A Complete Idiot’s Guide to Running Shoes


Look at the title. Usually, a title like that would mean “this is a guide to running shoes, in terms so simple that even a complete idiot could understand it”. Well, not this time. In this case, it actually means “a complete idiot has written a guide to running shoes”.

Don’t believe me? Read on…

One of the first things I learned when I started running (shortly after “never trust a beekeeper” and “gels should be taken orally”) was that choosing the right running shoe can be complicated.

Are you a pronator? A moderate over-pronator? A foaming-at-the-mouth radical supinator? Do you need stability shoes? Neutral shoes? Motion control shoes? Do you even need shoes? Are you a shoe1? Do you strike with the heel, the forefoot or the midfoot2? Are orthotics the answer? Should I buy a new shed?

(That last one has nothing to do with running shoes, but I’m thinking of buying a shed so thought I’d throw it out there in case any of you can provide a particularly compelling argument for or against).

We’re bombarded with choice, and told that if we get it wrong there’s a very good chance our feet will fall off and be eaten by raccoons. Nobody wants their body parts to end up in the tummy of what is essentially a fancy American badger, so here are a few pointers when choosing your next pair of running shoes…

1. Where to buy

Always get your running shoes from a reputable running shop or website. Avoid shops that primarily sell bondage gear or jam.

2. When to buy

If buying from a shop, only do it when the shop is open. Getting your shoes from a shop while it’s closed is called “burglary” and may affect your returns policy.

3. Material

There was a time when running shoes were all made with leather uppers and rubber soles. Shoe technology has come a long way since then and there are now countless different materials out there, many boasting advanced technical properties. As a rule of thumb, avoid any that feature any of the following materials in their construction: granite, merengue, butter, a live albatross.

4. Laces?

Yes. Don’t be tempted by faddy alternatives, such as zips, buttons or a 32-digit combination lock.

5. Uppers

Yes, probably. I have no idea.

6. Medial support posts?


7. Sole?

Yes! I’ve heard of this one! This is the bit that stops you being on the ground. The choice of sole depends on what terrain you’re going to be using the shoes on. Normal grip for road running, bigger lugs for trail running, spikes for impressing the girl in the sports shop and making her think you’re a proper athlete. Sole is also a type of fish. Shoes aren’t made of fish.

8. Pairs

You should always buy running shoes in pairs3. Don’t fall into the trap of buying a single shoe at a car boot sale just because it’s cheap. The ensuing year-long continent-spanning quest for the other one will probably work out a bit more expensive than just buying a pair in the first place. You weirdo.

9. Colour

The colour of your running shoes is entirely down to personal preference, and certain colour options will NOT make you run faster4 or grant magical powers. You don’t know the meaning of embarrassment until you’ve spent 45 minutes boasting to everyone at Parkrun about how you’re going to turn into a hippopotamus, only to spectacularly fail at the crucial moment.


Every so often a running shoe manufacturer will unveil an amazing technological breakthrough guaranteed to revolutionise the way we run. Super bouncy soles, NASA-developed ultra-light uppers, Raccoon-proof laces. It’s all been done. But the one thing I’ve never seen in an adult running shoe is a set of little red LED lights that flash when you run, like kids have. I would gladly pay double for this.

Okay, triple.

1 You’re probably not a shoe.
2 I occasionally facestrike, but that’s less to do with running style and more to do with bumbling clumsiness.
3 I mean the shoes should be in pairs. I just read the sentence back and it sounds like I’m recommending that you always take a friend with you when you go to buy your shoes in case you’re attacked by bandits. Although, for liability purposes, I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t take suitable anti-bandit precautions either.
4 Except yellow. Everyone knows yellow shoes are fastest. 

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16 thoughts on “A Complete Idiot’s Guide to Running Shoes

  1. I wish I’d read this years ago. To think of all the albatross that would have been saved. They give you wings, you know.

  2. I am going to print this out, frame it and put it behind the counter in the shop and make all sales staff refer to it when a customer comes in for new shoes.

    I’m with you on the flashing shoes, Jay. I might superglue a couple of table lamps to my trainers for a prototype and send pictures to the shoe brands. Or take them on Dragons Den.

    Buy a shed.

    • Brilliant. If it catches on with the customers, I’m just imagining them going into other shoe shops and saying “…and you’re POSITIVE there’s no meringue in these?”

  3. Jay, if you need to ask whether you need a shed, the answer is always yes. Everyone needs one, not everyone realises it. Get a shed. If only to store all your worn-out running shoes.

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