The Anatomy of Buying New Running Shoes

It’s been years since I last bought a pair of running shoes. Given the fact that most runners buy new shoes every 3 to 6 months, I’ve owned my sole pair of running shoes for quite a while. Now, to be fair, I’ve put less than 250 miles on those shoes in the four or five years since I first purchased them. But, with the soles starting to show signs of wear, I knew it was time to buy a new pair of running shoes.

As someone who is new to running, I want to share my experience in buying a new pair of running shoes. I hope it encourages you and keeps you from making the same mistakes I did.

Starting at Square One

Like most people these days, I began my search for a new pair of running shoes online.

I purchased my last pair of running shoes on Amazon for about $60. They were a pair of Saucony Kinvara 4 in a 15 wide. Knowing nothing about running shoes, let’s just say I got lucky with this pair. They worked and fit well, never giving me any issues.

My new search started on and I was immediately confused. What kind of support did I need? Neutral, stability, or something else? How much cushioning? I had more questions than answers.

Next stop, Google. I started googling about running shoes and what the different terms meant. I quickly learned way more than I probably ever needed to know. After examining my own feet, I learned that I have flat feet, which typically means overpronation (inward land & foot roll). But, if you look at the wear of my shoes I tend to supinate (land & roll more outward). I bit of a weird combination.

Not really knowing what to do with any of this information, I decided to take a trip to one of the local running stores.

My Running Store Recommendation

I went to my local running store hoping they could tell me what kind of shoe I needed. Given my shoe size, I didn’t expect them to have anything for me to try on, so I was solely looking for a recommendation.

Upon entering the store I met a very friendly guy and we chatted a bit about my running history and what my plans were. Having brought my old shoes with me, he examined those and told me I could use more of a support & stability shoe. The only shoe they had in the store for me to try was a size 16 Brooks Beast 18. They weren’t super comfortable on my feet, but I kept his recommendation in mind, knowing I’d have to go online for a pair of shoes.

Back to Zappos

After getting a recommendation, I went back to Zappos and found a couple pairs of shoes to try. I ordered the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19 & some Asics GEL-Kayano 25’s, both in 15 wide.

A couple days later the shoes arrived. Both pair fit well and were fine walking around in. I favored the Brooks, so I took those out for a run. Immediately I felt uncomfortable. During my warmup I had some pain in my left arch. I didn’t pay it much mind because I tend to have that pain in most shoes and it gets better as I start running. But then as the run began my right knee started hurting, which I’ve never had while running. As I neared halfway point of my run my left hip also had some pain. By time I got home, I was happy to take those shoes off.

Now, I know shoes have a breaking in period, but pain should never be part of that breaking in process. I knew these shoes were not the ones I needed. And knowing the Asics were a similar fit, I didn’t even bother trying to run in them.

Thanks to Zappos’ “Runlimited Guarantee” I promptly returned both shoes for a refund.

Fleet Feet

The next day my hip was beyond sore. I did some leg swings to loosen it up at work and gradually felt better throughout the day. After lamenting on Facebook about my shoes, a friend recommended checking out Fleet Feet, since they can scan my feet and tell me exactly what type of shoe I need. Truthfully, I had intended to go to Fleet Feet the week before shopping Zappos or visiting the other running store, but it was Bloomsday weekend and I knew they’d be slammed.

Knowing I needed shoes pronto, I took an early lunch and drove down to Fleet Feet (they used to be across the street from my office, but their new location is quite nice). I was greeted by a gal named Jen and she helped me out. Like the previous running store, she got to know me and what my running goals were.

I then took off my shoes, stepped onto a platform that looked pretty similar to my scale at home. This device performed a full 3D scan of my feet. After watching me walk for a bit, we sat down and Jen showed me the results of the scan. The results were interesting. She told me the following:

  • My foot is a size 14.5
  • My feet are regular width (although my left foot is slightly narrower, and not wide like I’d thought)
  • I have mostly flat feet/low arches (but I knew this)

With this information, in addition to the information she gleaned from watching me walk, she recommended a neutral support running shoe with some decent cushioning. After going to the back, she brought out the only pair of size 15’s they had in the store and had me try them on and then run up & down the sidewalk. They felt great. She then had me try a couple different insoles for the shoe to see if they helped the fit. I ended up going with the ones that came with the shoes.

The shoes? New Balance 880v9. I was immediately sold and walked out the store with those shoes in tow.

The next day I ran in those shoes and they were great!

Zappos, One More Time

The same day I got the 880’s, I came home and went back to Zappos. In doing my research I had heard great things about the Brooks Ghost 11. Equipped with the knowledge of what size & width I needed, I bought a pair of those from Zappos as well.

I ran in these yesterday and they also felt great. So, I’ll be keeping both pair and alternating between the two.

Lessons Learned

I learned a few lessons in this process of buying shoes.

The first thing I learned is know your feet. If you are near a Fleet Feet store, do yourself a favor and get your feet scanned. Then you’ll know exactly what kind of shoes you need.

Second, listen to your body. Even if someone tells you a certain shoe is what you need, if you don’t feel good in them, don’t buy them. Even though I have flat feet, I don’t need a stability shoe. My feet are far more comfortable in a neutral support and well cushioned running shoe.

Finally, don’t worry about looks. It’s all about form over function. Like with the second point, don’t buy shoes just because they look good. Buy them because they fit and are comfortable. Now, I do like the look of my shoes, but that is secondary to how they feel.

This was a fun process to go through and I learned a lot along the way. The best thing is I now have shoes that fit and work for me, and I know more about my feet than I did before. And I hope my experience will save you from some of the mishaps I experienced.

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