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Are Expensive Running Shoes Worth The Price?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t mind spending money as long as I know that it will pay off in the end. If you’re new to running or if you’ve been thinking about getting some more expensive shoes, you might be wondering if it’s really worth it.

That’s exactly what we’ll discuss in this article—whether it’s a good idea for you to spend more on running shoes (typically $150+) versus a more average price of about $100 to $130. We’ll discuss why the price difference occurs in the first place.

Hopefully, by the end you’ll have a good idea of whether or not expensive running shoes are a good idea for you or not. At the end of the day, it all comes down to your comfort!

What Makes Running Shoes More Expensive?

There are a variety of things that can make running shoes more expensive. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always necessarily correlate that the more expensive the shoe, the better it will be for you personally.

Brand

Sometimes running shoes can be more expensive based on brand.

For example, Hoka One One and On running shoes tend to run more expensive than New Balance or ASICS. You may have to pay more to rep a particular brand name.

Cushioning and Comfort

Broadly, running shoes are typically more expensive when there is more cushioning. It costs a little bit more to get that extra material.

You’ll typically get more comfort, a better fit, and plusher step-in feel with more expensive (and typically more cushioned) shoes.

Design

Another reason why shoes can be expensive is due to design. If a lot of research and development has gone into designing a pair of shoes, they will probably cost more.

For example, Nike put a lot of research into making faster shoes with the Vaporfly 4%, and it’s reflected in the price. In this case, it’s the research and technology going into the shoe to make it lighter that makes it more expensive.

What are the Downsides of More Expensive Running Shoes?

Besides price, there can be some downsides to more expensive running shoes. Obviously, you want to make sure that you’re going to get plenty of miles out of them so that it made sense to spend a bit more.

Downsides of Cushioned Running Shoes

If the reason that your running shoes are costing more is because they are cushioned, you may deal with problems particular to cushioned shoes.

First, cushioned shoes tend to be heavier because there is more material and are therefore slower when it comes to faster or longer races.

Runners who used cushioned and/or stability shoes can change their running stride and heel strike. Anyone who has run for any period of time knows that heel striking can lead to more injuries because your legs and body are under greater stress.

In addition, heel striking is not proper running form and is less efficient than a more natural stride where you land under your lips. Thus, more cushioned shoes can impact your running form if you’re not aware.

Downsides of Lighter Running Shoes

If your running shoes are more expensive because there is more research and technology going into them to develop a lighter shoe, you probably won’t deal with the effects of heel striking and changing up your running form.

However, lighter models, including race models, typically do not last very long (looking at you, Vaporfly…). You might be shelling out a lot of money for a shoe that is only going to last you a month or two. You have to make sure that’s something you’re willing to do.

How Does the Price Relate to the Rating of a Running Shoe?

You would think that a more expensive price will mean better reviews and rating of a running shoe at least overall, but that’s not what a RunRepeat study found. In fact, it was the exact opposite!

Out of 391 models of running shoes that represented 24 different brands, the 10 most expensive shoes that had an average price of $181 were rated about 8 percent lower than the 10 cheapest models with an average price of $61.

Obviously, this may vary from model to model, so you’ll want to check out reviews of the specific shoe that you’re interested in to see if it’s worth the price.

For example, I have friends that swear by Hoka One One and On running shoes. The shoes work great for them, and it’s worth it to them to spend more on running shoes because they are more satisfied with them.

What Shoes Should Runners with Underpronation or Overpronation Choose?

If you overpronate, then you will probably want to select shoes that will help control pronation. And that’s going to cost you more than any bare-bones shoe under $100. In this case, more expensive running shoes may indeed be worth the price if you do your research.

Underpronators have a bit more leeway with shoe selection; however, increased cushioning is usually the way to go. So as we stated earlier, more cushioning = higher costs.

Whether you roll your feet inward (overpronate) or roll your feet outward (underpronate), you are likely more apt for running-related injuries, such as shin splints and plantar fasciitis. You need to improve your form to avoid these injuries, which may necessitate new shoes.

Do More Expensive Running Shoes Lead to More Injuries?

Poorly fitting shoes or ill-constructed shoes can lead to more injuries, but that shouldn’t typically be the case for more expensive shoes because the materials should be of a decent quality.

Typically, you’ll get injuries if you’ve put a lot of miles on your shoes and they are starting to wear down. Of course, this can happen with the cheapest and also the most expensive shoes.

That being said, you might be more likely to expect more mileage out of more expensive shoes and might wear more expensive shoes longer than you should trying to get the most out of them.

Additionally, there are many lines of thought regarding the technology and price of shoes today. If you’ve read Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run, you know that he suggests humans weren’t originally designed to wear really expensive shoes.

In fact, the book suggests that runners have just blindly gone along with the shoe industry, always looking for the next best shoe, when it’s actually best to keep a more natural running form that comes from running barefoot.

Unfortunately, there are no clear answers, and it’s been debated whether this is true or not. Even if it is true, it means that running shoes as a whole can lead to more injuries, not just the ones with an expensive price tag.

Final Thoughts

As Harvard professor Dr. Daniel Lieberman states, “How one runs probably is more important than what is on one’s feet, but what is on one’s feet may affect how one runs.” In other words, your form matters more than your shoes. But your shoes may affect your form.

Here at Wired Runner we regularly mention the importance of purchasing shoes that are comfortable for you because typically that’s what will be the best for your feet. If a cheaper shoe is comfortable, get that. If a more expensive shoe is, then get that!

If money isn’t a concern, then you should purchase whatever shoe you like. For my friends who like Hoka One One and On, they are paying more than I am on New Balance and ASICS shoes. However, we all haven’t dealt with injuries, so that’s the important part.

In the end, the answer to whether or not expensive running shoes are worth the price is that it depends. In some cases, you might want a lighter racing shoe or a more cushioned stability shoe, and then they are.

You may also want a particular brand that just tends to run more expensive. In all these instances, it’s worth spending the money on more expensive shoes.

However, if you’re expecting to get a better product just because it’s more expensive, then you probably want to save your money and get a pair of shoes that’s just a little bit cheaper.

The Wired Runner