Buy the Right Running Shoes Without Overpaying

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Running shoes come in many shapes and sizes -- and prices. Rethink your needs and your budget before buying your next pair.

Planning to run a 10K, a marathon — or just taking a nice jog in the milder spring weather?

If you’ve pulled out your running shoes from last year, you may discover that they are no longer up to the job — especially if you pushed them hard last season. The good news is that there are lots of great deals right now to help you take advantage of the coming season.

Running shoes are not all created equal

If you’ve only ever bought running shoes by making a quick stop in the shoe section of a big department store, you may want to pause and rethink your approach before buying your next pair.

To start with, you need to be clear about what kind of running you want to do. There are actually a whole lot of different ways to do it: It could mean jogging or interval running, trail running or distance road running.

Shoe manufacturers are aware of all these variations on running — and have designed different styles of footwear for each. REI, which sells running shoes online as well as in its physical stores, offers an excellent online guide to understanding the three basic running shoe categories that you would typically come across.

They include:

  • Road-running shoes: These make sense if most of your running is on roads, paved trails and sidewalks.
  • Trail-running shoes: These are designed for environments that are rough, where you will need more stability as you hit patches of dirt, rocks, gravel and uneven surfaces.
  • Cross-training shoes: These are your good indoor shoes that you might use at the gym or in a cross-training workout class.

For each of these shoe types, you’ll need to look for different attributes. To save money, you’ll also want to look for bargains on them (See below for a few deals to get you off and running on your shoe shopping).

A few deals for road runners

Running on roads involves cushioning you from the impact of an unforgiving hard road surface. You’ll want shoes that are light, but will also give your feet the protection they need from pounding the pavement.

To save money, look at deals like this one from Nike — the Nike Air Zoom Span Men’s Running Shoe — which Nike regularly sells on its website for $100 and is now on sale for $79.97. Similarly, Nike has a women’s road running shoe — the Nike Free RN Motion Flyknit — on sale for $104.97 (regularly priced at $130).

You will also find deals at REI, in their men’s and women’s running shoe sections — such as the HOKA ONE ONE Vanquish Road-Running Shoes (which normally sell for $170 and are currently on sale for $84.73) and the Brooks Launch 3 Road-Running Shoes (regularly priced at $99.95 and on sale for $49.83).

You will have to buy a membership to get the best deals at REI, which is a co-op. But a lifetime membership is just $20 and there are plenty of additional benefits for members, including special offers and an annual 10 percent “member dividend” based on the value of purchases from REI during the year.

One quick note about buying shoes online. Most sites allow for easy return of shoes that don’t fit — at their expense. But make sure you’re clear on the shoe return policy before you buy.

Other ways to save

Running shoes, like cars, come out in different models and colors each year. If you want to have the latest model in the latest color scheme — and the salespeople will tell you all about the latest new gel or tread — you will pay top dollar. Don’t go there. Focus on getting last-year’s model for your type of running and needs.

Shopping at retailers who are offering discounts isn’t the only way to save. You can also sign up at the shopping rebate site Ebates and earn cash back while you’re shopping for running shoes at some of your favorite stores. Ebates currently lists both Nike and online sports equipment retailer among stores it supports for cash-back shopping. All you need to do to get going on those rewards is sign up with an email address for Ebates.

One other option to consider is buying second-hand running shoes. If you’re willing to spend time roaming the aisles of multiple second-hand clothing stores, this could be an option — particularly if you find that magical pair of running shoes that someone bought as a New Year’s resolution, never got around to using — and then donated to Goodwill or Value Village in a moment of frustration.

You may find such a pair of magical shoes, but the far more likely scenario is that by the time running shoes make it to a second-hand store, they are in pretty rough shape. You may have said that you want to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes to experience life differently, but you may not want to pick the shoes that have already gotten so many miles on them that they’re almost falling apart.

Have you bought running shoes lately, or do you have your own tips to share? Let us know below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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