Buying the perfect pair of running shoes can be a daunting prospect, but getting your footwear just right is essential for your marathon training. The wrong pair of shoes can lead to injury and set you back in your preparation before you’ve really started.
To help you to avoid making an expensive mistake, we’ve teamed up with the experts at New Balance, official clothing and footwear partner of the Virgin Money London Marathon, to put together these 10 top shoe-buying tips.
1. Where to begin
With so many options on the market and a wealth of resources available at your fingertips, it can be difficult to know where to start. Rebekah Broe, Performance Running Footwear Product Manager at New Balance, advises making sure you get the right running shoe for your specific needs.
“We all love our running friends, internet forums, and YouTube reviews, but the shoe that works for your best friend who just qualified for the Virgin Money London Marathon might not work for you,” she says.
“Our bodies, our gaits and our feet are all different so finding the right high-quality running shoes that are made for our unique characteristics can make all the difference for happy and healthy training.”
2. The perfect fit
Getting the size of your running shoe right is important and having a fitting with an expert is the best way to ensure the miles ahead are relatively smooth sailing. There are also a few basic rules you can follow.
“A general rule of thumb actually involves measuring with your thumb,” says Broe. “When standing, there should be about a thumb width between the end of your longest toe and the front of the shoe. This will help ensure there’s room for your toes to splay and feet to swell when running higher mileages.”
Buying the right size runners is not as simple as matching them up to your casual shoes, and remember, a size nine in one model may not fit in the same way as another brand.
“It’s not uncommon for people to go up half a size to a whole size in their running shoes to accommodate foot movement and swelling during activity,” says Broe.
3. Timing is everything
This might seem like a strange suggestion, but getting fitted for your running shoes in the late afternoon will help you make sure you buy the right size.
Throughout the day, due to increased activity, your feet will expand just as they do during long distance running, so planning your shopping trip for after 16:00 will put you on the right path to perfect sizing.
4. Gait expectations
You’ve nailed the size of your shoe, but the way you run is also a factor in determining which option you should go for.
The best way for experts to assess your running style is via gait analysis, which will usually involve you running on a treadmill. The New Balance store on Oxford Street in London, for example, provides gait measurement through their Stride ID app. They’ll start by filming you doing a few strides and take a laser scan of your feet.
A 3D image is generated on an iPad from the scan, including measurements of your foot width, length and arch height. Sales staff can then offer you advice and recommendations on the right shoe for you.
5. Price point
The style and fit are in the bag, but how much should you be looking to spend on your new shoes? There’s an affordable option to suit most budgets, but when it comes to running shoes, you get what you pay for.
You’re going to be putting in some hard miles in your new pair of shoes and you want them to last, so don’t be afraid to invest in your feet – it might save you some money in the long run.
Broe recommends that a single pair of quality high-mileage trainers will cost RRP £130-140, but New Balance also have a number of designs in their Fresh Foam range available from £80.
6. Monitor your mileage
After you’ve worn in your shoes it can be tricky to know when it’s time to replace them, so try to track the number of miles you’re clocking up during your training. Broe suggests a typical pair of running shoes will last 300-500 miles before they start to become less cushioned and supportive.
"We need variety in our footwear through training the same way we need a range of foods in our daily diet"
-Rebekah Broe, New Balance
“To maximise your shoe’s life, try to rotate between pairs and keep them only for running – so no dog-walking or grocery shopping allowed,” she adds.
If you are thinking of replacing your running shoes during training, remember to give yourself plenty of time to get comfortable in your new pair before your race.
7. Rotation, rotation, rotation
If your budget will allow, consider buying multiple pairs of shoes. Different shoes are designed for different purposes, so switching between models can help you get the most out of the various types of training sessions in your marathon plan.
“Having a shoe that is designed for quicker workouts, like the FuelCell Rebel, can make your speed days more enjoyable,” says Broe.
“A highly cushioned model like the Fresh Foam 1080 can help your body add more mileage to that weekend long run without feeling the pounding of the pavement, while a racing flat like the 1500 can help psychologically get you ready to run your fastest with its light, responsive feel.”
8. The spice of life
While there are a number of versatile models that will help you get to the Start Line of your next marathon with happy feet, the desire to switch it up between training sessions is an emerging trend.
“We need variety in footwear through training the same way we need a range of foods in our daily diet,” says Broe.
“By mixing up our footwear for specific training use, we’re allowing our bodies to truly experience the training process without falling victim to the day-to-day monotony marathon training can sometimes provide.”
9. Ask around
There’s no substitute for getting some first-hand expert advice in-store, but if you want to narrow your search or equip yourself with some knowledge before taking the plunge, there’s no shortage of resources on the Internet to help you with your research.
There are plenty of running forums online where you can read reviews of shoes you might be interested in buying, while all the leading trainer brands have websites with detailed shoe specifications.
10. Hit the high street
Now that you’re armed with this 10-step guide, hopefully you’ll be feeling less overwhelmed by the thought of stepping foot in a specialist running shop and more confident that you’ll make the right choice.
With a little help from the experts, you’ll be racking up the miles in training in the perfect running shoes, injury-free and ready to toe the Start Line of your next race