Shopping for running shoes online can lead to disappointment, as the trainers that turn up in the post might not be what you expect. To find the perfect running shoes for you, your best bet is to head to a specialist running shop, where trained staff will take your individual needs into consideration and stock more choice, giving you a greater chance of finding the right shoe for you.
The biggest plus to shopping in-store is that you can try each pair on, run in them on a treadmill and work out what fits you the best. The most important factors to consider when shopping for new running shoes is comfort and fit, so make sure you try lots of pairs on before making a purchase.
If you have found a discount pair of shoes online that you like, pop into a shop that sells the same running shoes and try them on for size before purchasing them online.
When shopping for running shoes, part of the process involves a brief assessment or gait analysis, where a staff member will either look at your feet as you walk or while you run on a treadmill.
The staff member will be on the lookout for over-pronation, which means your foot rolls in as it hits the floor in an exaggerated form of the foot's natural movement. While over-pronation is a common trait that affects the majority of runners, it can leave you at risk of knee pain, so a shoe that offers sufficient support to correct this and realign your foot posture can be a big help.
However, whatever recommendation you’re given in-store, it is wise to try on plenty of pairs of running shoes and to trust how you feel in the them just as much as the information given to you by the sales assistant.
Which running shoe?
Most running stores will stock three basic choices of shoe style, but some brands will vary so always ask for advice from the sales assistant if you're not sure.
- Minimal: minimal running shoes come with the least cushioning, giving you a more natural feel when you run. They have a lightweight construction, little to no arch support and a low heel drop (a slim heel) to encourage a more natural running motion, akin to running barefoot.
- Neutral: typically neutral trainers come with moderate support and cushioning, providing some shock absorption and a small amount of medial (arch) support.
- Support: Designed for runners who exhibit signs of over-pronation, support shoes include a firm section where the arch of your foot sits to offer reinforcement and realignment. Support shoes usually also come with extra cushioning. These may well be better for you if you over-pronate, but it's always best to opt for the running shoe which feels most comfortable.
Typically running shops will stock a variety of shoe styles, and two distinct types of shoe. Again, always ask for advice from the sales assistant if you're not sure.
- Road shoes: this type of running shoe is designed for pavements and hard surfaces, with some grip on the sole, and it's the best shoe to wear if you're running a road race and do the majority of your training in urban areas.
- Trail shoes: trail shoes are designed for off-road running, where your feet will connect with rocks, roots, mud, and natural surfaces. The main difference is the sole, as trail shoes come with a more aggressive tread designed to offer stability, support and underfoot protection from uneven surfaces.
It's also worth noting that running shoes often come in funky styles and colours. Try not to let fashion dictate your shopping choice, and opt for the most comfortable pair over what looks the best. While we all want to look snazzy on the run, after a few laps of the park your neon running shoes will soon all start to look the same mud-brown anyway! And going for the wrong pair just because they look cool could lead to blisters or even injury further down the line.
Once you’re settled on a style one of the key things to remember – and that a good shop staff member will advise – is that going up half a shoe size is advisable, because your feet swell when you run and you will need that extra room. It's also worth going by feel instead of the number on the box, as shoe sizing can vary dramatically from brand to brand.
To find the best size, make sure you have a thumb's width of room between your toe and the end of the running shoe. If you don't follow this rule you will leave yourself susceptible to bruised or even lost toenails. If you have especially wide feet, it’s also worth asking if the shoes you like come in a wider fit.
If you’re unsure how one pair feels compared to another, it is also a good idea to put one on each foot to you a good idea as to which is the most comfortable.
Don’t be afraid to walk out without buying anything if you haven't nailed the perfect pair for you. There will be another shop where the right shoes could be waiting. Once you've found your perfect pair, read our guide on breaking in new running shoes
For more advice on choosing running shoes, sports podiatrist Ian B Griffiths offers the following great advice: