Get on the right track
You might be familiar with the pain of purchasing an expensive pair of running shoes only to have them wear out sooner than expected, or that unpleasant feeling of suddenly having no traction on certain surfaces because the grip on your shoes wasn't as good as you thought. It's almost impossible to know how a pair of running shoes will hold up over time and in different environments – which is why we tested them.
How we test
We conducted two key tests across twenty pairs of running shoes from popular manufacturers:
- Sole endurance: to determine the level of sole wear across the average lifespan of a shoe (500–700km), we replicated approximately 75km of use with a running rig.
- Grip: to determine resistance on wet concrete and tiles.
These tests were selected following consultation with CHOICE members via our community forum. Almost all members polled wanted to know:
- Which shoes last the longest, so they could purchase a pair with longevity that matched the price point.
- How shoes performed on different surfaces. Concrete was selected due to its prevalence in footpaths. Tile was also selected as it is commonly used in densely populated areas such as malls, shopping centres and some train stations.
Together, these results can help you find shoes that are safe and long lasting. We also gathered data on:
- Activities suggested by manufacturer (for example, track running, all terrain, general sport)
- Return policies
- Country of origin
In order to test sole endurance and grip, we built rigs to simulate daily use in common environments. Instead of running everywhere, we just sat on our butts while machines did the work.
This rig was built on top of a treadmill. As one shoe hits the surface, it spins the wheel to the next one on test, simulating the tilt of a foot and ankle as the runner propels themselves forward. Each shoe is weighted with the equivalent of 20 kilos.
In order to replicate real life environments, the rubber belt on the treadmill was replaced by an abrasive paper belt. Running speed was set to 10km/hour.
Shoe weight was measured out of the box, and after 75km of use. The difference revealed the extent of the wear, to determine the overall endurance score. Lower scoring shoes showed greater signs of wear than those that performed well.
Each shoe was mounted with weights. The shoes were lowered onto wet concrete and tile surfaces, which we slid out from under each shoe. We recorded the force required and used these results to generate a grip score.
Our experts chose to score wet conditions exclusively, as grip quality is much more important in these difficult, and potentially dangerous, environments (compared to dry). The overall grip score is weighted towards concrete, as this material is widely used in public spaces. Tile is not as common.
How we chose what we test
With a range of products on the market, what makes us choose one pair of shoes over another to test? As with most of our product testing, our aim is to test the most popular models on the market and what you're most likely to see in the retailers.
We survey manufacturers to find out about their range of models, check market sales information and also check for any member requests to test specific models. From this information we put together a final list that goes to our buyers. They then head out to the retailers and purchase each product, just as a normal consumer would. We do this so we can be sure they are the same as any consumer would find them and not 'tweaked' in any way.
Test criteria explained
All models on test were size US11 and used laces.
The overall score is made up of:
- Sole endurance: 70%
- Grip: 30%
Though weight was gathered, it did not contribute to the overall score.
Our test lab and experts
We built testing equipment from scratch for our running shoes assessment, which was designed, calibrated and constructed in-house by our experts. They were put together using mostly recycled materials, including a treadmill put aside from last years test. Not only was this better for the environment, it kept costs well below that of sending shoes to an external laboratory.
Our new methodology was developed with help from the following:
- In-house experts including those that construct our rigs
- Research into running shoe wear, tear and average lifespan
- Community feedback (areas that our members asked us to test).
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