okay. i've been thinking about writing this for a while, so figured i might as well give it a shot.
i think i'll also try to make some guides on injuries, getting swole, racing--hopefully these will help people who are having difficulty with their running. and not just me spouting hot air and useless knowledge.
SemisoftCheese's Guide to Buying Running Shoes:
So. Look at you. You've got money in your pocket and you're going to buy some new running shoes. Well, why should you buy running shoes in the first place?
Conventional sneakers fall into three categories:
Converse (Chuck Taylors): These shoes offer little support in all directions and little traction on the soles. People only buy them because they're in style and comfy.
Tennis/Basketball Shoes: Tennis and basketball emphasize movement in all directions, not just forwards. Tennis and basketball shoes have an "even" sole; in that both the toe-box and the heel are equidistant from the ground at rest. This allows the player to move in any direction from a neutral position with ease.
Running Shoes: Conventional running emphasizes a heel-striking movement, as well as unidirectional (forwards) movement. Thus, running shoes today have a raised heel--at rest, your heel is higher than your toes; because this helps you push off when you run. This is why running shoes are terrible for tennis--you'll twist your ankles because your foot platform isn't level.
Okay, so now you know why you want a pair of running shoes. How much do they cost?
A good pair of running shoes will run you about 50-70 USD (38-54 Euro, 33-46 GBP). Yes, there are quality ones to be had for less, and yes, there are rip-offs at higher prices, but in general, this is the normal pricing range.
Running shoes fall into a few categories:
: These shoes look like this
. During a race, these shoes are meant to protect your feet from the elements and offer traction. No support whatsoever. They're super-light, but you really trade off a ton of benefits. For obvious reasons, these shoes should be not worn for training runs, nor should you purchase them unless you race and your 5k time is below twenty minutes (above that, training will pay off more than gear).
: These shoes look like normal running shoes. A good example is this
. These differentiate from running shoes in that they're marketed as "trainers," meaning that they're a somewhat heavier (more support) and feature less of a bias towards the heel (more level). It's not a disaster to run in these, but if you're buying a pair of running shoes, you might as well buy a pair of actual running shoes. These shoes are meant for daily wear (walking around, school, etc,) as well as all-purpose workout shoes (gym lifting, agility exercises, cardio, etc.) Again, you can tell shoes are cross-trainers by the presence of "trainer" or "cross-trainer" in their name. These are frequently the kind of shoe you pick up at a chain store and think it's a proper running shoe--it's not. Like I said, they're not terrible, but why not just buy a real pair of running shoes.
Standard Running Shoes
: There should be a better title for this... I couldn't really think of it. Anyway, these are the kinds of shoes I'm going to talk about in detail below, because for most of you, you're going to end up buying these. These are purpose-built running shoes, as indicated by the manufacturer and by its target audience. These shoes feature a decent level of support, a mid-level weight, as well as a higher level of heel-to-toe bias than training shoes. A good example is these.
These shoes are just running shoes you could pick up in a running store. They're purposely made for runners. They're not notably light on features such as racing shoes, yet nor are they as heavy or feature oriented as "support shoes" (I'll go into this later). They're standard, decent, purpose built running shoes. I'll go into how to pick these later, but I've got one more category to discuss.
: For people who keep injuring themselves (like me), the answer may lie in your shoe. Delicate bone structure or weaker muscles in certain areas mean that you require more cushioning and support than your average runner. This is fine--you just need to pick a shoe that takes care of this. Your tradeoff (there always is one) is that these shoes tend to be a little heavier (an ounce or two), but for the price of no injuries, it's well worth the tradeoff. A classic example of support shoes are the Asics Gel-Kayano series.
So, as of now, if you aren't constantly getting shin splints and other assorted injuries, and would like a new pair of running shoes, go buy a pair of "standard' running shoes. A pair of running shoes lasts no more than 6 months. After that, the supportive properties bite the dust. You'll know when your shoes feel really soft and rubbery--the rubber and upper lining of your shoe has ceased to support your foot.
If you're injuring yourself with a pair of "standard" running shoes, try buying a pair of support shoes. Keep in mind this may be because of other things like running form, conditioning, etc, but if this is a constant problem, you might as well try a new pair of shoes.
Well, now that we've talked about the shoes so much, how do you buy them?
The best option is to locate your local running store. If they're worth their salt, they'll put you on a treadmill, watch you run for a bit, and pick out the perfect pair of shoes for you in your budget range. Their pricing tends to be fair if not better than a large chain store, and they really have the attention and knowledge that makes all the difference. If not, they'll at least listen to your problems and recommend a pair. Either way, it's better than going at it on your own in Sports Authority.
If you can't locate a running store near you, I would advise doing some research on your own and ordering shoes online, or choosing one of the pairs I've listed below. Sports chain stores rarely stock quality running shoes--most of the stuff they stock is fashion and workout gear. Avoid them.
I'll list my picks/avoids, and then, if you don't like any of them, I'll advise you how to pick your own.
Most if not all are my picks are Asics shoes. All of the picks I've made here I've owned/had experience with, and I've just been an asics runner my entire career.
I put some "avoids" in the "standard" category because those shoes, despite their marketing, aren't meant for you to run in.
"Standard' Running Shoes:
Asics Gel 21xx series
: These shoes are reasonably priced, well-made, running shoes. I've run in the 2140 (now defunct), 2160 (rare, expensive because rare), and 2170 series. They're pretty standard shoes. A little expensive, but they're well made and do the job to perfection. You can find these everywhere online.
: I own these shoes for school and such. They're really comfy. Despite what Nike says, these absolutely suck at running. They offer no support whatsoever and are only good for perfectly even surface running with no turns (a treadmill). Avoid.
Nike Lunar Lites
: These are slightly better than freeruns... but they're still just a bunch of marketing without any foot support. Avoid.
"Support" Running Shoes:
Most of my experience is with support shoes--I'm a really injury-prone guy. My picks here are what I've seriously figured out over the past few years--I've spent alot of time researching and demoing support shoes for my feet. The ones listed below are my top picks--I can provide an extended list if necessary.
Asics Gel-Kayano Series
: These shoes are a staple of the running world. Tons of runners prefer them for their comfort, the fact that asics tends to bundle up the latest technology in each release, and that they offer a ton of support without adding too much weight. I posted a review about the 19's above... but to be honest, asics hasn't done anything really super-innovative since the Gel-Kayano 16's. The 16's can be found for around $80 online as opposed to the $150 19's, which is a pretty good savings.
: These shoes are my personal pick. I'm a serious overpronator (flat-foot, my soles roll on the inside of my foot when I run), and as a result, I get large amounts of shin splints and ankle stress. I've run the 3020's in my entire career (3 pairs so far)--they're made light by plastic instead of rubber, and they're pretty comfortable too. The last time I purchased a pair (August), I grabbed one for around $120. These are still sorta-around--there's a successor, the gel-3030, but it's cheaper and not as well-made. If you can get a pair of 3020's, get them.
A word of advice about support shoes: Support shoes are really like a glove. You have to sort of poke around until you find one that solves your problems. When I first started having foot problems, I switched to a pair of Gel-Kayanos, which alleviated the problem halfway. I thought that was it. Then I bought a pair of 3020's on impulse, and they solved my problem completely. You never really know unless you sort of poke around with your feet. Unless you're made of money (you can buy a ton of shoes,) this is one of the reasons why I suggest you go to a running store.
I've only ever run one race in racing shoes, and I had to sit out for a week afterwards (no running at all). Make sure your feet really can handle the abuse these give you. I did cut a minute and a half off my time, so if you're serious about your race, these might be a good investment.
: These shoes have been around for a while, and with very good reason--they're super light, offer a little more cushioning than "track" flats, and they're very, very, light. One of my buddies used these to win the sectional championship. They don't offer much support, like I said, but they're killer for races. They're about $50.
So above are the shoes I've used/recommended. Quick recap:
1) Run in running shoes, not basketball or cross-trainer shoes
2) A pair of running shoes lasts 6 months--no more. If you choose to run in them longer than that, and your feet don't hurt, then you've got good feet--shoes stop supporting around that point.
3) If you have problems with your feet, get support shoes. If not, get standard shoes.
4) It may not be your shoes--you can have poor form, bone problems--whatever. Shoes are only one of the steps you can take to alleviate the problem.
5) Go to a running store if you can because they can answer all your questions personally. Seriously, every running store I've been in is stocked with nice dudes.
Socks! I forgot to write about these.
Socks: If you get blisters, don't forget about the virtues of good, padded, socks. They make your shoes fit like a glove, which allow them to support your feet better. If you get blisters a ton, just pop down to your local clothing store and buy some nice, well-fitting, brand-name athletic socks. Socks should fit like a glove--buy a pair to try and then buy a bunch of the ones that fit.
You sort of want your socks to cover your ankles so the shoe doesn't irritate the skin, but I've run in low-cut (you can't see the socks) socks without much of a problem. Mid-calves are sort of nice because they lend your ankle a teensy (really small) bit of support, but some people find them terribly irritating, so it's up to you to decide.
If you've got sweaty feet (gross, sorry), and you keep on getting blisters no-matter what you wear, I recommend Thorlo socks. I know they're terribly expensive, but I've had some for two years now and they haven't worn away at all-still as soft and cushy as the first day. You don't have to buy these unless you're constantly getting blisters--a pack of socks by champion or nike or whatever will do just as good a job.
Avoid, saggy, droopy, socks. They aren't good for you.
Hopefully people find this helpful and not full of hot air. As always, I'm around for q's.