Whether you're starting your first couch to 5k or you're a seasoned runner looking to run a marathon or even an ultra, one of the most important things is to have the perfect pair of running shoes. Follow our guide for everything from brand analysis, different types of running shoes, which shoes are best for you, and which shoes to choose according to your running goals. Everything you need to know is here in Sundried's guide to buying running shoes.
In this guide:
- Running shoe brands
- Can running shoes cause knee pain?
- Where to buy running shoes
- When to buy new running shoes
- Trail running shoes
- Running shoes for long distance running
- Trainers and sneakers for sprinting
Running shoe brands
There are endless shoe brands out there so it can be tough to push through the noise and find a brand that is perfect for you. When it comes to running shoes, there are a few big players.
- New Balance
- Hoka ONE ONE
Some of these brands are more well known than others, such as the global giants Nike and Adidas. However, the other brands are important as they specialise in running and therefore the designers really know what to look for and work on when it comes to running specifically.
Asics is a Japanese brand whose first product was a pair of basketball shoes designed and manufactured in 1950. Since then, this brand has become one of the biggest players in the running shoe game and they sponsor such prominent athletes as Gwen Jorgensen and Jan Frodeno. Asics running trainers are tried and tested and you won't go to a single running event without seeing many people wearing Asics running trainers. This is a great brand to trust and they make running shoes for everyone from those who over-pronate to those who under-pronate and everyone in between.
Nike is one of the biggest companies in the world, sponsoring world class celebrity athletes like Tiger Woods, Maria Sharapova, and they even have a range in collaboration with Michael Jordan. It's impossible to go anywhere without seeing people wearing Nike shoes or clothing and they have ranges from casual to performance and cover many sports from golf to tennis to running and CrossFit. Nike work hard on innovative technology and always have new shoes on the market with never-seen-before features such as Fly Knit, Air, and Zoom.
New Balance is an American shoe brand that is now internationally acclaimed after being a popular sportswear brand for over a century. It only became well-known in the UK fairly recently but is making waves, especially with huge sponsorship like that of the London Marathon.
Brooks Running is another American brand that was founded around a century ago. They enjoyed their prime in the mid 1970s but then the brand faltered in the 1980s. By the turn of the millennium, Brooks re-branded and focused solely on running with a special focus on performance technology. They are now one of the best-selling speciality running shoe brands in the world and have enjoyed accolades such as 'Best Running Shoe' by publications including Runner's World and Sports Illustrated.
Adidas is another of the global brands which is world renowned and can be found anywhere. In recent times, Adidas have pushed forward in running shoe innovation by developing Boost technology and their newer ranges of running shoes offer something really quite special. Collaborations with designers like Stella McCartney have launched this brand into the next dimension and they continue to grow year on year. Despite being perhaps best known for their fashion trainers, Adidas is a really big player when it comes to running shoes and they have a vast range with something to suit everyone.
Hoka One One
Hoka One One is a lesser known brand, but is very popular among athletes and serious runners. Serving a more niche market, Hoka's running shoes are specifically designed with a super thick sole and 'rocking' motion for long distance runners. It's said that if you run a marathon wearing Hoka shoes, your legs won't even ache at the end! Co-founders Jean-Luc Diard and Nicolas Mermoud wanted to create a running shoe that was more effective and cushioning when running downhill, and in doing so reinvented the running shoe.
Can running shoes cause knee pain?
The simple answer to this is yes, running shoes can cause knee pain. That's why it's hugely important that you understand your own personal anatomy and physiology before buying new running shoes so that you can buy the right ones for you. Not only this, if your running shoes are old, tired, and worn out, they are more likely to cause an injury.
There are three types of runner: those who over-pronate, those who under-pronate, and those with a neutral stride.
If you overpronate, this means that your feet roll inwards due to a low arch or flat feet. This can have serious implications if you run in the wrong trainers and you can end up with a whole host of running injuries. If you over-pronate, you need to wear stability shoes which have in-built arch support to keep your feet in the right place as you run and to take the strain off your knees to prevent injury.
If you have a neutral stride, you may benefit from barefoot-type running shoes. These shoes are more flexible and light and will allow your feet to take their most natural shape when you run. If you have a neutral stride - lucky you - you will benefit from a very wide range of running shoes and have a much bigger choice when it comes to buying running shoes.
Finally, if you under-pronate, you need to look for very well cushioned running shoes to prevent shock injuries and to absorb the impact on the outside of the foot. If you underpronate, you will land on the outside of your foot when you run and this is the foot's weakest part, so you need your shoes to work with you to prevent injuries.
Where to buy running shoes
The best way to buy running shoes is in person at your local running store. While a large department store or chain may seem like they have more choice, the employees are often paid commission to sell certain brands and you may therefore not receive impartial advice and end up purchasing shoes that are not in your best interest.
If you are thinking of buying running shoes online, it is best to read as many running shoe reviews as possible before you buy. It's important to bear in mind that fit varies from brand to brand and even from model to model so you need to check that they are true to size or discover if they run small or large. Additionally, check to see if the shoes provide adequate cushioning and response from the sole and if they will last the distance or if they will deteriorate after only a few miles.
If you buy your running shoes from a local expert running shop you will often be able to test them out before you buy on an in-store treadmill and therefore decide if they fit well. You will also be able to determine if they work for you personally and if they are right for your goals. Not only this, the expert at the shop will be able to give you impartial advice. Therefore, this is the best place to buy new running shoes.
When to buy new running shoes
There are a few things to look out for if you think you may need to buy new running shoes. Worn out shoes can cause a lot of issues, so make sure you stay aware of how many miles you've run in your trainers and are ready to buy new ones with time to wear them in before getting rid of your old ones.
A good quality pair of running shoes should last you between 300 to 500 miles of wear. For someone who is running an average of 80 miles a month, this means replacing your running shoes every four to six months. However, factors such as your running style and your weight can affect how quickly your shoes wear out. Heavier runners put more pressure on their shoes and need more cushioning, so may need to replace shoes more often.
It's always worth investing in a new pair of shoes if you feel like your running trainers are getting worn out so that you avoid developing injuries and niggles. You can check the soles of the shoes to see if there is any noticeable wear, and if your running style starts to feel different or you start developing pains you've never had before, it could be time to get a new pair or runners.
If your running shoes look like this, it's definitely time to retire them!
Trail running shoes
If most of your runs are done on mud, grass, or trails, it is worth investing in proper trail running shoes instead of ruining your attractive fashion trainers. There are lots of differences between trail running shoes and regular running trainers, such as a thicker sole and more protection against stepping on stones and rocks, as well as better grip for running on slippery mud.
Many running shoe brands manufacture trail running shoes, but it may be worth looking for a brand that specialises in this type of shoe. Topo Athletic is one brand that sell good quality trail running shoes. Topo's secret is that the toe box on the shoe is wide so that your toes don't get crushed and your feet have more room to move and breathe when navigating tough trails and paths.
Running shoes for long distance running
If you're training for a marathon or ultra marathon, you need running shoes that can go the distance. This means sneakers that have lots of cushioning and support. Pounding the pavement for hundreds of miles can put a lot of strain on your muscles and your nervous system, so it's important your trainers are supporting you.
When it comes to long distance running, you probably don't want to go for a minimalist running shoe. Instead, opt for one with a thicker sole and lots of cushioning, especially if you are a heavier runner.
As mentioned above, some brands design their running shoes specifically for long distance running, like Hoka ONE ONE, so it is worth exploring these brands if you are looking to run long distances injury-free.
Trainers and sneakers for sprinting
For sprinting, you'll want more lightweight running shoes so that you can achieve explosive power and speed and not be weighed down by your sneakers. There are many options when it comes to lightweight sprint shoes, such as the Nike Free Run series or the Asics Gel-Hyper Speed shoes. The best shoes for speed will be designed for precisely that and as such won't have as much cushioning as other running shoes. Due to this, you need to make sure you're not running long distances in racing flats because you may damage your feet and joints.
Sprinting would include distances up to around 5km. For any running distances farther than this, you should look into buying different running shoes.