Should We Buy an Expensive Pair of Running Shoes?

A woman is lacing up the running shoes.

You don’t need to buy an expensive pair of running shoes, but there are several things to pay attention when you buy the shoes.

If you are a new to running, probably the first thing that you think about is a pair of running shoes (and you should!). It is true that more and more people are running in bare feet as the way of running without shoes is much more natural to human body mechanics.

However, for most people who are used to wearing street shoes in daily life, it is not easy to change their way of running. In fact, several reports indicate that there is a higher rate of foot injuries among the runners who changed their running form to that of barefoot running without much of a transition period.

For those who have not done much running, a pair of running shoes is still essential.

What kind of shoes should we get? Is it worth spending $200? Well, a study done at Aarhus University of Netherlands tells us that if your main concern is prevention of injuries, we can buy any running shoes as long as the shoes are made for a “neutral.”

When people (who wear shoes regularly) run or walk, the outside of the heel hits the ground first and then the foot rotates (called pronation) and all of the toes contact the ground so that you can take the next step. Some people tend to put more weight on the outer side of the foot (under-pronation) and another group of people put more weight on the inside of the foot (over-pronation).

Although either under or over pronations are not great, over-pronation is considered to cause many foot and leg problems as it creates twisting motions on your ankles and knees. Most running shoe makers provide some solutions to correct this over-pronation by adding an extra padding in the shoes.

However, the study of Aarhus University shows that it is not necessarily a good idea. According to their study, people with a neutral foot position have a higher rate of running injuries than people who over-pronate, at least among beginner runners.
So don’t spend any extra money to buy shoes which claim to correct your “pronation.” If you start running more than 20 miles a week, you may think about it, but you can wait for a while.

Then, why is there are so much of a price difference among running shoes? One answer is “brand name.” Like any other products, if it is famous, it costs more. Nike shoes are more expensive than others, just because it is a famous brand. Of course Nike makes great pairs of running shoes, but it charges more on their design. As a new runner, $50 running shoes or$200 running shoes do not make any difference in their running performance or in their injury rate.

Are there any “watching” points in choosing a pair of running shoes? Yes there are. The most important thing is that the pair of the running shoes is comfortable. To find comfortable shoes, you may want to pay attentions to the following:

  1. Find a running shoe specialty store. They have a large selection of shoes comparing to multi-sport goods stores. Don’t buy pair of running shoes online unless you really know which one is best for you. The pair may not fit to you, since each pair of shoes are slightly different even if they are the same size and the same shoes. You really want to try it before buying it.
  2. Don’t decide which brand to buy before going to the store. For example, many Nike shoes are great for narrow footed people, but New Balance tends to fit people with wider feet. Try all of them.
  3. Go to a store late in the day when your feet are “wide.” Walk at least a couple of miles before hitting the store.
  4. If you have “orthotics” supports, take them with you, but if it is not a professionally made one, you don’t need it.
  5. The shoes should have, at least, one finger width at the front of the shoes from the big toe. You may feel it is loose at the store, but if there is no space, you will lose your toenails from running.
  6. A new pair of shoes is stiff and may not be comfortable at beginning and this is normal. Still, it should not rub any part of your feet.
  7. Some stores have a running machine. Make sure to run on it. I know one store that lets you go outside for a short run.
    After getting the shoes, you should walk with them first. Don’t run. The shoes need to be broken in. If you don’t, you will get blister at the first run!

Foot pronation is not associated with increased injury risk in novice runners wearing a neutral shoe: a 1-year prospective cohort study. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2013
Foot Bone Marrow Edema after 10-week Transition to Minimalist Running Shoes. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2013;

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