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How to buy the right running shoes

Nike Shoes

The great thing about running is how little kit you need. The one essential piece of kit you do need is your shoes. They’re the one item that is not worth scrimping on. Your feet are obviously integral to running and you should look after them.

Everyone runs differently and the way that their foot lands or “strikes” the ground is different. Having a good idea of how your foot strikes the ground can help you buy the correct shoe for you.

As a quick starter to get an idea of which one you might be, try the wet test. If you have bathroom or kitchen floor with dark coloured tiles, wet the bottom of your foot by stepping in a washing up bowl or the bath and then step on a dry area of the floor. You can also use a brown paper bag to get the same effect.


When your foot strikes the ground, your foot rolls inwards. The wear on your shoes will be on the inside of the sole. The wet test shows the majority of the sole of your foot showing you have low arches or are flat footed. Overpronators need a structured cushioning shoe.


(Also called underpronation). When your foot strikes the ground, your foot rolls outwards. The wear on your shoes will be on the outside of the sole. The wet test shows the outside edge of the sole of your foot showing you have high arches. Supinators need a neutral shoe with plenty of cushioning. Sometimes called a cushioned shoe.


Neither one nor the other. Your foot tends to strike through the middle of your foot. There is no particular wear on the outside or inside of the shoe. The wet test shows a well-balanced print with a normal foot arch. Neutral runners can wear a range of shoes, but neutral running shoes are the best bet.

Foot in sand - shoes

Any good running shop will help you figure out which shoes you need.

Many runners have found their perfect shoe and can just buy the same ones over and over again. My shoe used to be Nike Moto, and then Nike in their wisdom discontinued them. I’m now back to Nike Pegasus, (Nike’s stalwart cushioned shoe) that I use for road running. I know the size I need and can just go online and order new ones whenever I need.

Where to go?

If are looking for your first shoe or a change of shoes it is recommended to go to a specialist running shop. They can provide advice and can also do gait analysis to video how you run. I was a little suspicious of this, as I am with anything where people are trying to sell me something. But last time I did it, it was very interesting. I have a little ankle roll after my heel strike that I had no idea about until I was shown in slow motion. Another tip is, take your old shoes with you. They should give the salesperson a good idea about how you run.

Take your Socks and your time

Take your running socks with you when you go buy new shoes. If not the shop will be able to provide some (and you will end up buying a pair when you leave). Explain what you want and try lots on including different brands. Don’t go on colour. Yes, you what them to look nice, but when you are actually running, you’re not paying attention to the colour of your midsole.

Take your time. Don’t be rushed. Make sure you‘re happy with them. Have a run around the shop, up the street or on the treadmill. Plenty of times I have bought running shoes that are not quite right and I have ended up returning them or never really wearing them. Any slight irritation in shop will only get worse once you start using them in anger.

Go shopping in the afternoon

Your feet swell when you run. Shopping for shoes in the afternoon is advised as your feet will have swollen through the course of the day. Make sure there is enough room in them. Especially between the end of your toes and the end of the shoe. Do not buy tight fitting shoes in the hope that they will stretch or wear-in over time. I have also done this plenty of times, and not just with running shoes. You will just end up not wearing them and wasting your money.

Check you can return them

If you do buy and there is an issue, a good running shop normally allows you to return used shoes I’m sure there are terms and conditions to this, so please check.

Old Nike Air Free

Custom insoles

Some shops may try and sell you custom moulded insoles. If you are having issues finding the right pair of shoes, these insoles may help but most of the time they are not required. Just be warned. If you don’t want them, just be clear you’re not interested.

Buy last year’s model

If money is an issue or dropping £100 on a pair of shoes feels a bit obscene, or you just like a deal. Find a shoe you like and buy last year’s version. They are normally on offer at reduced prices. It might not be perfect, but there are normally minimal changes between editions.

Dash for the Splash 5

Don’t save them for best

Once you do have your new shoes, don’t save them for that special race. Make sure you use them in your training and that you’re happy with them.

Buy another pair

If you really like them, and they’re the shoe for you. Buy another pair. You don’t need to go through all the rigmarole again next time you need to replace them. You can also rotate them to spread their usage.

Running shoes can be expensive, but it’s well worth investing in the correct pair for you. You’ll be a much happier runner if you avoid blisters, black toenails and injury.

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