There comes a time in every runner’s life (multiple times, actually) where they need to buy new running shoes.
In today’s shopping environment, online shopping is a common alternative to going to a physical store. It’s easy, convenient, and can save you both time and money if you know where and when to shop!
But we can understand if you’re worried about buying the right running shoes when shopping online. You can’t try them on for size, fit, or comfort. And it’s hard to take them out for a short test run.
This could be enough to stop some people from buying online! But online shopping has some noticeable advantages over brick-and-mortar shopping.
We’ve put together a guide so you can shop without stress.
Benefits of Buying Running Shoes Online
Can’t sleep at night? Need to do your shopping outside of normal business hours? No problem! E-commerce stores are available 24/7.
You can browse, save, and purchase items at any time of day or night. This is a significant advantage over brick-and-mortar stores, which have limited hours they are open. If you have a full-time job, you may not be able to get to these stores during the week.
You don’t have to take a shower and get dressed up to go look at running shoes! You can shop from your bed, desk, or sofa, in the comfort of your own home.
That means no fuel costs, saving time, and not having to stand in long lines to pay!
Comparison is super easy when shopping online. You don’t have to physically leave one store, travel to the next, and compare the same shoe. It’s as simple as having more than one tab open on your computer!
This is a huge time saver. What might take you three hours shopping at stores can take you half an hour from the comfort of your own home!
The shoe you really like may only be available at a store far from your home. You can take a whole day out of your week to travel and view it if you like. Or, you can simply check it out online, buy, and have it delivered, wherever you are.
A wider reach is a benefit for retailers, who no longer have to stick to just their geographical region to make sales. So if you can find exactly what you want online, it doesn’t matter where it is. It can be delivered easily and efficiently.
More Color and Model Options
Once upon a time, you were restricted to whatever colors and models were in your local store. If you wanted to order something specific, it could take weeks to arrive, if you were able to order at all.
The simple fact is, brick-and-mortar stores don’t have the space to stock everything. But online is a different story.
Online you have a huge array of models, colors, styles, and fancy technologies at your fingertips! Because of the way e-commerce stores are structured, they don’t need stock the same way a physical store does.
Basically, whatever you can find online, you can order through an e-commerce store. Take your pick of colors and styles and find exactly what you love!
Occasionally Better Sale Prices
Physical stores have a bunch of expenses. Rent, paying suppliers, and employee salaries are just a few! Online stores, though, have much lower overhead. This means that online stores can afford to drop their prices.
That doesn’t always mean you can find better deals online, though. Many running shoe brands regulate their prices so what you find online will be the same as what you find in a store. This is especially true for new shoe models.
But quite often, after 4 to 6 months, this price protection is removed and shops are free to price the shoes as they wish. If you have your heart set on a certain shoe, you may find better deals after it’s been launched.
The Benefit of Brick and Mortar Stores Include
Don’t think that physical stores have no advantages, though! They’re naturally different from e-commerce stores, but they have some merit that online stores don’t.
Experienced Sellers and Running Analysis
Most running stores are staffed by runners. This means they can give you real, valuable information about the shoes you’re looking at. If you walk into a store and ask about a shoe for heel strikers, most employees will know what you’re talking about and be able to give you some good advice.
Because they sell and fit shoes on hundreds (maybe thousands) of people, they can also offer good advice about which shoes run large, which run small, and so on.
Many running shoe stores also offer gait analysis so you can figure out if you’re an overpronator, underpronator, or neutral runner. You can’t find this service online!
This is the other big advantage of brick-and-mortar stores. You can actually pick up a shoe, feel the upper, see what the color looks like in real life, and feel if it’s light or heavy on your feet.
These are things you can’t find out when shopping online. Sure, you can read reviews and read the product description on the website. But what feels light and airy to one, may feel clunky to another. There’s no substitute for actually trying a shoe on!
Most running stores will let you try the shoes on, take it for a bit of a jog, or perhaps even run on a treadmill for a while. All of this helps you to be more sure of your purchase. You can’t get this experience when shopping online!
You don’t have to wait for delivery when you buy at a physical store. You can walk out with your new shoes, put them on, and take a run immediately!
When you buy something online, there’s usually a waiting period. This could be anything from one day to a few weeks, depending on where you’re buying from. This has its own anticipation, but we’re an instant gratification kinda world!
For some, the experience of shopping is fun and exciting. Online shopping has its own appeal, but you can’t really make an outing of it like you can hopping from store to store!
No Shipping Costs
Shopping online can incur shipping costs, which can essentially raise the end price of the item. When you walk out of a store with a new pair of shoes, there’s no need to worry about this!
This is also helpful when it comes to returns. If you can’t try something on, there’s a chance that you may order the incorrect size and have to return it. Many online retailers charge a fee for return shipping.
When you buy in a physical store, you can try it on there and then and avoid this problem entirely.
Tips for Buying Online
Still wondering how to buy running shoes online and get exactly the right thing? Here are our top tips!
When in Doubt, Go Up a Half-Size
If you aren’t quite sure that a particular size will fit your feet, go up half a size. You may be wondering how you could get this wrong! You know your shoe size, right? Of course, but some shoes naturally run small or tight.
Going up half a size ensures a roomier fit. This should allow for a good fit if the shoe tends to run small, and if it is ever so slightly large, you can wear thicker socks to get the fit right.
And don’t forget your feet swell when you run. So you need some extra room otherwise your toes will jam mid-run.
Figure Out What Kind of Feet You Have
Everyone’s feet are different. Learning about your own gait and your own feet is important to make sure you’re buying the right type of shoes!
Overpronators roll their feet inwards while they run. This means they need extra support in specific places in their shoes, to prevent unnatural movement and injury. Shoes with this type of support are known as stability shoes.
Underpronators roll their feet outwards on every step. They’re less common than overpronators and would benefit from a shoe designed for underpronation or a neutral shoe.
Neutral feet don’t roll anywhere when you step. Neutral shoes are designed for those with neutral feet. All of these conditions relate to your arch height, too.
You can test your feet yourself using the tests below. Or, you can get your gait analyzed at a running store. This way, you know you’re buying the right shoes for your feet!
Test 1 (Wet Paper Test)
Dampen your feet and step onto a piece of brown paper of cardboard. Analyze your footprint to find out your arch type.
If you see a thin to medium bit on the outer side of your footprint, you most likely have normal arches and would do well with a neutral shoe.
If you see a thick piece of arch, you may be an overpronator! In this case, you most likely need a stability shoe to keep your feet safe and help you run faster.
If you see an extremely thin mark (or none at all), chances are you have high arches. People with high arches are prone to underpronating (rolling the foot outwards). There are shoes created specifically for these kinds of feet, but neutral shoes often work as well.
Test 2 (Squat Test)
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and go into a squat. When you’re in the low position, take a look at your knees.
Where are they pointing? Are they pointing towards each other? This could be a sign of overpronation. If they point outwards, you could be an underpronator.
It’s wise to do both tests so you can corroborate the results! If you still aren’t certain, getting your gait analyzed at your local store may be the way to go.
Think About What the Type of Running You’ll Be Doing Most
Are you a weekend warrior or a long-distance runner? Do you like the roads or the trails? Knowing what type of running you’re likely to be doing can be a huge help when choosing the right shoes.
For example, if you’re planning on short, fast runs, a lightweight shoe with a thinner outsole would be beneficial.
But if you’re planning on racking up the miles and hitting the road every day for an extended period of time, you want something with more cushion and a durable outsole.
You also need to decide if you want a road shoe, a trail shoe, or something that’s a bit of a hybrid.
Note the Return Policy
Double-check the return policy when buying online. You don’t want to order your dream shoe, only to find that it’s a size too large and you need to pay a large fee to return it. Or, even worse, that you can’t return it at all!
Many e-commerce stores offer some kind of satisfaction guarantee on their merchandise. Check this before buying. If you aren’t happy with it, it’s best to shop elsewhere.
Look Up Reviews on Different Websites
Remember, e-commerce stores want to make the sale! They’ll make the shoes sound excellent in their descriptions. While most of the top running shoe brands are of premium quality, it’s worth your while to spend a little time reading real online reviews of the model you like.
You may assume that “light cushioning” means the shoe will be comfortable underfoot but not too heavy. But a reviewer may point out that they could feel every stone under their foot and they felt more pain than comfort.
Do your research before buying. Don’t just read the Amazon reviews or those on the site, either! Find a couple of single product reviews on websites to give you more insight.
Consider Heel Height
If your calf muscles and Achilles are prone to tweaks, a higher heel-to-toe drop may help to reduce those issues.
Those who prefer a more ‘barefoot-style” shoe would benefit more from a low drop or zero-drop shoe.
Don’t Equate Price with Suitability
The most expensive shoe isn’t necessarily the best. Don’t assume that you’ll be getting a great shoe if you spend more.
The most important thing is to make sure the shoes you choose cater for your foot. Second to that is aesthetics. You can find plenty of affordable shoes that offer exactly what you need!
Where Are The Best Places To Buy Shoes Online?
Not all stores are created equal when shopping online. Here are our favorites:
The store that sells everything also sells running shoes. Besides, the speed, convenience, and free shipping that Amazon offers, they also have a wide variety of brands and models. You can pretty much find everything here.
The only downside is that some Amazon sellers take advantage of hard-to-find shoes and increase the price. So it pays to shop around a bit.
Zappos is known for its generous return policy. Returns are free and easy. Even better, their return period is a full 365 days!
Just be aware that while you’ll find all the major brands and models, you may not see every color option available. They also seem to take longer to list new release shoes than other retailers.
Road Runner Sports
Besides their huge online selection, Road Runner Sports has many brick-and-mortar stores throughout the country. They have a great selection and offer a VIP membership for discounts on certain shoes.
Their VIP program also lets you exchange used shoes. So if you take your shoes out for a test run and don’t like them, you can exchange them for another within 90 days.
One thing to watch out for is that their VIP program, while only costing a couple dollars on sign-up, has a heftier renewal fee. So it’s better for frequent shoe buyers and not one-time purchases.
Besides outdoor equipment, REI has a nice selection of running shoes, especially trail shoes. They are a good place to shop if you are an REI member and receive points for your purchases.