How to buy running shoes – Gait analysis

So what is this gait analysis magic and why should I go to a shop and pay shop prices?

You can buy your running shoes cheaper on the internet, but here’s why your running shop should be supported; it’s the only place you can go for Gait Analysis.

Everyone walks differently. That’s a fact. Interestingly in perceptual terms, our gait is so unique, you can tell a familiar person just by seeing their silhouette as they walk, it’s that unique! What it also means is that one shoe doesn’t work for everybody.

Now, before you even begin to be mesmerised (/fooled) by ‘support’ this and ‘gel’ that, my advice to you is ignore it all and have your shoes properly fitted by a proper running shop.

When I say proper running shop, ask that person in the office who you know runs miles and miles every week where they recommend for advice and good, knowledgeable sales staff. All running shops were not created equal and you need to find a good one that has a treadmill and video camera setup and is willing to spend a while helping you to find the right shoe.

Next up, gait analysis! This is the process, these are the important tips to make sure you get the best from it…

So, gait analysis. Why should I?
Have your gait professionally analysed or risk the consequences! Find a shop which has the video gait analysis equipment. This means that you can personally go and watch the video of your running and decide for yourself which shoes keep your feet and ankles most stable, obviously with the sound advice from the shop staff who know what they’re talking about (remember, you asked your good running mate and he recommended which shop to use). You’re looking for a pair of shoes which allow the smallest amount of ankle/foot roll in (or possibly out) as possible. Preferably none at all. The really posh equipment can allow the assistant to draw lines on the screen and roll the video back and forth, frame by frame, to make sure you are choosing the right shoe.
Do I need those old battered shoes? Are they of any use to me?
Take your current shoes along with you. The gait analysis staff can tell quite a lot from the wear pattern in your old shoe, plus they can video your running gait in your current shoe to show whether they are properly supportive or not. This usually explains a wide range of injuries and problems. Other reasons for injury include worn out shoes. The support in my Kayano’s has generally been squished to death by 300 miles and I’ll start to develop symptoms of ITBS and experience severe tendon strains and pains in my ankles because my foot is rolling too much.
Which size in the right size?
Go a full shoe size up for a marathon from your normal ‘formal’ shoe size. You’ll probably get away with and a half size for anything up to a half marathon. Your feet get hot and expand during a run (and especially so in a long distance one). This is known by me as the ‘toenail preservation’ technique!
The fit is everything
If you feel lots of pressure on any part of your foot when you try the shoe on and tinkering with the laces doesn’t solve most of the discomfort straight away, it isn’t going to get better, it will likely get worse. Move on to the next pair. There are plenty more fish in the sea and there are also plenty more shoes on the shelf ;-)
If you’ve bought shoes and find they’re not quite right in some aspect of the fitting once you run in them, go here ( and see if any of these lacing techniques help. As mad as it may sound to re-lace your shoes to sort out issues, I know it’s worked for other people in the past! A colleague recently asked me if she should cut the plastic bit out of the back of the heel in her shoes because it rubbed. I was horrified but she’d got the idea from another colleague. I sent her to the link above on lacing. She now still has shoes intact, but which through some jiggery-pokery with the lacing now do not rub at all!
Be aware also, certain big chain running stores offer you a 28 day exchange policy on shoes bought from their stores (usually only the undiscounted full RRP price models of course) so it might cost you a few quid more the first time round to be sure you have the right shoes, but may be worth the extra investment as a one off.
If you’re a member of a running club, check of they have agreements with any local shops that you get a discount for being a member. Mine does 10% off at most local running stores.

Brands (The usual ‘This is only my viewpoint’ disclaimer applies here)
I buy Asics. I always have. And before youask, yes I have tried others! Most people end up buying Asics the first time round because it’s easy for both you and the shop staff to choose the appropriate level of support for your running style from their range. They are well known for being stable in the design so the changes from one model range to the next (e.g. GT-2150 to GT-2160) will often result in some aesthetic changes, but won’t result in any significant change in the support profile of the shoe. What this means for you is that in the long run, once you’ve had your gait analysed and found the appropriate model of Asics shoe, when you need a new pair, just go to an online store and buy the same model, or the next iteration and be confident it will ‘work’ for you. Much less hassle than repeat gait analysis and it’s somewhat cheaper in the long run too. I’m pretty sure that you can assume the same for Brooks, Saucony and Mizuno too. I have heard comments about Nike models changing their structure quite significantly between model iterations.

And finally the least important consideration of all should be…aesthetics!
Colours or styles matter not. I have the same shoe in five different colours at present and you know why? So I can track how many miles each one has done and the only way I can tell between them reliably is the colour! The support in the shoe is singularly the most important aspect for consideration. If you want pink ones and the right shoe doesn’t come in pink, tough. Pink shoes that cause you pain and injury might look nice, but they’re bad for you. Don’t do it!

How long will they last?
‘Your mileage may vary’ is the key comment here. Personally I get a maximum 300 miles out of a pair of running shoes. As I mentioned above, I’ll start to see the effects of a lack of support in the shoe well before I see any significant wear on the sole. I’m a severe pronator though so you may be lucky enough to get the more generally expected 400-500 miles. I know people who reckon on getting 600-700+ miles out of a pair of shoes, shame I don’t, running costs me a fortune in shoes alone!
Also bear in mind that a new pair of shoes need a bit of breaking in. I won’t do a run longer than about 8 miles until my shoes have done 25+ and won’t contemplate a marathon until there are 50+ miles on them and I have well and truly shaped the insole to my footfall.

In conclusion
Hopefully I’ve given you an idea of what to look for. As I said at the start, ask your mate who does a lot of running or that bloke at the office who seems to run marathons just for kicks for advice on where the best running shops are and get some proper advice from an expert.

Finally, good luck and run well!

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