Price Isn’t Everything When It Comes to Running Shoes

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So here’s the thing about buying running shoes: the best shoe for you is going to be as unique to you as your own foot is. Because every foot is different, and every gait is different, and every running style is different, you can’t easily determine which shoe is the “best.”
You can go out and spend $200 on a fancy pair of shoes that your friend couldn’t stop raving about, only to wind up with blisters and heel pain after you’ve worn them for two days. At the same time, the $40 pair may feel like clouds on your feet, even if they have a reputation for being a cheap shoe. They may fall apart quickly, but at that price, it really is okay to just go out and buy a new pair when they wear out.

More Expensive Doesn’t Mean “Best”

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There just isn’t any way to say for sure that a more expensive shoe is a better shoe. Granted, there are higher quality materials, and there are better stitches, and lighter rubbers that can all help to make a shoe better or worse than another.

But before you decide what each shoe is worth you really need to consider that better and worse are very subjective distinctions, that answer to so many variables that there is just no way to cover all of them in an article like this one. We’ll try our best to help you see why there are more things to consider when purchasing a running shoe than just how much it costs.

Quality vs. Quantity

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The first instinct is to want to buy a well-made shoe that will last longer than a cheaper competitor, but this isn’t always the case. If you’re clocking more than 10 miles in your shoes several times a week, you may wind up stretching the shoe to the point that the fit is no longer good for you anyway. Just because it hasn’t fallen apart yet doesn’t mean it’s still a good shoe.

Sure the seams may stay together well, but if you’ve worn out the sole, impacted the cushioning, or expanded the toe box due to heavy use, it may be time for a new shoe anyway. If you change shoes frequently, or if your running style is rough on your shoes, you may find it better to buy a new pair every two-months anyway, so spending a lot of money doesn’t make sense.

At the same time, buying the cheapest shoe available so that they are easy to replace also doesn’t make any sense. You definitely want to buy a shoe that will protect your feet, and respond to the road or trail that you’re running on. Finding a very inexpensive shoe that offers little to no support or protection for your foot can be very damaging in the long run, especially if you have specific problems that need to be addressed.

Your Foot is Unique

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Finding the perfect shoe for your foot is a matter of comfort and gait, and is not easily found by shopping online. Of course you may know certain things, like the fact that you have a narrow foot, or that you need good arch support, but online reviews are not the best way of determining the pros and cons of a shoe. They are great for providing you information, but if you read the reviews, you’ll realize that you get a huge variety of opinions from different people about the same shoe. While one individual thought the shoe was too soft, another felt it was too firm.

Again, the subjectivity of how things feel on your feet makes all the difference in the world when you’re pounding the pavement day after day. When it comes to price, you simply can’t place a monetary value on a shoe without having run a few miles in it yourself. Unfortunately, this isn’t how the world operates. A manufacturer or store will place a value on a shoe, and it’s up to you to determine whether or not it’s worth it, but only after you’ve purchased the shoe.

Online Isn’t Always Best

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While online retailers may offer the best up-front prices, there are several things that you won’t get from them. You won’t get the expertise, the knowledge, and the professionalism that comes with going into a running store and working with someone that runs, and is aware of all of the issues that come from poorly fitting shoes.

Spending $150 on a pair of shoes is a lot easier if you know that you can bring them back in a few weeks and try something else if they aren’t working for you. However, you may buy the same shoe at a discounted price of say, $110 online, only to discover that it pinches your toes, and that you have a strange pain in your left knee after a run. Then you wind up shelling out $120 more for a different pair of shoes, and then another. Before long, you’ll find you’ve spent $500-$600 online trying to find the perfect shoe, when all the while you could have been working with your local running store to try and find one that is right for you.

Running Stores Offer More Than Just Shoes

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Most reputable running shoe stores offer a fantastic return policy; where else can you return on an item that has been heavily used for a few weeks and is potentially covered in mud? People that own running stores are much more highly aware of the issues that can be caused by the wrong pair of shoes, and therefore offer such fantastic return policies so that you can find something that works better for you. Sure you may pay a higher premium for the shoes in the first place, but that’s how they are able to process these types of returns.

Additionally, supporting your local running store has the added benefit of helping your local running community. They are often on the frontline of organizing charity runs, helping to lobby the local government for running trails, and to protect the rights of pedestrians and joggers on the roads. All of this activity that benefits you as a runner is just part of what you get for paying the higher premium at the local running store.

Price Really Isn’t Everything

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In fact, if you’re lucky, price has nothing to do with your decision to purchase good quality running shoes for your feet.  An expensive shoe can be quite damaging to your body if it isn’t the right shoe for you, and an inexpensive shoe can be wonderful. Whether you want the best, or you’re really hoping to find something affordable, you should be able to find a shoe that meets your needs.

Sheryl Washburn

Sheryl Washburn