There are very few things needed to begin running, but you really must have a real pair of running shoes. As a middle-age newbie, I was already aware of issues with my feet and thus was very cautious about choosing a good sneaker, but little did I know how valuable a “real” pair of running shoes would be!
Running shoes are specifically designed to support the body mechanics and extra force of running to prevent injury. There are many brands and styles of shoes to choose from that can address individual needs and preferences. Doing research online and visiting a specialty running store is the best way to find the perfect running shoe for a beginner.
Shoes specifically designed for running is a multimillion-dollar industry with brands and styles to fit a variety of needs, address specific issues, and be as comfortable as possible. Besides the endless choices, the price of running shoes may be shocking (be prepared to spend over $100) so knowing why they are worth it and how to choose the best one for you as explained below is important.
Why do you need to buy actual running shoes?
It’s all about injury prevention! Running is a high impact sport that puts a lot of stress and pressure on the legs and feet so the material between your foot and the ground is extremely important.
Besides the shock absorbing properties of the midsole, a running shoe is also designed to prevent injury by providing support based on different foot mechanics. If you do a little research or visit a running store you will likely see or hear words like pronate, overpronate, supinate, or neutral.
Knowing which foot type you have will help determine which shoe would be best for you. There are shoes designed for motion control, stability, and neutral based on the degree of pronation and how high or low your arch is. For more on pronation, overpronation, supination, and neutral see definitions here.
The easiest way to know which category you fall into is to look at the bottom of some of your shoes. If you have a pair of sneakers you use for lawn work or the gym those would be best.
If you notice most of the wear is on the outside of the shoes you may supinate. Wear on the inside of the sole is a good indication of overpronating. Wear evenly on the shoes means you are probably neutral.
You can also perform the wet paper test where you look at the shape of your foot after stepping on piece of paper with a damp foot. You can use the below pictures as a guide for determining which category you fall into.
An experienced running store salesperson can also help you determine which type you may be. They are usually knowledgeable and will give some recommendations based on the assessment.
The wrong shoe can lead to serious feet problems and injury leaving you sidelined for weeks or months. While there is no guarantee you won’t get injured, minimizing the risks with a shoe that provides the best support is a wise investment.
How to buy the right running shoe for you
Do some research online before you head out to buy your first pair of running shoes. This will save you time and help guide you with finding the best shoe for your needs.
Each brand is known for a particular signature shape and feel so if you already have a favorite brand that makes running shoes than you may want to start there. Keep in mind there may be brands you may not be familiar with as they are not typically sold at your garden variety shoe store.
Brooks, Altra, and Hoka a few brands I never heard of until I started running. You will be surprised just how many shoes there are specifically for running and they all cater to special needs and preferences.
Go to a specialty running store to get fitted properly and try on a few different brands to see what feels best. Try to run in a pair if possible before you buy them as many will have very short and strict return policies.
It’s best not to force yourself to like a shoe as you could end up miserable or even injured on your next run. There is one very popular brand that shall remain unnamed, that no matter how many times I’ve tried different styles of the brand my foot immediately HATES it. You do not break in running shoes so they should be comfortable and from the very beginning.
A good pair of running shoes will be anywhere from $80-$140 or more which is pretty steep so choose carefully. I’ve found a very affordable way to try out some different brands and styles without it being quite so expensive. See my article here for a big money saving idea that you may find helpful.
Another thing to consider when buying shoes is to have a good half inch between your toe and the shoe. As you run and especially on longer runs, your foot will swell slightly so you may want to size up a half or even full size.
Why women will have different needs
Before I started running in my forties, I had recently developed some feet problems that made finding a comfortable pair of dress shoes for work challenging. I was a bit concerned about finding a good pair of running shoes to support my feet and prevent any further injury.
Women frequently have issues with their feet as they age due to damage done in earlier years from wearing heels and other “cute” shoes. Besides these bad habits, according to American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society, nearly 90% of women wear shoes that are the wrong size.
Shoe companies have spent a lot of money and years of research designing the best running shoes for women and men. They recognize the needs are different and have an invested interest to keep you running safely for many years.
This just highlights the need to do your research and not use that old pair of sneakers in your closet when you begin running. Your foot type, gait, weight, and running program will determine which shoe is best for you and a knowledgeable salesperson can assist you in finding that perfect shoe.
Once you find a shoe that works for you stick with it!! It can be tempting to try the latest model or style and it may be unavoidable at times, but be cautious. Even one run in the wrong shoe can have you taking several days off from running.
Running can be a high-injury sport so having the right equipment (aka a good pair of running shoes) is key. Shoes should be replaced every 300 – 500 miles for optimal support, but your first pair should get you up and running safely for many months.