What kind of running shoes should I buy
March 23, 2011 12:59 PM   Subscribe

What kind of running shoe should I, a relative new runner training for a half marathon in 5 weeks, buy?

Inspired by today's FPP about barefoot/natural running and my own circumstance.

I started running in January, worked through Couch to 5K and am now running 5K twice a week plus one longer run with slowly increasing distance, now at 11K. In coming weeks I will push this to 13K, 15K, etc. The half marathon (21K) is May 1.

I have been using a pair of all-purpose gym shoes that I probably bought ten years ago. I am not much of a gym guy and they have spent most of those years in my closet. They fit OK but tend to press on the sides a bit and now that I'm doing longer distances I am getting the beginnings of blistering on the sides. Also I get soreness in the Achilles tendon for a couple days after doing longer runs. Perhaps this is my form but I wonder if it's the shoes contributing as well.

I think I need new shoes but not sure what to get.
- Go the the local running store, let them help me pick something, and spend $140 at minimum, based on their prices?
- Go to Walmart, find a pair that fits better, and spend $40 or even $20 instead?
- Get something minimalist like the Nike Free Run?

I think minimalist footwear is probably unwise because it will take a while to adjust to them and I don't have that much time. I figured I would get some new shoes from the running store, but looked today and am a bit shocked at the prices, plus now I'm hearing all this cushioning and support might actually be bad for you(?). My GF runs in $20 runners and says they've been fine, even great. Will I notice that much of a difference between Walmart and "good" shoes to justify the 3X cost? Will I be risking injury by buying cheap shoes? What do I doooo....
posted by PercussivePaul to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You definitely need to go to a local running store and have them look at your feet, but shoes don't cost $140. You can usually get them from anywhere from $80-$120. Once you know what kind of shoes are best for you, RunningWarehouse usually stocks them for $50-$100.

Definitely don't go to Walmart or buy minimalist shoes until you have your gait and feet looked at. That's a great way to get injured.

Also, and this is IMHO, you're moving too fast. If you're only running 11k as your long run now, and that's a bit much for a runner who started in January, a half marathon should be an end of the summer goal. Certainly not May. You're going to get injured.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:08 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Go to a great running store, get your stride evaluated and pony up for one expensive pair. If they turn out to be great, buy your next pair of those same shoes at a discount -- ebay or discount shoe warehouse, on sale from the manufacturer's website, etc. I've had great luck getting "last year's model" at gigantic discount.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:12 PM on March 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: If it matters, I'm in Vancouver where prices are higher and most of the US e-commerce stores don't ship. I looked at a few running stores locally and prices all start around $130 and $140.

I can appreciate that the goal is ambitious and perhaps risks injury. Suppose for the purposes of this question that I am determined to do it anyway for reasons that I don't really need to go into right now.
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:14 PM on March 23, 2011

Best answer: When you decide what to buy, do it soon. You really want to run 2-3 weeks in your shoes just to get used to them.

I took my wife to the local running store, and they analyzed her gait and put her in a pair of shoes for USD $79. Also, nearby is a local New Balance outlet, and they have been similarly helpful, with a wider range of prices.

However, I can say anecdotally that I can tell the difference between a cheap pair and a regular pair of shoes. I am fine running in my $29 New Balance shoes, but I much prefer my $69 ones. When I get closer to my marathon I will be buying a better pair.
posted by I am the Walrus at 1:16 PM on March 23, 2011

In my experience, you need to try on a variety of shoes to see what feels right for you. Asking someone to name a brand is not the answer though a useful starting point. Your feet your shoes.
posted by Postroad at 1:17 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Go to your local running store. If they know what they're doing, they'll assess your running style (sometimes by videotaping you, which is cool). They'll get you into the style of shoe that's best for your goals. Then you can go online and get the shoe they suggested for cheaper. If your goal is 1/2 marathon, I really wouldn't suggest the Wal-Mart route. Good running shoes are expensive for a reason.
posted by HumanComplex at 1:17 PM on March 23, 2011

Yes, running store. "All this cushioning and support" is not "bad for" any one person in a wholesale sense. Some people need more cushioning, some need stability, etc.

Yes, you risk injury in the wrong shoes.

I also think it's not smart to try to go from 5k to 13 miles in such a short time. That's risking injury as well.

Some people can do both those things (bad shoes, ramp up quickly) and not get injured. Most serious runners would advise against risking it.
posted by Pax at 1:17 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

(sorry to pile on, didn't preview).
posted by Pax at 1:18 PM on March 23, 2011

It's not tricky to run in Nike Frees. As I said in the FPP, just make sure your feet are landing under your body, and that your landing is forefoot or midfoot (never heel.)

I regret every penny I ever spent on expensive running shoes. And I was fitted for every pair, along with orthotics to go with them. My flat no arch feet and the rest of me are now doing much better than when I lavished money and fittings on them.
posted by bearwife at 1:28 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing go to a running store and get fitted for shoes. I still have sticker shock but do it at least once so you know what kind of shoes you need (stability, neutral, motion control, etc.).

Also, I don't know what half marathon you're doing but most big running events have an expo. Once you find a pair of shoes that works for you, do some research on it and see what the previous model of that shoe was. Expos have vendors selling accessories, clothes, and shoes and they're all at prices that are more reasonable than your local running store.

Good luck - fwiw I don't think going from couch to half marathon over five months is the worst idea ever, especially if you already have the "I'll walk if I have to" mindset. I had probably been running about that long when I tried my first half and yeah, I walked part of it but I had fun and I still love running (I was also 22, btw). Part of running is learning your limits and sometimes you make mistakes. I know I have and I've survived. You will too.
posted by kat518 at 1:29 PM on March 23, 2011

I also wouldn't ramp distance up like this. You need to run the race distance at least once or twice in the *exact* same gear you'll use on race day, to see what will rub/chafe/break.

The only major injury I've had from running was when I changed up my lacing in the cab on the way to a half marathon, and ended up with arch blisters that THEN had me running improperly, leading to a hairline fracture and tendon bruising and major pain for a month.
posted by kcm at 2:10 PM on March 23, 2011

If you don't want to go to a running store, podiatrists - especially those with experience in treating runners - can also make recommendations. They may make other recommendations, but good ones won't try to force orthotics etc on to you. :)
posted by smoke at 3:33 PM on March 23, 2011

I'm running that same race :) Before I did the First Half in February, I went to the Fairhaven running store. Cheaper than vancouver, and I found it to be a better shoe selection. Bellingham/Washington is a fun day out, too.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 3:43 PM on March 23, 2011

Oh - I am lucky in that Mizuno shoes fit me really really well, and you can get some pretty decent Mizuno running shoes from shoe warehouse on Granville.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 3:51 PM on March 23, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice everyone.

I called a couple of stores and confirmed that prices start at about $140 pretty much everywhere. No time for a trip across the border.

Shoe Warehouse seems to have the sort of midrange shoe I could find in the mall and I could maybe get away with that if I knew exactly what to get and what I need, but I don't. I will suck it up and visit a running store this week. Yay new shoes! Can't wait to go running with them.
posted by PercussivePaul at 5:09 PM on March 23, 2011

Look in the discount racks at shoe stores and sports stores, if you have them nearby. I always buy running shoes at around 50% full cost by not being too fussy about brands etc - as long as you don't compromise on the fit. If it feels 'not quite 100% right' in the store, imagine what it will feel like after two hours of running.

Don't buy shoes like this from a department store - you will regret spending $20 on a pair of shoes for much longer than you'll regret spending $140 if that's what you have to do.

Good luck with your half - I don't think you are taking too much risk, as long as you listen to your body and are prepared to stop and walk if it tells you to, or just stop completely if you have pain that doesn't go away quickly when you stop running. I ran my first a couple of years ago with similar preparation to what you have described, with no ill effects. Starting off very slowly and building your pace through the event will help you avoid injury.
posted by dg at 9:25 PM on March 23, 2011

A year and a half ago I got inspired by the minimalist running craze and bought myself a pair of Newtons. I felt like I broke them in gently, alternating them with my existing Asics. I built up slowly and took my time adjusting to a midfoot strike. (I was a serious heel striker before.) After four months, I was evangelizing them to everybody I knew.

Then I got a sore spot in my arch that just wouldn't go away. I had a bone scan to rule out a stress fracture, then moved onto the traditional therapies of ice, stretching, etc. After a year - YEAR - of basically dealing with a chronic injury there, I saw a podiatrist who pointed out I'd damaged my plantar fascia (in the arch, not the heel) and that I needed orthotics and supportive shoes for 12 weeks to heal. It sucks.

So yeah, be careful. I'm now in a pair of Mizune Wave Rider 14's, which are a nice neutral shoe that my orthotic fits in. I still like the idea of minimalist running, but I found out the hard way that my feet aren't ready for it yet.
posted by web-goddess at 4:45 PM on March 24, 2011

Response by poster: I did it! :)
I stumbled my way through the half. It was painful; my legs started to get really tired at km 12 and pain forced me to half-walk half-run the last 6km. It was worse than most of my training runs, possibly because I was recovering from a cold. But I finished, and 2 days later I feel pretty much recovered, and all the feelings of discomfort during the run have faded in my memory and are replaced with happiness at the accomplishment. Ah this is great. The next one will be so much better too. Thanks for the advice everyone.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:19 PM on May 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

Well done! Sounds like you were sensible about knowing where your limits were and ran within them. What shoes did you end up buying?

all the feelings of discomfort during the run have faded in my memory and are replaced with happiness at the accomplishment
Yep, this is why we run ;-)
posted by dg at 3:20 PM on May 3, 2011

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