I haven’t been able to spend the time to post lately, as I am in Murfreesboro, TN to do some media coverage for the State Track meet, but I have been writing this in-between trips to the track.
Recently I have been asked the same question over and over from people, runners or not.
“How can you tell if a shoe will be able to last?”
Well the answer to that question is both simple and complicated. Most people can tell if a shoe will be of a superior quality based on the materials that it is made out of as well as the price.
You get what you pay for right? But at what point does price actually converge with quality? What does that extra 40,50, or 60 dollars get me when I by a pair of running shoes that not only protect my feet from injury, but will offer the support and versatility that will help to increase the likelihood that you will make it to the goals that you have set for yourself.
Well there are 4 things that you can do that will help you when it comes time to purchase a new pair of trainers that will help you get better at picking a shoe that will be comfortable right out of the box, as well as 300 miles down the road.
1. Have a decent understanding of how a running or other performance shoe is made.
Now this doesn’t mean to go out and do hours of research trying to find the blueprints for your favorite running shoe brands (good luck ever finding that), but it does help to have a general knowledge of what goes into making quality shoes. First, across the board all shoe companies have a multi-layered approach. Starting with the sole of the shoe and moving upward, you can have up to 8 layers of various materials before you get to the foot-bed. Take a look at this video to illustrate my point. This is a How it’s Made video for a marathon racing flat, and it shows the steps required to make just a simple lightweight racing shoe.
2.Buy performance shoes at dedicated running stores.
This is a big one. Many people buy their shoes at Finish Line’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, or other similar large chain sport stores, find a shoe that is comfortable and cheap, and start running. While this is fine for most other products, if you buy a poor quality running shoe and are consistently running, no matter how few miles, you will injure yourself 90 percent of the time. At a specialty running store, every employee there is typically a fairly dedicated runner, who not only knows what they are talking about when it comes to training and shoes, but they are also trained to look at your gait to determine what shoes would most likely be the best fit for your particular foot type. Not only does this help you find a shoe that fits and is comfortable, but also one that will last you for months of hard training, and keep you as far away from injury as possible.
3. Know your brand.
If a company does its marketing right, you will easily be drawn to their product sometimes not for the quality, but solely based on the image and name. While it is hard to admit that you buy something for the logo, advertising plays a huge role in our purchasing. Take for example Nike. Their excessive use of professional athletes and media propaganda about greatness and glory is very appealing to the young athletes who are looking to make a name for themselves, and the flashy gear brings some audacious style to the running gear. That being said, in the past Nike has had somewhat of a reputation of having fairly lackluster shoes when it comes to comfort and durability. This has changed as time has gone by, but to justify purchases from a company that cannot backup its image with its product is hard to do. On the other hand, if you look closely at a company like Brook’s, who’s advertising slogan is Run Happy, you’ll find a company that is dedicated to running shoes and apparel only. They have some professional sponsorships, but they don’t spend millions of dollars flaunting them. They are what they say they are, a pure and simple shoe company that has had consistent growth since their inception. Even recently Warren Buffet advocated them in his annual report for Berkshire Hathaway They make quality shoes, and namely the Brooks Adrenaline has been one of the number one sellers for them year in and year out. What it comes down to is the ability to distinguish between companies that are just raking in the dough for the sake of it, and companies that put their profits into making better products for the consumer.
4. Test it
Once you pick a running shoe that you like, test it. Ask if you can put it on and run in it for a little bit. Feel for hot spots on your feet, make sure the heel doesn’t slip, make sure the arch fits your foot properly, make sure the cushioning is comfortable but not overbearing, make sure the shoe is snug, but not so tight that the normal swelling of your foot during a run makes it too tight, and most of all, do not buy any shoe unless you are completely satisfied with it. Don’t worry, there is a shoe that will work for you, sometimes it just takes a while to find it. Patience. Also, if it looks like it was cheaply made, chances are, it was.
So all in all, most of the time, the increase in price is worth the effort that is put into a shoe. Would you rather buy a cheap shoe, run, injure yourself and have to buy shoes constantly because they wear out so quickly, or would you rather invest in a solid pair of trainers that will keep you happy for hundreds of miles? Now this is not true for all runners, I know many people who wear cheap shoes and can sometimes get many miles out of them, but those types of runners are few and far between. Gel cushioning, arch support, durability, improved tread, and stability are just a few of the standard features of many popular running shoe brands, and are sure features that are worth the extra dollars.