What running shoes should I buy?
July 31, 2005 8:08 AM   Subscribe

What brand / type of running shoes should I buy?

I plan to run from three to four miles, five days a week. I am a 34 year old male and I have not done something like this in about ten years. Back in the day I would buy any running shoe but now I think I should buy something that will reduce wear on my legs / feet.. Do I have to spend $150 on pair of shoes or are the cheaper shoes fine?
posted by cowmix to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (23 answers total)
go to a decent running shoe shop and ask there. what is best will depend on how you run - exactly how your foot and ankle move. the store may have a fancy gizmo that measures this, may ask you to run down the street while someone watches, or may look at the wear on your current shoes.

i use asics cumulus and i think they cost around 80-90 dollars. they are a good, well padded shoe that's reasonably wide, but they are for people with no running "problems" (i don't under or overpronate). i just mention them because that's the kind of price i pay (and i'm older than you!).
posted by andrew cooke at 8:25 AM on July 31, 2005

Depends. The correct answer is "What fits correctly, and deals with the problems you have." Naming this by brand is silly, it's the model that counts.

Having said that, I'm pretty much wedded to New Balance, but only because they work for me, and they have a very wide size range, including widths and lengths. When you're a couple of standard deviations out from the norm, this becomes critical.

You need to figure out what your mechanics are like. If you have bad knees, you'll need a motion control shoe, or you'll tear up your knees. If you over or under pronate, or have flatter feet, there's a shoe for you.

The other factor -- how much do you run? How fast? A racing shoe will cost more, weigh less, and not last nearly as long as a training shoe. What are you running on? Pavement shoes need a durable outsole, but that's it. Trail shoes don't need the wear resistant, but need to offer more support. If we're talking running on hiking trails, then you need even more support.

But most importantly: They Must Fit! Don't get sold on brands, buy for your feet. If Nike's fit you well, then you should buy them. Nike doesn't fit my foot at all, even when they sell the width I need. New Balance, particularly shoes built on thier AL-1 last, do. Thus, I buy New Balance, and unless your feet are exactly like mine, I refuse to suggest you do the same.

Finally: There's this particular nonsense about "breaking in" shoes. That might have been true of old days, when leather was stiff and sizing wasn't very fine grained, but it sure isn't true now. If a shoe isn't comfortable from the start, it's the wrong shoe, period.

Go to the shops, wear or at least carry the socks you intend to wear while running. Try on several pairs. Walk and briefly jog. Better, stairs and ramps. Find the shoes that works, and it'll be worth your time.

There's no faster way to wreck your running, and your feet, than ill fitting shoes.
posted by eriko at 8:35 AM on July 31, 2005

A third voice supporting the go to a running shop suggestion. A decent, specialist running shop (like, not foot locker!) will get you to try on a number of different shoes and run up and down in them. Many have treadmills. Some even have video cameras pointing at treadmills so you can see how you run in slow motion.

The last time I bought shoes I tried on four or five pairs and the ones I ended up with I had to buy - they just felt right. The other shoes were the right size and dealt with the same issues (I overpronate a bit) but just didn't feel as good (despite my miserly tendencies, they were also the most expensive - oh well). Once you know what works for you, you can make a note of the model and source your replacement pairs online.
posted by handee at 8:43 AM on July 31, 2005

One other tip: if you get a shoe and it feels like something is wrong after a few weeks of running, maybe you need a new shoe. I ran cross country and got a pair of new balances at a running shop which proceeded to screw up my knee. The second I try a new pair, my knee feels wombly again and I swear by Nike now. Ultimately, it might take beyond the running store trial run to learn what is best for you.
posted by jmd82 at 10:04 AM on July 31, 2005

The shoe advice seems to be covered, I just wanted to note that from the wording of your post it sounds like you're going to go out and hit the track pretty hard for someone who hasn't been running regularly in 10 years. Start slow, keeping in mind that your body at 34 probably can't do the same things it did at 24.
posted by tetsuo at 10:28 AM on July 31, 2005

How about a pair of these?
posted by forallmankind at 10:28 AM on July 31, 2005

Anyone who hasn't been running at all for more than a couple of years should ease him or herself back into the sport with a walk/run program. It can seem agonizingly tedious in the beginning stages, but it is a sure way to avoid injury.
posted by randomstriker at 10:40 AM on July 31, 2005

I swear by my new Nike Free 5.0's.

From the linked review (which I whole-heartedly agree with):

I ordered a pair of Nike Free 5.0 shoes the other day and from the moment I put them on I realized how much better technology not only makes our minds, but our feet as well!

These shoes actually make me want to work out, which no other shoes ever have. You can also customize the colors, should you want.
posted by chota at 10:42 AM on July 31, 2005

I second chota with the Nike Free 5.0! They were designed so that runners could train as if running barefoot, and they mold completely to the foot. Early in my training I had blister issues which almost made me stop working out. I haven't had a problem since purchasing these, and I'll agree with the linked review as well. They make me want to work out!
posted by mewithoutyou at 11:47 AM on July 31, 2005

The Nike Free shoes are a great training tool, but they are not designed to be one's main running shoe. Read the documentation available with the shoes, on Nike's web site, and in reviews- they are intended for under 3 mile runs, once or twice a week.

Plus, the heel of mine tore after two months.
posted by bobot at 1:16 PM on July 31, 2005

if you want the feeling of running barefoot it is possible to run barefoot. obviously that doesn't give you that wonderful feeling of pride in owning a piece of plastic made with care, attention and personal pride by nike's trained craftsmen, but even so - quite a few people do run without shoes. if you try it, you'll probably find that you end up with a forefoot strike (landing on the ball of your foot rather the heel). many people find that a confortable running style (including me), but if you transition from heel strike, take it very easy - i ended up with a stress fracture in my metatarsals (or something) from changing too quickly.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:59 PM on July 31, 2005

im going on my 8th pair on nike air pegasus. sounds like a ladies shoe but they've been my favorite for a couple years. i also have some brooks and asics.
posted by chuckforthought.com at 2:12 PM on July 31, 2005

I like my Everlast shoes, I'm onto my third pair in five years. I'm and eight and a half normally, but I get the elastic (no laces) size eight and they're great for badminton. YMMV.
posted by krisjohn at 4:07 PM on July 31, 2005

I own a paid of Nike Free 5.0 and I really wouldn't recommend buying them. The first pair I returned after 2 weeks because the back mesh tore. The second pair had the same problem after 2 months. Also, for any sort of distance running (over 1-2 miles) the frees tore into my arch.

They're really great for walking around and biking though, and I still run in them occassionally, but prefer my normal running shoes.

Incidentally, I was wearing them at the gym one day and a Nike rep asked me what I thought of them. I forgot to complain about them falling apart too easily. I mentioned the blisters on my arches and he said something like they're only supposed to be used a few times (1-2) a week, by serious runners. The ads make you think otherwise.

That said, I'm wearing mine right now, and wore them running for speed today.
posted by drezdn at 4:52 PM on July 31, 2005

Or what bobot said. Personally, I think if you pay $85 for something it should last longer.
posted by drezdn at 4:56 PM on July 31, 2005

Whatever fits your foot and your gait best. No one can recommend shoes for you. Go to a real running store (not FootLocker/etc). Tell the clerks what you are doing. They'll measure your foot and point out shoes that might work for you. Then try them on, with the socks you'll be training in. Walk around the store. Jump up and down. Jog in place (if they'll let you, run around a bit - but don't expect them to let you run outside).

I used to wear Nikes. Then they changed their last, and I can't wear them anymore. I have friends who swear by NewBalance, but I can only swear at them. I've never been happy with the durability of Brooks (as in, the insole/midsole collapses after a couple of months and messes with my back). Currently, I'm wearing Avia's trail running shoe. I'm fairly impressed with them, as they last at least a year, while the Reeboks I'd been wearing needed to be replaced every six months or so.

There's no reason to spend over $100 for a pair of decent shoes, unless you've got really hard to fit feet.
posted by jlkr at 7:41 PM on July 31, 2005

For those of you saying "not footlocker" could maybe be more spesific? I'm actualy looking to get new running shoes soon as well.
posted by delmoi at 9:01 PM on July 31, 2005

AHighschool Xcountry team here in Seattle swear by Brooks (local company makes good sturdy shoes). They go to Super Jock and Jill for their first pair to determine what works best for them - affter that it's the Brooks Outlet store at the mall. Footlocker and other stores of that nature generally don't hire the expertise in their sales staff to give a good determination of what you might need. I would also like to point out that most running shoes wear out internally after about 500 miles.
posted by ptm at 10:40 PM on July 31, 2005

Delmoi - It depends where you are. An independent running store is what you're after. The ones near me are are called up and running. Indeed, searching for "running shop leeds" finds my nearest one. If that doesn't work, you could ask on usenet (rec.running is fairly well read), or google for a local running club and see if they've got any links.

The key is to find a place where they can tell whether you underpronate or overpronate just by watching you run. And the minimum wage 14 year old chavs in the UK loot fockers can't do that.
posted by handee at 1:54 AM on August 1, 2005

Delmoi: handee's got it right. The reason we say "not footlocker" is that they'll sell you whatever you want, whether it's the right shoe for you or not. If you know what kind of shoe you need, they're fine; but you need to know what kinds of shoes work for you.

The staff at a running store will often be able to tell how you run (over pronate/underpronate/roll/strike zone/etc) by looking at your current shoes, and certainly by watching you run. There may be a treadmill or short track where they can actually see you run. They usually have a much larger selection of good shoes than FootLocker/etc who tend to have fashionable shoes.

Which is not to say that you can't get good shoes at FootLocker, you just have to know what you want when you walk in. They're (probably) not going to be able to help you get the right pair of shoes if you've just started.
posted by jlkr at 11:04 AM on August 1, 2005

At my local running shop they invariably fix me up with shoes costing from $95 - $125. This are usually made by Assics or Saucany (I rule out anything Nike for various reasons). Down at the SportMart I can find acceptable running shoes by Spalding which cost ~$25 and seem to last longer.

I run two miles every other day, only using the shoes for the workout, until they get squishy, at which point they're demoted to every-day sneaker status.
posted by Rash at 11:08 AM on August 1, 2005

Runner's World magazine publishes a shoe guide every now and then. These pages seem to contain much of the content from them: http://www.runnersworld.com/category/0,5034,s6-52-70-0-0,00.html.

I wouldn't buy shoes on their recommendation alone -- you have to try them on -- but it's a good place to do your homework before you go to the store. You'll also see that the most expensive shoes are not necessarily the best reviewed.

Runner's World also has a state-by-state list of speciality running stores: http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,5033,s6-52-167-0-1048,00.html
posted by egilmore at 1:32 PM on August 1, 2005

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