We can learn a lot from shoe reviews. Whether the reviews are in magazines or websites, or posted in online forums and blogs, they can be helpful to hear what others have to say about shoes you are considering. RunRepeat.com is a website that features running shoe comparisons. In late 2015 they ran the numbers from 134,867 customer reviews of 391 running shoes from 24 brands. Shoes were ranked from one to five stars based on satisfaction. Interestingly, their conclusion was that expensive shoes are not any better than more moderately priced shoes. This means inexpensive running shoes are often better rated then expensive ones. They pointed out that perceived shoe quality is very subjective and the study was not a scientifically based. One possible finding from the comparison is that runners who buy more expensive shoes likely have higher expectations, and are more critical in their reviews.
Many shoe and boot companies suggest specific models that are best for certain types of activities and sports, and for certain types of feet. They do this because many shoes are made for a specific type of foot—and many people have feet that will work better with one type of shoe than another. Look for the buyer’s guides in the magazines of your sport. Runners can find shoe reviews in Runner’s World, Trail Runner, and UltraRunning. Backpackers and hikers can check out Backpacker magazine’s reviews, and Outside magazine’s Buyer’s Guide for helpful information.4 Wear Tested Gear Reviews (weartested.org) is another good site with reviews. Many online shoe retailers also offer phone advice support or online guides. For information on shoe reviews and gear review sources, see page xref in the appendix. Other sport-specific magazines may offer similar reviews. Many websites are now posting reviews, and some offer reader comments or reviews.
The September 2015 Runner’s World Shoe Finder asked up front if readers knew the type of shoe that worked best for them. If so, they were guided to a four-section grid based on more shoe, less shoe, and more cushioning, less cushioning. Each box of the grid contained shoes they recommended for that more/less choice. Other readers were asked questions about BMI, running mileage, and injury experience, after which they too were directed to one of the four boxes to find their recommended shoes. Each shoe reviewed was also rated for heel cushioning, forefoot cushioning, and flexibility; and the shoe’s weight and heel and forefoot heights were given. Unfortunately, these guides of suggested shoes usually only include 12-18 shoe models.
It’s a good starting point, but I would use the guides as a reference point to shop at my local running store and get their personal insights.
Even after buying shoes that fit well, be alert to changes inside your shoes as you walk, run, and hike. Jason Pawelsky, with Tamarack, the maker of the popular ENGO Blister Prevention Patches reminds, “We all know that changing conditions (terrain, temperature, distance, etc) can make even the best fitting pair of shoes feel and perform differently so there is no perfect fit 100% of the time. The challenge is to get runners, hikers and team sports players to not only recognize that, but to react proactively.”
Whether you are a runner, ultrarunner, adventure racer, thru-hiker, casual walker, or something in-between, you are probably always on the lookout for the right shoe. Maybe one of the magazines you subscribe to has a shoe issue, or occasional shoe reviews. Or maybe you scour the Internet reading reviews or pay close attention to what is written in email forums to which you subscribe. It’s the elusive search for the perfect shoe.
Can there be more than one shoe that is right for your feet? Are there perfect shoes? Christopher Willett went through four pairs of shoes on his 2003 Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike (2600+ miles) and bought them as he went. Wearing size 15 running shoes, he didn’t really have the option of buying from an outfitter along the trail. He would call or use the Internet from various towns along the way and have new shoes and socks sent up trail. He started in Brooks Adrenaline GTS and liked them in the hot 563-mile Southern California section. He wished the next shoe, the Asics Eagle Trail, had a more protective sole but liked the tread. While the New Balance 806s were structurally good, he felt they had a poor tread design and they are the only shoe that he would not wear again. He finished the last 670 miles in the Asics Gel Trabuco V and liked their durability and tread. Would one of the shoes have worked for his whole thru-hike? If they had been the NB 806s, the answer would be no. Probably any of the other three would have worked the whole way, but Chris might have had problems sticking with one shoe given the varying weather and terrain of the trail. Even the most perfect shoe can have small issues: breathability, tread design, cushioning, sole protection, and so on. Each of these issues can make them perfect for one set of conditions and wrong for another.
In reality, there is more than one shoe that is right for your feet. What’s important, regardless of which shoe you choose, is that the shoe fits.
Note: The photo shows part of the display of shoes at Zombierunner, Palo Alto. They have a great store.
Life has been busy this past month and I apologize for not posting more often.
As I read the my magazines, I find shoe reviews. As I open emails, I read people’s experiences with their shoes. As I check newsletters, websites and blogs, I read reports and reviews of shoes. And then, of course, there are the ads – everywhere.
The thing is, they all point out the features and benefits of their shoes. Is there one shoe for you? Yes, there is one – and many more that will also work. Some work better than others.
My feeling after all these years of providing foot care is that you could easily slip into a number of shoes and they would work. You read the ads, the emails on forums from other runners happy with their shoes, and you hear other runners in one-on-one conversations recommending certain shoes. Maybe you’re happy with your current shoes and simply want to try out another pair. Or maybe you find the shoes you like have been discontinued.
Everyone wants the perfect shoe – and some people find them. Others try on shoe after shoe, looking for the elusive “best” fit.
You could run a 5K or 10K or even a marathon in many shoes and not have a problem. But move up to an ultramarathon or a multi-day event and you could have problems. A small thing when training or running can be multiplied many times over with more miles and cause problems. When changing to a different shoe, pay attention to any changes in how your feet and ankles feel. Does anything feel funny or seem bothersome? Do you feel a twinge the next day – telling you that something is wrong? At some point, if this continues, you need to consider the shoes. Change back to your old shoes and see if the problem goes away.
Where this affects athletes the most is moving from regular shoes to minimalist shoes or even no shoes (barefoot). Changing to these takes time and a gradual slow process. Wearing minimalist shoes puts added stressors on the feet until they get used to the change. Give it time. Slowly. Recognize you should be changing the way you land on your feet and your overall stride.
There are lots of shoes that will work for you. Give them a try. I bet you’ll find several you really like.
Today’s shoes are easily interchangeable between sports—or so it seems. It is easy to pull on a pair of shoes and go walking, or running, or hiking—without thinking much about whether the shoes are right for the activity. Everywhere we look, in every magazine we page through, we are inundated with choices in footwear. Why not walk in running shoes, run in walking shoes, or hike in road shoes? In fact, do all three in one pair of shoes. Does it matter?
Well, in fact, yes—and—no! If you go to a good shoe store and make an educated purchase of a pair of high quality shoes, you will probably be fine. Too many people, however, go to the mall or the discount store and buy shoes. In this case, you will probably suffer. The shoes will likely not fit well since most of the sales people don’t understand fit. They shoes may be an unknown style from the maker or may even be ‘seconds.’ It may surprise you but go into any discount store and look at the walking, running and hiking footwear. Write down the names of some of the shoes and their maker: Nike, New Balance, etc. Then go home and search Google for these shoes. Type in "shoe manufacturer + shoe name + reviews" and see what you find. Here’s an example, "Nike + Tailwind + reviews." Look in Runner’s World, Backpacker, Shape, Running Times, and other magazines for shoe reviews. I’d bet the shoes are not listed in these industry magazines.
So, back to the question. Does it matter? If your aim is to wear the shoes in a sports activity, I would recommend buying shoes made for that activity. Walking shoes for walking, running shoes for running, and hiking shoes for hiking. The exception is trail running shoes that can easily be used for hiking. Each type is designed for that activity with support and cushioning, fabrics and materials, and midsole and outersole chosen for the activity. Play it smart. Buy and wear shoes for your sport. Your feet will be happy.