Help me find a good running shoe store
June 12, 2006 9:38 PM   Subscribe

Running Shoes: Where should I get them and what should I know? Bonus points for Los Angeles running shoe store suggestions, but general advice appreciated. Alternatively, help educate me on what a comfy shoe (of any type) is supposed to feel like.

I'm going to run my first marathon in November, and step one (ha ha) involves getting some good shoes. I'm not a runner. From the book I'm reading, it seems like I have a normally pronating foot, but it would be nice to have a knowledgable person look at my walking and measure my foot and tell me what to get, since I know basically nothing. Where should I go, and what should I know before I get there? (Studio City area, next to Los Angeles)

Regarding the alternative question: As my last 2 shoe purchases have begun with my remarking on how comfortable the shoes are and my feet aching/toes getting pinched/etc the next day, I'm losing faith in my ability to judge whether a shoe is comfortable. I've even had custom footbeds made for me by a ski-boot guy in the area, which feel great until my feet start to ache anyways a few weeks later.
posted by anonymoose to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Runner's World magazine has an annual shoe review; it's broken down by category (cushioned, stability, lightweight training, racing). It'll tell you which shoes are good for you if you're an underpronator or overpronator, or have high or low arches, and so on. (By the way, arches can be determined by walking on dry concrete or asphalt with wet feet.) I've bought shoes based on Runner's World recommendations and have been very satisfied.

Specialty running stores are where you'll find the real experts, but their prices are a bit higher. The cheapest place to buy shoes I've found is through online catalogs, but this is a crapshoot if you haven't tried the shoe on already.
posted by lunchbox at 9:47 PM on June 12, 2006

A good option is to buy the first pair of shoes in a running store, then get replacements online. New Balance is especially good for this, since all the shoes have obvious model numbers, and they take great pains not to retire shoes too often.

The running stores around here are mainly staffed by college runners, as a part-time job. They'll just ask you basic questions, like what brand you'd like, how many miles a week you run, and what surface you run on. Then they pick a pair of shoes and you run around the block a few times. Easy.
posted by smackfu at 9:53 PM on June 12, 2006

You're a more serious runner than I am, but I would urge anyone who runs even 10-12 miles a week to go to a running store. The sort of place that doesn't sell kayaks or have hugely tall stacks of shoes in a warehouse-y setting. Nothing big-box.

Maybe a store called something like The Runner's High, or The Runner's Feet (those are NorCal, but you get the idea) or maybe this place. (Sorry if these are super-far from you. My knowledge of SoCal geography is weak. )

You're looking for a salesperson who will walk outside with you and watch you run for a couple dozen yards and recommend a shoe. In my experience, he or she will then give you a shoe that costs at least $100. The best salespeople will not be interested in your opinion about brands. Chances are, he or she knows more than you, and the brands really are different.

Don't be a cheapskate here. These are your feet. Before I got fitted by someone who knew what he was doing, I was getting crazy blisters in places I didn't know got blistered before I was a runner. (The arch??)
posted by bisesi at 10:08 PM on June 12, 2006

Phidippides in Encino is a great place to buy running shoes. The staff is excellent and will help you find the right shoe. It's very crowded on the weekends, though.
posted by Spurious Packets at 10:18 PM on June 12, 2006

I just got shoes at Snail's Pace in Pasadena (bisesi linked it). Knowledgeable staff, they watch you run etc. Oh, and the shoes they sold me were a bit below $100. Recommended.
posted by lbergstr at 10:33 PM on June 12, 2006

Finding the right pair of shoes is a pain in the butt. I don't know of anywhere in the LA area, but there's a franchise of my favorite shoe store in Laguna Niguel. When I bought my current shoes, Fleet Feet had me run on a treadmill for 20 minutes while they watched my gait (especially as I fatigued). They were able to recommend a pair of shoes specific to my level of pronation. The downside is that it is expensive to buy shoes in a specialty store. The upside is that you will get individual attention if you find the right people. Keep shopping around for knowledgeable people, the shoes will follow.
posted by |n$eCur3 at 10:48 PM on June 12, 2006

Snail's Pace in Pasadena.
posted by ronenosity at 10:49 PM on June 12, 2006

second (third?) Snail's Pace stores. They will get the right shoes on your feet.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 12:43 AM on June 13, 2006

Another vote for Snail's pace in Pasadena. Finally a store that didn't focus on this year's cool colors or styles, but rather suggested shoes that actually corrected my over-pronation. They're in the Paseo Colorado, which is just south of the 210.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 2:11 AM on June 13, 2006

A lot of times a good running store will have gait analysis of some kind -- basically, a way to videotape you running on a treadmill. This lets you (and them) get a good sense of your running style and what to do, shoe-wise. My local guys, for instance, were able to identify almost immediately that I'd been running in shoes that were too small. Even though I'd be wearing a given size for years, my running shoe size was slightly larger.

Obviously, that made a big difference.

Personally, I never find the magazine reviews to be of much help. It's hard to translate a shoes feel (as reported in the 'zine) to what it'll be like on my foot.

Something else that's nice about local running shoe stores: almost all of them will let you try a given shoe for 30 days. If you hate it, they'll be really cool about hooking you up with another pair.
posted by ph00dz at 4:30 AM on June 13, 2006

On another side of the coin, once you find a good pair of shoes, consider buying several pairs. I got burned when my beloved New Balance 572 walking shoes (my daily wear/travel shoes) went away. The 573s aren't bad, but they ain't the 572s.

So, if you find the One True Shoe, you might want to grab a few pairs. Yeah, the next shoe might be better, but it might not be, and you may never see the like again.

This goes quadrulple if multiple As or Es feature in your correct size, or if you are a guy with feet smaller than a 6 or larger than a 12 (38-46 for you Euro guys.) When you're well off the bell curve, feet-size wise, it pays to stock up.
posted by eriko at 4:44 AM on June 13, 2006

Even though I'd be wearing a given size for years, my running shoe size was slightly larger.

When you're well off the bell curve, feet-size wise, it pays to stock up.

I have to echo both of these: my normal shoe size is 13 (the upper limit of what most stores carry), and thankfully the knowledgeable staff at the local running specialty shop insisted I buy 14s for my first marathon and to replace them midway through my five-month training program since most running shoes are able to withstand about 300 miles' worth of pavement-pounding. The upshot: I was sore for about a day after the big run and felt great thereafter, whereas some of my training mates declared they'd Never Run Again.
posted by kittyprecious at 5:00 AM on June 13, 2006

Others have said it, but the process is to go to a specialty running store, have them watch you walk and run, and then let them recommend different shoes for you. There are several different variables (I discussed this whole thing in much more detail at MetaChat back when I was young and had more energy), but basically once you know what kind of shoe you need in terms of pronation you should choose ones that feel good. No specific brand or model recs from anyone will help you because no one else has your feet. Decent shoes should run you ~ $100.
posted by OmieWise at 5:22 AM on June 13, 2006

Years ago I used to work for Road Runner Sports in San Diego. At the time, they only had one retail store there in addition to their catalog and web business. They are now in Anaheim (as well as Seattle and San Carlos). It's a great operation, would be worth checking out if you can make it to the OC.
posted by Robert Angelo at 6:18 AM on June 13, 2006


If I were in your shoes (waka) I'd give The Runner's High a call and ask them if they know of any stores like them in your area.

However, if you're going to be traveling up here for any reason at all, come in and talk to them: they've outfitted my wife and I and our friends for everything from daily running to 5Ks to marathons without ever, um, putting a foot wrong.

In terms of retailers, I've always had excellent luck with Fleet Feet both online and off.
posted by scrump at 8:05 AM on June 13, 2006

eriko: On another side of the coin, once you find a good pair of shoes, consider buying several pairs. I got burned when my beloved New Balance 572 walking shoes (my daily wear/travel shoes) went away. The 573s aren't bad, but they ain't the 572s.

So, if you find the One True Shoe, you might want to grab a few pairs. Yeah, the next shoe might be better, but it might not be, and you may never see the like again.
I can't second this strongly enough, no matter what your size. I've been wearing Brooks Beast or Adrenaline shoes for almost ten years now, and I've had to alternate between them because one year's Beast model would be great, then the next year's would be crap, but the Adrenaline would be good, etcetera, etcetera.
posted by scrump at 8:10 AM on June 13, 2006

I went through this a few months ago and just completed my first marathon at the weekend. I am very glad I went to a running shop to get my shoes - I must have tried on about 15 pairs before narrowing it down to my final choice. If you are constrained by price they should be able to cater for you. My thoughts on cost where "I am going to go a long way in these and would rather splash out on shoes than medical bills" - in the end I got some of the most expensive shoes but only because I ran best in them and found them most comforable. I deliberately asked them not to tell me the price before I made my choice.

I would second the notion that you should consider getting two pairs - but perhaps not of an identical type - it is apparently good for your feet to have a little variety when training.

Finally - if you have an old pair of shoes the store should be able to more rapidly diagnose what sort of runner you are.
posted by rongorongo at 8:11 AM on June 13, 2006

I wouldn't overanalyze this (e.g., the way I do when buying camping gear I haven't bought before). I'd just ask other runners (or Mefi) to find a store with good sales reps, go there, and they'll do the rest. You'll go through this first pair before you're done training, and by that point, you'll have some thoughts about "I don't like the way the laces go over the tongue" or "my feet slip too much when going downhill" or whatever. The have-two-pairs idea is cool, but I'd buy that second pair after training for six weeks, when you'll have a better idea what works and doesn't work for you.
posted by salvia at 10:48 AM on June 13, 2006
posted by soundslikeobiwan at 5:45 PM on June 13, 2006

oops -- I guess this is the SoCal one:
posted by soundslikeobiwan at 5:47 PM on June 13, 2006

Went to Snail's Pace. Very knowledgable staff, had me run back and forth and try on 15 or so pairs of shoes before we settled down on two options that successfully corrected my overpronation.

Thanks for all of the suggestions!
posted by anonymoose at 9:26 PM on June 13, 2006

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