The answer to the No. 1 thing people ask me about running

I’ve lost count how many friends and readers of this blog have asked me this question, or a variant of it: “What kind of shoes do I need to start running?”

You don't need to spent a lot of money on shoes — you just need to know what to look for.


One of the reasons that running is my favorite sport is that you need almost nothing to do it.

Almost nothing.

You absolutely do not need to spend any money on clothing, a gym membership, exercise equipment, a fancy watch, a smartphone, fancy socks, water bottles, energy supplements …

But if there is one thing that you should get right, it’s your shoes.

Good running shoes will make the difference between whether or not you enjoy running.

Your feet are going to hit the ground 160 times per minute, and if you’re not wearing the right footwear, that will affect how your gait — how your feet hit the ground. And an improper running gait will definitely lead to injuries over time.

That pain in your knee, hip, calf, shin? Probably related to inadequate footwear.

As a general rule, you should replace sneakers for running every 500 miles. At 10 miles per week, that would take you about a year. (And that means don’t use your running shoes for anything but running!)

You can tell if you need to replace them if you look at the tread on the bottom. Is it flat in some places? Is the place where your toes crease looking cracked? If you think of sneakers like tires for your feet, the tread is like your wear bars.

(Pictured above: The blue sneakers were ones ready to be replaced; the pink ones are new.)

Then, on picking new shoes: you don’t need to drop $125 to get a functional pair of sneaks. Different brands will give you different fits and different weights and what works for you is a matter of personal preference.

The thing that does matter is if you get a shoe for neutral, under, or over pronation.

Credit: Forward Arch

Image credit: Forward Arch

Pronation is how much your ankle rolls when you run or walk. Women, because we have wider hips, tend to over pronate.

You can get a sense of this too from the wear pattern on your sneakers. Too much wear on the inside is over pronating. More wear on the outside is under pronating. If it’s about the same, you’re neutral.

Image Credit: The Fitness Movivator

The left image is an underpronator, the right image is an overpronator. Image Credit: The Fitness Movivator

I think they might have a machine to gauge this at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Bangor if you’re not sure what category you fall into. Anyone who has been there recently — confirm in the comments?

Shoes that need to correct one way or the other tend to be heavier, and if you don’t need the correction it could cause other issues, so I’d err in the side of neutral if you can’t tell. Or bring your worn shoes into the running shop and have the clerk look at them.

And that is how to buy the right sneakers. Personally, I run using Nike Lunarglides. I like them because the lunarlon material is pretty light without sacrificing the cushioning, and have good arch support (I have normal to high arches).

I’ve been wearing this style of shoe since version 4 (they are on 6). Once I found a style of shoe I liked, I just kept replacing it over and over again. In 4.5 years of running I think I am on like, my 8th or 9th pair of this shoe. Once they aren’t adequate for running any more I use them for my lawnmowing/walking/around the house shoes. Or donate them to Goodwill, because depending on the season, they still look new-ish.

Another trick to knowing when to replace your shoes? If you start to feel a nagging pain come on in your knee/hip/shin/calf — do the math as to how many miles you’ve run on those shoes.

Bonus answer to this question: If you’re a woman, I would also invest in a good bra. This is actually just good life advice. It’s also like, the other critical thing I would invest in before I would start running. I used to hate running because I just felt like “everything jiggled.” Then I got a decent supportive bra and realized that it didn’t have to be like that.

How do you find a good bra? You don’t have to pay a lot of money for this,  either. Look for one that is for high impact sports and when you try it on, do a few jumping jacks in them. If the girls move around, move on to another one.



Pattie Reaves

About Pattie Reaves

I'm a new mom and renegade fitness blogger at After the Couch. I live in Brewer with my husband, Tony, our daughter Felicity, and our two pugs, Georgia and Scoop.