Tales of a City Girl

Running shoe shopping – how to do it right

Welcome to this new and exciting section of my website, you lucky people. I’ve always said I will run a marathon before I’m 30 and 30 is now becoming a real looming figure rather than a distant number, so I’m going for it. My Edinburgh marathon is now 19 weeks away (but who’s counting eh?) and you, yes you, get to join me on my training adventure as I get ready. First things first, to be a runner, you need proper shoes. So here goes…

Firstly, put down that twenty quid pair from Sports Direct. However tempting the price tag may be, when you have six toenails left and soles akin to Bilbo Baggins, you won’t be happy. Here’s how to do it properly.

Go to a proper running shop. The kind with staff profiles online with faces beaming out and tags like ‘Jerry has been running for over 20 years now and has competed all over the world. The only thing he loves more than running is helping you find the right shoe for you!’ They are initially quite intimidating forums of runner gear galore, but pisstake aside, these people know their stuff and you should not be skimping when it comes to getting the right pair of running trainers, whether you’re running 5k or 50k.

When I asked fellow runners on my Facebook where I should be going, a few shops emerged. I can’t vouch for here personally but Sweatshop came up several times.

I went for Up and Running in East Sheen as recommended by Dan’s old housemate Mary-Anne – the reviews online were excellent too, and I prefer to go to smaller shops if I can. I’m not sure why, I just trust the staff more. When it’s a smaller run business I feel they care more if you’re happy and are more willing to correct things if you’re unhappy. This has just been my personal experience.

The first thing they will tell you to do is to run on the treadmill in the shop. This is to analyse your gait and running style to get the right shoes to fit you. I have a strong running style and both my legs are fairly evenly strong so a neutral style fits me best (hey, I’m just repeating what the guy in the store said).  It totally depends on your gait and how you hit the ground when you’re running.

You may find yourself offered heated in-soles but be really bloody sure you need them. The guy in the store told me they cost up to £500 for custom ones – although Louise, an old housemate of mine from uni, did swear by hers. The answers here are a mixed bag, but a good sales assistant shouldn’t push something unnecessary and expensive on you.

Generally, you will need to go a size larger in running shoes than your normal shoes, because your feet expand when you run, and you should buy them at least two months before any long-distance target. All shoes should mould more to your feet more as time goes by – but as soon as 500 miles or 12 months is up in them, start looking for new ones. This is definitely one of the ways tight-fisted little me has gone wrong in the past, and I’ve paid for keeping my old ones until they grow holes. In blood, sweat and tears (graphic but there you go).

It is very important you like the shoes and feel 100% comfortable in them from the off. Trust me, I know the value of getting this right. I went to Profeet in Fulham a couple of years ago to get a pair fitted and they slowly eroded my feet to goblin hooves since. Be damn sure before you leave that shop. The assistant can tell you the right shoe for you, but unless it feels comfortable, you will be the one suffering.

I spent over half an hour in Up and Running going on and off the treadmill; walking around the shop; and running with different shoes on each foot to ascertain whether the shoe was completely right. When people tell you to take your time, believe them.

If you are running in a marathon this year yourself, do let me know. I love hearing tit-bits from other runners with training ideas and generally feel less bad about boring someone who’s into running with long conversations about running, than those who aren’t. If you’re not interested or thought I’d be talking about more interesting shoes here, sorry. Hope you weren’t too bored and all.