My mother and I were talking about how for some people, just getting the right equipment is the first step to exercising. Most people think they need DVDs, a treadmill, weights or other equipment to get started. My advice: start with shoes. When you have a great pair of shoes that you love, exercising is right outside your door. You don’t need a gym membership or fancy new workout equipment to start a new fitness routine. Just strap on some shoes and head outside!
So here’s my advice when looking for a pair of exercise shoes and where to start. I’m also going to review the four pairs of shoes that I’ve gone through in the last year and a half. Knowing where to start is half the battle!
Tip #1: Don’t go to a ‘big box’ sports store.
Stores like Sports Authority and Dick’s Sporting Goods are great for a lot of things and I often shop there for workout clothes and equipment. However, they are severely lacking in brands of shoes and knowledge about their inventory. I HIGHLY recommend going to a specialized running store. Even if you are planning on using your shoes for all types of exercise, these people know their stuff. I have bought every pair of my shoes at The Boulder Running Company here in Colorado. Look for a specialized fitness or running store to purchase your shoes. If you’re thinking of purchasing shoes at Target or Walmart, STOP RIGHT NOW. Shoes at these stores are made for walking, not fitness. They will only last a few months and you’ll find they are not supporting your feet like they should. Trust me. Also, stores like Foot Locker and Champs only carry the cheaper, low end models of the popular brands. Go to a specialty store to see everything each brand has.
Tip #2: Find out how you run
Even if you are not planning on spending most of your fitness hours running, you’ll want the correct support for whatever sort of exercise you do. At The Boulder Running Company they have a Runner’s Lab. Inside the Runner’s Lab, there is a treadmill with several cameras at different angles. They are able to measure the type of ankle support you need, how your knees align and the impact point of your running. With this cool technology, they can fit you in the perfect shoe to avoid injury. Other stores might just have a treadmill and an ipad to film you on. This is way better than just guessing! If you walk in a store to buy shoes, check for a treadmill. If they don’t have one, go somewhere else. You’ll want to try running and exercising in your shoes.
Tip #3: You don’t have to know anything
The categories of shoes can be a little overwhelming. Just within running shoes there is: cross trainers, barefoot running, full support, gel cushion, free run….etc. You do not have to understand the technology behind your shoes. Also, you can run in shoes that aren’t for running. Shocking, but it’s true! 🙂 It’s all about finding the right pair of shoes for you. If you are at the right store, you’ll be able to tell the employee what you like and don’t like about each shoe and they will narrow it down for you.
Tip #4: Try on lots of pairs
When I am trying to decide on a pair of shoes I walk in them, run, do burpees, push ups, jumping jacks, plank and high knees. Do any kind of exercise you think you might do while trying on your shoes. Often times I forget to do a plank or push up and then I find out my shoes slip. Your feet should not feel any pain while you are running. If something is pinching, your toes to numb or even the heel rubbing means those aren’t the right shoes. Even when you think you have found the right pair, try on another just to make sure. Don’t forget to inquire about their return policy. Most stores will take back shoes as long as you don’t wear them outside.
Tip #5: Buy more than one
Different shoes do different things. After you find and love your first pair, you’ll be itching to get another. I recommend buying a pair every 6 months or so, so that you always have a newer and older pair. I have three pairs that I keep in rotation depending on the workout I’m planning on doing. The more you workout, the more shoes you need and the more often you’ll need to buy them.
If you are still feeling overwhelmed, here’s a handy Shoe Adviser by Runner’s World. If you can’t find a specialty store with knowledgeable staff, maybe give that at try. Here’s my reviews on the shoes I’ve purchased over the last year and a half. The were all bought at The Boulder Running Company.
New Balance 860 V3
Stars: 3 of 5
Current Mileage: 25-50 miles
Overall: Too chunky
This was the very first pair of running shoes I’d ever bought. When I bought them, I was planning on running the streets and not cross training. I didn’t really know what I wanted out of my shoes yet. These shoes have great ankle support and running in them was easy. However, when I started to branch out in my fitness, these shoes were no longer adequate. They allow for very little lateral movement. I would not purchase these shoes again. Even though the have plenty of miles left in them, I haven’t touched them in 9 months. I keep them for an emergency pair.
Nike Free 3.0
Price: $40 (clearance)
Stars: 4 of 5
Current Mileage: 25-50 miles
This is the second pair of shoes I bought when BRC opened a new store and had a clearance weekend. I bought them because they are pink and are much more flexible than my first pair. Also, the whole shoe is one piece which feels a lot less bulky. The do not have a ton of ankle support, but my ankles are pretty straight and strong. If you need strong ankle support, this is not the shoe for you. This is an overall good shoe. It’s very comfortable and light weight. It’s also great for cross training as it allows for all directional movement. I usually wear these for boxing. One thing I don’t like: the sole. The sole of this shoe is multi-directional so that it feels like you’re barefoot. This feature makes it difficult to balance on a pod or Bosu ball. They are great for quick runs but not super long distances. Other than that, I love these shoes.
Nike Flyknit Lunar 2
Stars: 5 of 5
Current Mileage: 100+ miles
This was the first pair of shoes I ever loved! I’ll be sad when they don’t have any miles left in them. Here’s why I love this shoe: I totally forget about them. I never think about this shoe when I’m wearing it. It’s has the perfect breath-ability, my preferred sole, medium ankle support and is super light weight. I will be purchasing the latest model when I start marathon training. It was also just highly rated by Runner’s World in their most recent issue. They also have great durability. I have worn these almost everyday for 6 months before I thought about getting another pair. Even with 100+ miles in them, I still think these shoes have quite a bit of life left in them.
Brooks Ghost 6
Price: $60 (Clearance)
Stars: 4 of 5
Current Mileage: 20 miles
I purchased these shoes two months ago. I knew my fave shoes were getting worn and I wanted to start breaking in a new pair for marathon training season. Although I like these better than the New Balance brand above, they still feel pretty chunky. However, their movement is a lot better. The sole is VERY grippy which I sometimes love and sometimes hate. I’m concerned about their durability over time since a few of the nubbs on the sole have already worn off. Although I don’t forget about them like I do my Flyknits, they are comfortable to run in.