Ask Mario: Which Running Shoes Should I Buy?

Don't feel overwhelmed when purchasing your first pair of running shoes. There are a lot of options but a good salesperson can help you make the right decision. Photo: Mario Fraioli

Q.

Hi Mario,

I just signed up for my first half marathon this fall and need to know what type of running shoe you recommend for a beginner?

Thanks,

Nicole C.

A.

Hi Nicole,

Congratulations on signing up for your first race! Your question is not an uncommon one. In fact, it was a regular query when I worked in specialty running retail.

The short answer is that there is not a “best” shoe for beginners — or experienced runners, for that matter. The good news, however, is there are lots of excellent options out there. The best running shoe for you is the one that addresses your own individual needs.

Don’t know what your own needs are? Don’t worry — this is why specialty running stores exist! A trained staff member at one of these stores will take a look at your feet, watch you run and provide you with a variety of options from all the different brands of running shoes they carry based on their observations and your feedback. They’ll also take into account your experience level, how much you’ll be running and tell you about your foot type, as well as what’s going on with your lower legs and the rest of your body when you get up to speed.

The “wet-tests” you read about in many shoe reviews only reveal a small piece of the puzzle (i.e. your foot type), so it’s important to find a trained eye to take a look at you in action. A department store or big-box sporting goods store won’t provide this kind of service or experienced expertise, nor will many of them let you take a pair of shoes for a test run before you purchase them.

RELATED: Buying Your First Pair Of Running Shoes

All that said, here are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing running shoes:

— This may seem obvious, but make sure you buy running shoes! Cross trainers just won’t cut it — and they won’t be very comfortable, either.

— Bring your old running shoes in with you to the store. Have the staff member at the running store take a look at them so they have an idea what you’ve been using and what changes, if any, need to be made in regard to the type of shoe that you’re wearing.

— If you run in orthotics, bring those, too — even if you’re not planning on running in them. Orthotics tell a story to the staff person who is helping you. If you’re planning on using your customized insoles for running, it will have an effect on the type of shoe that ends up being recommended to you. Of course, even if you do wear orthotics regularly, don’t rely on them as a crutch. Make sure you’re doing some lower-leg strengthening exercises and running drills in bare feet or less of a shoe than you would typically wear in an effort to make your body more resilient.

— Just because a shoe costs more, doesn’t mean it’s better for you. A $200 shoe isn’t necessarily twice as good as a $100 running shoe. In fact, most models will run you between $90 and $120. Yes, this sounds like a lot of money, but when you take into account that the average life of a running shoe is between 400 and 500 miles, this breaks down to 20 to 25 cents a mile! It’s well worth the investment!

— Ask lots of questions and make sure the shoe you end up choosing feels comfortable on your foot. In the end, if the shoes don’t feel good on your feet, you’re not going to want to run in them. A good running shoe salesman won’t (read: shouldn’t) make a decision for you, but rather point you in the right direction by providing you with a handful of appropriate options given their observations as well as your feedback.

— Break your new shoes in gradually. As a beginner, in all likelihood this will be your first “good” pair of running shoes, and is likely very different from whatever it is you had been using. Walk around the house for a bit to break them in, and test them out for the first time with a short run.

Best of luck training for your half!

Mario

Ask Mario appears monthly in Competitor magazine and weekly on Competitor.com. Have a question for Mario? Submit it here.

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