale) and buy it. Note that most of the time, the best priced shoes are on sites like Amazon, which can be a bit of a crapshoot in terms of how the shoe has been stored, how long it has been in a warehouse, etc (materials, in particular foam, degrade over time so there’s the potential for poor storage to impact the quality of shoes). I’ve never personally had any issues with Amazon shoes, but just be aware. Also know that most non running companies do not have a great return policy for used shoes.
Test the shoe out. If it works, keep running in it, if not, hopefully you got a good deal….
Obviously, the first method is a more solid way of finding a good shoe with less monetary risk involved. That being said, I’ve had a lot of success with the second method because I have a fairly good idea of what brands/style of shoe work well for me.
Again, the shoe does not make the runner. A shoe is not going to overcome a lack of training nor is it going to fix an injury that has been plaguing you for months. The right shoes serve to complement good, healthy training.