If you're an active runner shopping around for your next pair of running shoes, experts say it's worth paying up for a pricier sneaker. It's an investment in your health, says Rick Krupa, fitness expert and trainer based in New York. "Buying cheap running shoes is going to put you at a risk for injury that you wouldn't typically get if you have a more expensive pair of shoes," he says.
But how much to spend, exactly? Experts recommend starting at $80. Sneakers priced at $80 and above are considered "performance running" and generally last between 400-500 miles. Less expensive shoes could last just as many miles, but you'll likely develop some pain and may spend much more money repairing your body down the road. "You really can't put a price on your health. Saving $40 to $50 on a running shoe is not going to make sense in the long run when you have to have a $15,000 knee surgery," says Krupa.
Before you make any purchase, understand that each runner has unique needs, and it's important to find out what they are to find the best running shoe. These days there are all types of shoe technologies that can compensate for certain running styles. At JackRabbit Sports in New York, the staff offers to analyze your running stride on a treadmill to help determine what kind of sneaker will fit you most comfortably.
After five minutes of running on the store's treadmill, store manager Terry Moore discovered I had a "neutral" running stride, similar to the average runner, meaning I keep my legs pretty much aligned while running, from the lower legs all the way down to my heels.
Other possible running stride characteristics include:
Overpronation: This is when your foot rolls inwards too much while running. This can lead to risk knee pain or injury. These types of runners may want to consider sneakers with motion control.
Supination: This is when your foot rolls outward. If this is you, you want a shoe with sufficient cushioning and flexibility.
Based on my neutral stride, he suggested the following sneakers:
• Nike Air Pegasus+ 28 Breathe 90.00
• Brooks Glycerin 9 $130.00
• Saucony Progrid Ride 4 $100.00
Simply choosing the most expensive shoe — the Brooks Glycerin at $130 — doesn't mean I'll necessarily get the best running experience. At this point — once you've identified a few "high performance" options that match your running stride — Moore says the best shoe comes down to the one with the highest comfort. For me, that sneaker ended up being the Nike Air Pegasus, the least expensive of the lot. I opted for a half size higher than usual, as the sneaker runs a bit small.
Before ringing up your shoe, it's also important to test run the sneaker for at least 10 minutes. Some stores may allow you to take a quick jog around the block. Moore says if you feel any discomfort within the first 10 minutes of jogging and walking, it's likely not going to go away, so you're better off trying on other pairs. Also ask the sales person for shoes with "plush uppers" and "improved cushioning," code for good quality.
Finally, you may be wondering whether those popular barefoot athletic shoes are worth their price? The popular Vibram Five Fingers shoe, for example, runs around $100 a pair. Is it worth the splurge? According to Kurpa these advanced technology shoes can offer some help with your running program, but they should not be used as your main running shoe. "You'll need to have that structured shoe to get you through long hours of training," he says.