Running Shoes: Don't Pay More
Within Brands, Price No Sign of Running Shoe's Quality
Oct. 10, 2007 -- Running-shoe buyers, beware! Whichever brand of running
shoe you favor, the brand's most costly model is no better -- and may be worse
-- than its lower-priced shoes.
The warning comes from studies by Rami J. Abboud, PhD, director of the
Institute of Motion Analysis and Research at the University of Dundee,
Scotland, and colleagues. The researchers used sophisticated tests to measure
the performance of various running shoes.
The idea of the tests was not to see how cheap a shoe you can get away with.
All of the shoes tested were brand-name shoes sold in stores that cater to
runners. Retail price tags ranged from $81 to $152 (£40 to £75) in U.K.
Nearly every brand of running shoe has models that are relatively low,
medium, and high priced. The high-priced shoes claim to have more features. Are
they really worth the extra cost?
"If you are thinking, 'Pay more for a better shoe,' think again,"
Abboud tells WebMD. "Do the expensive ones last longer? If they were put
through a marathon, would the cushioning be better? We really couldn't find a
In the study reported ahead of print today in the British Journal of
Sports Medicine, Abboud and colleagues tested a low-, medium-, and
high-priced running shoe from each of three brands. Each shoe was fitted with
specially made insoles filled with 99 sensors to measure pressures placed on
After covering the shoes' distinctive markings with masking tape, 43 young
male volunteers took the shoes for a run on a treadmill. In addition to the
computer-assisted tests, runners also rated the shoes for comfort and tried to
guess their price.
The result: Low- and medium-cost running shoes cushioned the foot at least
as well as -- and sometimes better than -- the high-priced shoes. Runners found
no difference between the shoes in terms of comfort. And they were terrible at
guessing the price.
Abboud will not say which brands were tested -- yet. His group has already
completed two larger studies that he says include every brand of running shoe
on the market. When all the studies are published, Abboud says he will reveal
the brand and model names.
But Abboud is already delivering the punch line: No matter how he looks at
them, high-priced running shoes aren't better than lower-priced models within
the same brand.
"What we found is really astonishing," he says. "We are going
deeper and deeper to find why we are paying more for some shoes. At the moment,
we cannot find a reason except for better material on the outside. Nothing on
the inside of the expensive shoe is better."
(Do you buy expensive athletic shoes? Tell us why or why not on WebMD's
& Fitness: Rich Weil, MEd, CDE, message board.)