Running shoes buying guide

How to pick the best pair of running shoes for your foot type
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  • Updated:10 Mar 2008

03.What are you paying for?

Functions of a shoe

Running shoes are designed to perform two main functions:

  • Cushion the foot
    This function is provided through the midsole of the shoes. Contrary to popular belief, running shoes don’t reduce the force that goes through the body. What they do is increase the time taken for that force to be applied to the body.
    This is important because the longer it takes for the forces to be applied to the body, the more time the body has to adapt to those forces.
  • Support the foot
    The shoes do this by reducing the amount of ‘rolling in’ or rotational movements that occur in the foot during the contact phase of running and walking. One of the most common ways to achieve this is by altering the densities in the shoe.

This is done by adding a medial post (a section inside the middle or arch section of the shoe) to provide more density on the inside, which reduces the amount the foot collapses inwards.

Another way to provide stability is by altering the 'last' or the inside shape of the shoes. A straighter shoe provides extra stability for a flatter foot, while a curved last is more suitable for a higher-arched foot.

What are you paying for?

While there are notable differences between a low-end (under $80) and a mid-range ($150–$200) shoe in the way they perform and age, differences should be slight past the mid-range point.

According to sports podiatrist Caleb Wegener, durability is the most obvious difference as you move towards higher price brackets. An increase in price in most shoes is due to a greater amount of more expensive cushioning material in the midsole of the shoe.

These additional midsole components won’t improve the immediate function of the shoe, but they do improve the durability of the cushioning properties.

For example, shoes under $100 may only have basic EVA midsoles (EVA is foam cells containing air or gas), which tend to wear out fairly rapidly after purchase, while most shoes over $100 will have proprietary cushioning technology (such as Nike Air, Asics Gel or New Balance Abzorb).

Regardless of the technology, in the mid-price range ($150-$200) you can expect good durability with top-range cushioning, performance and overall quality.

A high-end shoe ($200 plus) will keep that ‘new shoe’ feel for longer, whereas some cheaper shoes (under $150) may only feel ‘new’ for a week or two. Other differences include bonus features like UV-protected, seamless uppers and fancy looks.

The bottom line is that paying top whack doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get the right pair of shoes for you.


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