Previous articles in this series –

1. An Introduction to Marathon Running for Beginners!

2. Marathon Training Tips for New Runners Part Two: Equipment

Ok, so you’ve tossed those Converse Chucks and opted to purchase a shiny new pair of Nike or New Balance shoes. You assume the most expensive shoes are the best, right? WRONG (well, sort of).

I’m not a foot or shoe expert, but I buy them, I wear them, and I’ve had both good and bad experiences with them. Here’s some important tips when purchasing your first, fifth, or hundredth pair of running shoes:

  1. Appropriate shoe sizing is the single most important thing you can control about your marathon training! You MUST make sure you wear a shoe that fits your foot length-wise, width-wise and, well, every-other-wise.
  2. Avoid shopping for shoes at a generic sporting goods store. Every big city, and even most small towns, will have a specialty running store which staff trained specifically in fitting running shoes. You won’t see any football cleats or camping equipment in these stores! Generally, the staff are runners too, so they have personal experience to use along with their training.
  3. Try to wear your workout clothes to the store, since you’ll want to run around the block in your test shoes to ensure they fit comfortably. A runner’s boutique will understand this need to test out the shoe outdoors, but a big box store may not.
  4. When you put the shoe onto your foot, be sure to kick down on the heel to ensure your foot is fitted snuggly into the shoe. This way, you’ll get a clear measurement of how much wiggle room your toes have. My wife was fitted with shoes and didn’t do this step and walked away with shoes a full 2 sizes too big!!! Her feet ended up slipping and sliding all through the shoes and caused quite a bit of discomfort.
  5. Don’t feel pressured into buying the shoe the store recommends for your foot right away. If you can, go to another runner’s store and get a second opinion on both your shoe size and optimal shoe. Compare the benefits and costs of each shoe.
  6. Here’s an area of contention: the salesman spent alot of time sizing your feet, fitting shoes, and advising you, but does that mean you must buy from this store after all that? We bought our very first shoes for the marathon from the store who fitted us, but I purchased our second pairs online. I saved about Rs.500 total by purchasing online, plus earned 5% cashback on my credit card. The store earned it’s commission the first time, but I knew the shoes I would buy the second time and didn’t want to spend another Rs.1000 per pair again.
  7. Not all shoes are the same! Some brands are better for narrow feet, some favor heavier runners with more cushioning, and others, well, just don’t do anything special. My wife has skinny, little feet, with low arches, and I have wide feet with high arches. Her shoes are definitely much different than mine.
  8. Make sure the salesman assesses whether you over- or under-pronate. If you do either, you’ll want to buy special inserts to force your feet to move the correct way. Otherwise, with the amount of running you’ll be doing, you could end up causing a lot of knee and hip damage with poor running form. Expect to pay Rs. 200-400 for the inserts, which should last a year or more. They’re specifically made for correcting running form, and will probably feel uncomfortable at first. You’ll get used to them quickly though, and your shoes will begin to feel weird without them.
  9. Shoes are not made with arch support. They may look like it from the outside, but look inside and you’ll see it’s pretty flat in there. If you have flat feet, see Tip #8 above and get yourself some orthopedic inserts.
  10. Style still matters. If you think a shoe is ugly, too bright, or just won’t match your apparel, then ask the salesman if there are alternatives for your size. Even a single model has multiple color patterns.
  11. Of note: a good pair of running shoes should last about 300 miles. Don’t run in them longer—it could cause you discomfort and pain!! (your feet will thank you for treating them to new shoes)

Again, proper shoe sizing is can make or break your training program very early. You want to make sure you’re healthy and injury-free throughout the entire regimen, and buying the right shoes is the first step (pun intended) to a successful marathon!

Stay tuned to learn more about preparing for your first training run!