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31 January 2006

I'm going to buy running shoes today. But I know nothing about them.[More:] What's the difference between the $60 Nikes on sale and $100 Nikes? What exactly should I be looking for?
TPS: I'm a runner, and I'd say: no difference. A lot of gearheads will take exception to this, but I'm cheap and I don't care.

What I usually do is go to a sporting-goods store with a big selection. They usually have last year's models on clearance this time of year. I rarely pay over $50 for shoes that cost around $100 when they came out 12 months ago.

The important things are fit and comfort. Especially if you're going to run in them, not just hang out in them. Try them on, lace them as you would if they were yours, and actually jog around the store. Don't be embarrassed - people do it all the time. Be alert to: cushioning, stability (no ankle turning or wobbling), freedom of movement around the ankle, any pressure or numbness in the toes (you don't want that), and a comfortable strike when your foot hits the floor.

Specialty running stores often have 'fit experts' who will watch you run and diagnose your foot type so they can make shoe recommendations. They'll tell you about your pronation (which side of your foot strikes the ground first), stride, and the realtive narrowness or width of your feet. I've done this twice just to get the recommendations, then said "Thanks, I'll go home and think about it", and then bought similar shoes elsewhere for cheaper. Once you know what you're looking for you can identify what shoes meet your needs.

Good luck!
posted by Miko 31 January | 09:39
But -- I should have been more obvious about this point -- much better to buy good shoes for cheap (as in last year's, an ugly color, or whatever) than to buy cheap shoes. Don't ever buy badly made or off-brand shoes.

My personal favorites (and a lot of women agree with me) are Asics, closely followed by Saucony and New Balance.
posted by Miko 31 January | 09:41
New Balance--there's a good store on 42nd opposite Bryant Park.
posted by amberglow 31 January | 09:44
I know a lot about them, and I can't suggest strongly enough that you go to a quality running store and get fitted for them. If you don't know of one in NYC I can find a name and number.

The process should go a so:

You walk in and someone comes up to help you, you tell them you've never been fitted before. You also say "I'm gonna be running xx miles/week in them." They ask you to take your shoes (and maybe your socks off) and they watch you stand and maybe walk.

They bring out several different brands and shoes. Ask them why they are suggesting these ones. Do you under- or over-pronate? Do they see something in your arch that leads them to suggest these? (You'll need this info later when you buy shoes again.)

You try on the shoes and walk and run in them a little bit. If you cannot run on a treadmill in the store they should let you outside on the sidewalk. If they won't, find a different store. Your foot acts very differently running, and you need to make sure they feel good that way.

Running shoes are built on three different platforms (or lasts--straight last, semi-curved last, curved last), and you can ask if all of the shoes you've tried are the same last shape. If they are, you can ask to try something with a different kind of last. Shoes in general come in three different types: motion control, stability and nuetral. These have to do with controlling the roll of your foot as it hits the pavement, and thereby preventing injury. I can't remember of motion control or stability offers more correction, but if they put you in the most severe one, and it doesn't feel good, ask if they think you can get away with the middle option. If none of them feel good, then don't buy them.

There are good shoes in each category at almost all price points. The more expensive usually just means the lighter. Sale shoes are usually last years model (which can be very different from this years model, although it will be the same type of shoe, so try it on). Shoes do lose some padding and cushioning just sitting on the shelf, something like 5% a year, but it's nothing to be too worried about. If you see a pair for cheap, and it feels good and is correct for your foot type, buy it!

Shoes are said to last 6 months or 300 miles (the padding). In reality, they can last much much longer than this, and there is a lot of discussion among distance runners are to whether excessive padding is bad anyway. One nice thing is to have multiple pairs of shoes, especially two different brands. This does two things, it allows your foot to hit the ground differently on different days (thereby forestalling injury and making your feet and ankles stronger), and it allows you to compare how you feel running in the different shoes and choose when to replace accordingly.

Email me @ ahpollock at gmail if you have any questions.

On preview: I love miko, but if you're gonna use a specialty store for fit (and you should, at least at first), then you should buy the pair there that they fit you for. Once you know what you need, you can buy your next pair cheaper. Personally, I always buy at a specialty store because 1) other stores are not all that much cheaper (probably 10%), and 2) I want the store to be there when I go for something not carried anywhere else, and 3) specialty stores foster a running culture that includes races and funruns and motivation and caring.
posted by omiewise 31 January | 09:45
You guys are shoe experts! Wow!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 31 January | 09:51
I totally agree with miko that Asics, Saucony, and New Balance are the three shoe companies that really seem to know a woman's foot. I've had shoes from all three, and I like Saucony way best. NBs can be a bit cloddish and heavy, but super comfortable, and really hardy. Saucony and Asics are like feathers on your feet.
posted by iconomy 31 January | 10:14
When I used to run, I looooved New Balance. But it's all very dependent on you. One of my friends had to be convinced by the running store dude that she had a "Nike" foot. She didn't want to believe them because nobody had recommended Nikes to her, ever, and she had only owned Asics (which were giving her problems). Of course, now she won't wear anything but Nikes.
posted by gaspode 31 January | 10:45
I too feel saucy in Saucony. So what/where are you running TPS?
posted by rainbaby 31 January | 11:23
I'll tell you this much, unless you are an old school Hunts Point tranny don't try running in any size twelve red sequin three inch spikes, hon. A quality tranny can win a 100 meter dash in those, but anyone else is just going on a one way trip to broken ankle city.
posted by Divine_Wino 31 January | 11:24
Wow, I also learned a lot from that, OmieWise. Thanks. That's also true about the running culture at specialty stores.
posted by Miko 31 January | 11:26
I just want to start running (at the gym). I've never been a runner, and I'd like to try it, so I'm starting a beginner's running program. Sooner or later I'd like to run a race (like a marathon! But baby steps- first I need to run 5 minutes without stopping :-D)
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 31 January | 11:35
TPS: You'll be surprised by how quickly you can develop your running once you get started. Runner's World has some great articles on being a beginning runner. When I got started (from a life of near-total slugitude), I began with the run/walk plan, which was a great way to ease in, injury-free, and had me running 25-30 minutes steady within just a few weeks.

I hope you enjoy the new adventure. I started running for fitness, but I keep running because it clears my head, reduces stress, and just makes me feel great overall.
posted by Miko 31 January | 11:49
Two good things about running/jogging: It's perfect aerobic exercise if you can avoid injury, and also you can measure your progress in distance/time very neatly. Good luck!
posted by rainbaby 31 January | 11:58
Wow, miko, those articles look awesome! I'm e-mailing myself the link so I can look over the articles tonight, yaaay.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 31 January | 12:54
Something also to note: Your feet get larger the more you run. You may need a larger shoe than you would use normally just walking around.

This is something a good shoe shop will know and tell you about.
posted by loquacious 31 January | 13:59
I've been using Nike Air Pegasus and Triax for years and can't run in anything else (without pain.) (Relevant stats: overweight man with tight muscles and high arches.) You have to find the shoe that's best for you, not the shoe that's "best." If you're light with flat feet, for example, the shoes I like will probably make you miserable.
posted by callmejay 31 January | 14:03
Man, I was just going go out and buy shoes, and now I have to, like, think and go somewhere real and shit. Craaaazy.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 31 January | 14:13
People do get obsessive over shoes. I try not to (I'm not very high-mileage), but obviously, it's like any sport: the more you get into it, the more time you spend in the shoes, the more you care about performance and staying power, the more these things matter.

I always think it's worth keeping in mind that a lot of the world-dominating Kenyans learn to run in bare feet, or flat-soled Keds, or the like. I think it's always better to start running with what you've got, than to delay starting because of the expense or difficulty of finding the perfect shoe. Just pay attention to how your feet and your joints are feeling. The overarching goals are to avoid injury and be comfortable. If your shoes help you do both those things, you've got a pretty good pair, I'd say.

After a few years pounding the pavement, I have approached the 'shoe connoisseur' category within the last year only. And mainly, it's because I have access to a great running store and now run with groups, where people talk about these sorts of things. Don't feel like you have to master everything right off the bat. It'll come!

But the advice to get the best thing you can afford right now, and to get it at a reputable store, could never be wrong.
posted by Miko 31 January | 14:21
All the above is good advice. You'll likely need to try more than one brand. New Balance fit my small but slightly wide feet well so I stick with them. All of their shoes in my size seem to fit right.
posted by 6550 31 January | 17:05
Metachat, your bunny tarot for today is... || I'm 29, I won't be for long.