How to pick the best running shoes for outside or on a treadmill

How to pick the best running shoes - 3G Cardio

How to pick the best running shoes for outside or on a treadmill

By Aaron Dorksen – 3G Cardio Fitness Editor
What I love most about running, whether it’s outside or on a treadmill, is that the only equipment you really need to have a positive experience is a good pair of shoes. This article will discuss picking the best running shoes for your workout. 

You can run in an old shirt and shorts and wear a tattered hat, but with the right shoes you can do amazing things. Selecting the right running shoes, though, is much easier said than done. There are more choices than ever. There are department stores, big box sporting goods stores, specialty fitness stores and, of course, internet options cast a bigger shadow seemingly every day.

Photo courtesy Brian Polen

Akron Marathon race director Brian Polen sat down with me recently to provide some advice on how to pick the best running shoes. One comment Polen offered resonated the most from our talk:

“A good pair of running shoes is the best insurance policy you can get,” he said.

Polen owns a specialty running store in Wooster, Ohio, the Vertical Runner. He’s run in hundreds of races, ranging from 5Ks to the Boston Marathon and 24-hour events.

I can vouch for how much it helped my running performance after going to his store and having a staff member help me pick out the right shoes. I went from not being able to run 2 miles without Achilles’ tendon pain to training for several months and not only finishing my first 5K in more than 20 years, but nearly winning an age-group medal my first time out with a 27-minute clocking at age 46 last fall.

There are hundreds and hundreds of similar success stories Polen can relate of runners who his store has helped.

Work With A Best Running Shoes Specialist

No matter how much research you do, or how much you talk to your peers, no one’s going to have the experience of fitting shoes for thousands and thousands of runners like an expert at a running store. Usually, they are also runners themselves.

Not only do specialty fitness stores have great selection and expertise, they carry high-end models that you won’t find in a “big box” national brand name sporting goods store. (More on that later in this section).

Take my advice and find a specialty fitness store near where you live and let them get you started in the right direction. If you spend $100 or more on a good pair of running shoes that aren’t right for your feet or running style, you’ve basically wasted your money.

“We know how to look at a person’s biomechanics and ask them a lot of questions, like what they plan to use the shoes for, what their running history is, what’s worked and what hasn’t,” Polen said. “Our goal is to put every person who comes into our store into the perfect pair shoes for them.”

Find Your Brand

Obviously, one model does not fit all.

“Not every runner is made the same,” Polen said. “The shoe that works for you certainly may not work for me.

“We’re all built a little differently. It’s important to go in, get analyzed and try different shoes on. There are neutral shoes, light support shoes, heavy support shoes, there are shoes with a ton of cushion and with very minimal cushion. The beauty of going into a specialty running store is that you can go in and talk to an expert, get some opinions, and try a lot of different shoes on.”

Based on how a person’s foot is shaped, certain brands will work for some people while others will struggle in them.

“There are a couple brands of shoes that I just can’t run in,” Polen said. “I love the look and feel of them, but when I try to run in them negative things happen.”

Pay Now Or Pay Later

A person will typically pay about 25 percent or more for running shoes in a specialty fitness store than in a national chain store.

Shop Treadmills

At first glance $120 for a pair of running shoes is a lot to pay, but compare it to a trip to a sports medicine doctor to deal with an injury and it’s worth every penny.

Polen’s repeat customers often wind up upgrading and paying $150 for a second pair of shoes.

“The investment is a big leap and challenging to understand at first,” Polen said. “Once people have seen the difference what a great pair of shoes can do for them they don’t think twice about it.”

And, yes specialty fitness stores have models that you can’t find in other stores.

“Big box stores will carry most of the leading brands, but companies hold lots of high-end models back that they only make available to specialty fitness stores like ours.”

To stretch the life of running shoes, Polen suggests having two or more pairs and rotating which ones you train in. Shoes wear out less quickly because it allows an extra day or two for compressed materials in the shoes to expand back to their normal size. 

(Coming in my next blog: How often should you change your running shoes?)

3G Cardio fitness editor Aaron Dorksen’s blog deals with a variety of fitness topics, ranging from workout tips, motivational ideas and feature stories on how exercise impacts people’s lives. Consult a doctor before making any significant changes in your exercise routine or diet. E-mail him with comments, questions or ideas for future blogs at

Photos courtesy Brian Polen

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