Running A-to-Z S is for Shoes: How to Buy Running Shoes

Welcome to another edition of Running A-to-Z. Every week I share a running-related post following the order of the alphabet. This week we are on letter S: S is for Shoes. How to buy running shoes. If you missed any past posts you can catch up on letters A-through-R in the archives.

How to Buy Running Shoes

How to Buy Running Shoes

One of the great things about running is that it is a sport where you don't need a lot of equipment, gear, or even formal training to get started. Most people can just hit the pavement and begin their journey into running. The one thing that every runner needs to know before getting started is how to buy the proper running shoes. A good running shoe is the only big investment into the sport and you want to make sure you get it right. 

You walk into the shoe store and the giant wall of shoes overwhelms your senses. The colors, the claims, the technology, the price tags and the marketing are all fighting for your attention. Your head spins with confusion. How do I know which ones to buy?

I recommend buying your shoes from a running speciality store. I am a big proponent of supporting small businesses and when you shop local you get individualized help from a knowledgeable store associate. They can help guide you to choose the correct shoe for your running mechanics. Once you get a feel for what type of shoe works best for you then it is safe to buy your shoes at a big box retailer or online, but it's usually best to start with a store that can provide you with some guidance and where you can test them before you buy them.

Here are some factors to consider when buying running shoes.



If you run with a neutral pronation the foot makes contact on the outside of the heel first, then the foot rolls towards the inside until the entire foot is on the ground before pushing off from the ball of your foot. I wear a neutral shoe. I determined this by going to a running store for a gait analysis. They filmed me running on a treadmill and watched how my foot hit the treadmill in slow motion. 


If you overpronate, then your foot rolls to the inside more than ideal and you end up pushing off from your big toe instead of the ball of your foot. Overpronation can be the cause of running injuries if not controlled. If you have mild to moderate overpronation then stability shoes can help control pronation.


Motion control shoes are best for runners with flat feet and severe overpronation. As the name suggests, motion control shoes help control the motion of your foot. 


You should buy your running shoes 1/2 size to 1 full size larger than your casual or dress shoes. Your feet swell when you run and you need the additional room to keep your toes hitting the front of the shoe. Your toenails will thank you!


Try on many different shoes to choose a brand but be aware shoes sizes can fit considerably different between brands. You may find you wear an 8 in Mizunos but a 8 1/2 in New Balance. A lot of runners find a brand they love and stay loyal throughout their running journey, but many change them up every 300-500 miles. Try on many different brands, test them out on the in-store treadmill and make a final decision based on what feels most comfortable. After all, you will be logging many miles in these shoes. 


The look of the shoe should be the last consideration when choosing running shoes. Don't get caught up in the pretty colors. Find the right shoe for your gait and this will help narrow down your choices considerably. Choose your brand and your size, then finally choose the colors as the last consideration.

What do you think? Any questions? Let me know in the comments or submit your question to Ask The Trainer to be answered in a future blog post. 

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Coach Lea

I am a NASM personal trainer and RRCA adult distance running coach that specializes in strength training for runners. I offer in-person training in the Shredshed, online training and Fit to Run bootcamps. If you are interested in a more in-depth running or strength training plan, please contact me. Have questions? I'd love to help. 

While I am a certified personal trainer, I am not your personal trainer. Since I don't know your exercise abilities, injury background or medical history, please see your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.