Running shoes don’t need to be confusing. How I buy cheap running shoes.
Talk to a runner and you’ll eventually end up talking shoes. And probably pooping. If you ask 10 runners what their favorite running shoe is you’ll get 10 different answers. Awesome. Choosing a running shoe can be overwhelming and the questions endless. Do I buy a minimalist or maximalist shoe? Do I need a trainer or a performance shoe? Are expensive shoes any better than cheap shoes? I know, I’ve been there and tried them all. I have closets full of shoes of all types, colors and brands. So with all my experience I can provide you solid advice on how to buy cheap running shoes.
Common steps taken by runners when it comes to buying shoes:
- Use that old busted pair that’s been in the closet forever
- Get hurt
- Get “fit” for a running shoe and spend $130 for a new pair
- Read Born to Run
- Go out and buy minimalist shoes
- Get hurt
- Throw out the barefoot shoes and buy maximalist shoes
- Get hurt
Sound familiar at all?
You see – I have a theory when it comes to running shoes and that is: nobody really knows what the heck you need. A couple of years ago minimalist/zero drop/barefoot mumbo jumbo was all the craze. Let’s be like the Tarahumara and run barefoot! They’re the best runners in the world powered by Chia and sandals made from old tires. Screw the man, lets’ run barefoot!
But here’s the thing – you’re not a Tarahumara and probably haven’t been running your whole life. You were born to commute and cubicle; or at least that’s how you’ve spent the majority of your adult life. Barefoot style running can be dangerous and the results are at best inconclusive. If you’ve been sitting at a desk playing in excel the past 5 years you’re probably gonna get hurt doing it.
It was a fad. And they smell horrible.
I know you’ll read stories of people who had injuries that went away after running barefoot. Then you’ll read about all the people who got stress fractures from running barefoot. Who should you believe? Well, even courts decided that it was bogus when they slapped Vibram with a $3.75 million dollar fee for making false claims about the health benefits of their Five Fingers shoes. Whomp whomp.
The rise of the marshmallow shoes
So what do we do when we make a mistake? We make the exact opposite decision the next time obviously! Enter maximalist shoes.
Minimalist shoes were characterized by being as simple as possible. The intention is to be as close to running barefoot while having some tiny amount of protection from all the garbage on the streets. Maxamalist shoes, on the other hand, look like someone opened a bag of marshmallows and glued them all to the bottom of their shoes. How can I get a stress fracture if I run on pillows!
Again, results inconclusive. And watch out for them calves – I pulled mine twice with these things.
So what now?
If even the multi-billion dollar running shoe industry cannot figure out if you need shoes with silly bumps on the bottom, shoes that look like toes or shoes that bubble wrap your toes then how are you supposed to figure that out?
Hmm, maybe runners world magazine. They “review” shoes right?
Sure, as soon as you show me the last negative review they ever published I’ll believe you. Zero chance you’re getting a recommendation under $100 there. The worst thing they’ll write about a shoe is that its “toe box is a little snug,” which they will then promptly recommend for people with no toes (side note, DO NOT google feet with no toes). I wanted to show a picture here, but then I also wanted you to continue reading.
Let’s create a new running shoe fad together, we’ll call it normalist shoes.
What defines a normalist shoe?
- Gimmick free (no “toes”, ultra cushioning, ledges on the bottom)
- It’s probably in year 20 of that model (Brooks Ghost, Mizuno Wave Rider, Saucony Guide) – let’s stick with what has worked.
- On sale – preferably last year’s model. They’re always cheaper.
- Made by a reputable brand (I love Brooks, they only make running shoes)
Well this is fad about as sexy as a station wagon, it will surely catch on massively. Let’s mark this day and consider this article the tipping point.
Should I go to a running store to buy shoes?
Yes, sort of. Go to a running store and have someone watch you run on a treadmill. They’ll offer you a “type” of shoe which they’ll be happy to charge you $130 for. DO NOT DO THIS. Thank them for their time, make a note of the shoe and walk the heck out. Leave your wallet in the car before you go in if you have to!
Here are categories of shoes you’ll get to choose from:
- Neutral: you run normally (impossible!) or supinate (roll to the outside of your foot, not as common)
- Stability: for typical pronation (rolling your foot inward, very common)
- Motion Control: you do a whole lotta pronation and/or are possibly a bigger fella
What’s the difference between a trainer and a performance shoe?
It’s pretty self-explanatory but save the performance shoes for race day. They’re lighter and less durable so you’d slay through them too fast if you train in them. Look for a trainer to log the majority of your miles. Sure, they’re a bit heavier but that’ll just make you all the more stronger.
With that said, you don’t even really need a pair of performance shoes – that’s a nicety, not a necessity. I ran my last marathon in a pair of trainers and set a PR and came in 10th place. So it’s not like you’re running in combat boots or anything.
OK, now how do I buy cheap running shoes?
The category of shoe doesn’t really define its price so just know the type of shoe you are looking for (I’ll buy a neutral or stability shoe, whichever is cheaper) and take that knowledge to one of my two favorite places to buy shoes.
- Running Warehouse: I’ve been buying shoes here for years and will typically pay between $40-65 for a pair of shoes. A good pair of running shoes should run you no more that $65 so put down that credit card if you’re about to spend more! Make sure to use coupon codes Runblog10 for 10% off regularly priced items and FB15D for 15% off clearance items. I’ve been shopping here for 7 years and those have worked every time! Free 2 day shipping and returns also! I really do love this site and they ain’t even paying me. But I wouldn’t mind if they did; I’ve sent so many people their way I think I’m due for some kickbacks. Anyhoo…
- DSW: I’m serious! I know it’s not a “running store” but who cares? Just be careful and know the model of shoes you’re looking for – you can’t run very fast in them high heeled boots no matter how sexy they are so stay focused. I know I like the Brooks Ghost and Brooks Ravenna – both of which I’ve rummaged through the clearance racks for and found for as low as $40. Aint no shame in buying an ugly color pair(s) of last year’s shoes. Just check out these New Balance’s I got at DSW for $40 which I used when I set my Half Ironman PR. I call the color “funfetti.” They’re gloriously hideous.
Q: How long should I run in shoes before I replace them?
A: Till they’re dead sauce
I’ve seen people recommend every 200-250 miles which is obnoxious! If someone recommends that to you then beware – that person clearly either makes or sells running shoes or has somehow found a way to get them for free. A typical marathon training schedule can bring you up to 50+ miles a week which would have you hit that 200 mile mark in 4 weeks. A new pair of shoes every month is a sure-fire way to make sure you have to work until you’re 85 years old!
My rule of thumb: run in them forever and then eventually buy a new pair when it feels like they’re kaput. Solid advice right? Usually I’ll buy a pair in the spring and rock em for the year, putting well over 1,000 miles on them. I’ve had Brooks for years that I still run in; they’re like an old Subaru: just – won’t – die.
Below is a pair of Saucony Guides which I got for $40 at Running Warehouse – the color isn’t horrible this time, I’m sorry. I qualified for Boston in these bad boys, have run well over 1,500 miles in them and if you look closely, you can see holes on the toe and on the side. That’s right, I’ll run in them till they literally fall apart!
It’s spring time, so time for a new pair of kicks! I strolled through the clearance racks at DSW this morning and didn’t find anything so it was time to head over to the ole Running Warehouse clearance section.
Looking through the shoes I found Mizuno Wave Riders on sale for $58.88. These meet all the criteria listed above and after my trusty FB15D coupon code it came out to a whopping $50.05 with free 2 day shipping! These are version 19 of the shoe while version 20 is currently listed with an MSRP of $119.95. Just saying…you’re welcome
So hate to break it to you, but just like any piece of gear, spending more usually won’t solve your problems. It just makes you broke. Proper technique, form and training is typically the best way to get faster and stay injury free.
With that said, follow my tips for buying running shoes and buy gimmick free shoes on sale and stop over thinking it.