Live Better

How to choose a pair of running shoes

Podiatrist Rick Osler explains how to choose the best running shoes for your needs

Sportswoman sitting on stairs adjusting sport shoes in early morning

Running is a high impact activity with a moderately high injury risk. Some reasons for this include starting a running program before your body is adequately conditioned, poor running techniques, running on hard, flat and repetitive surfaces,questionable foot posture for such a repetitive activity – and of course, the shoe you select.

The running shoe is a big part of what determines safe and successful running. Here are some guidelines to help you make the best decision when you shop for your next pair.

Before you shop

There are so many brands, all with a ‘point of difference’ – much of which, of course, is just marketing spin. Remember, there is no single brand that is best for you. There will invariably be a model within every brand that will work for you. So where to start?

Do your homework by seeking out professional advice. This can come from being assessed by an experienced podiatrist specialising in sports medicine, or from an independent specialist retailer. Most specialist running shoe stores now provide free assessments in store. This has some advantages over a clinician, as they can assess how multiple shoes function while you run.

“Do your homework by seeking out professional advice. This can come from a podiatrist specialising in sports medicine, or from an independent, specialist retailer.”

What questions should you ask?

When you choose a running shoe store, here are some things to find out:

1. What are the salesperson’s credentials?

Are they a runner? Are they a podiatrist or podiatry trained? How long have they been assessing and fitting shoes? In stores where specialist advice can be hard to come by, pick the oldest person who has been fitting the longest first!

2. Do they stock most of the major brands?

Test the salesperson out for bias by asking, “What do you think the best shoe on the wall is?” This is a great question, as there is no answer for this.

3. Do they offer a guarantee if you’re not satisfied with purchase?

4. What are their thoughts on how much of a heel pitch you should have?

Heel pitch is the difference between the height of the heel to the forefoot, and it varies enormously these days. Traditionally, shoes have been at 12 mm. Now we are seeing a lot of shoes going from ‘zero drop’ to 4, 6, 8, 10 and still 12 mm. There is no right answer to this question – it depends upon your age, injury history and current shoe. Remember that any change will require some adaptation.

What information should you give them?

Once satisfied you are in the right place, you should tell the salesperson the following information:

  • Your recent injury history (if any).
  • Your current running shoes and how satisfied you have been with them. Take them into the store.
  • What your plans are with running. Are you increasing your training for an event?
  • What other purpose your shoe will have aside from running.

“A good sock will assist in keeping your skin dry and reducing friction – an important blister prevention strategy.”

Common mistakes when purchasing shoes

  • Picking on colour, not comfort. Let’s face it, they are for exercise, not the stage.
  • Choosing the most expensive out of two options as you perceive they must be better if they cost more. Not so.
  • Selecting on brand only. You should always come down to two shoes that you are selecting from, as there will mostly be a model that suits in more than one brand. If you cannot decide, then let your colour or brand bias (or price) take over.
  • Letting a salesperson tell you that there is only one shoe for you. Always compare!
  • Purchasing shoes without taking them for a run. Walking up and down the store will not suffice.

What about socks?

Are you a regular runner? A good sock will assist in keeping your skin dry and reducing friction – an important blister prevention strategy (though it won’t fix a blister from a poorly prescribed shoe).

Most technical socks have asymmetrical fitting (left and right), many have silver sewn into them (moisture assistance), and the materials are mostly designed to minimise ‘shear’ stress – the rubbing that produces blistering. Wear them for running only, expect to pay around $25, and they will last you for years.

How often should you buy new runners?

The lifespan of runners varies significantly depending on what you do in them. Generally, you should switch every 700 – 800 km. For runners who don’t measure their distance, a three or four-time a week runner is looking at around a 10-month lifespan. Keep an eye on your mid sole as this is what breaks down over time.

For more information visit Active Feet.

Latest Articles


How to start riding or walking to work

Fit exercise into your day on the way to work.

Read more

Why women should do weights

Strength training isn’t just for muscle bros.

Read more

Why getting active as a family is so good for you

From a weekend bike ride to playing chasey in the backyard.

Read more

What are Kegels?

And why you need to do them.

Read more

How sport can inspire recovery and connection

Jocelyn takes aim at the Invictus Games Sydney 2018.

Read more
youtubeui-checkbox-tickui-checkbox-emptyui-checkbox-crosstwitterui-checkbox-tickWellbeing and mindfulness 1Physical Health 1Positive psychology 101 1Wellbeing and mindfulness 4All about gut health 1Understanding Genetics 4Planning for Pregnancy 2During Pregnancy 3The mind-gut connection 4The mind-gut connection 1New Parents 3Page 1Group 10During Pregnancy 2Page 1Physical Health 2Planning for Pregnancy 1Positive psychology 101 1Positive psychology 101 4Planning for Pregnancy 4Understanding Genetics 1Physical Health 4Planning for Pregnancy 3Nutrition 4New Parents 1New Parents 3 CopyMovement for your mind 4Wellbeing and mindfulness 2Nutrition 2sob-icon__mind-bodysob-icon__man-with-laptopAll about gut health 2Positive psychology 101 3Positive psychology 101 2Physical Health 3Wellbeing and mindfulness 3All about gut health 3genetics-changing-what-your-givenUnderstanding Genetics 2During Pregnancy 1Movement for your mind 2Movement for your mind 1Movement for your mind 3During Pregnancy 4