What is the Cheapest Way to Buy Running Shoes?
If you have been running for any length of time, then you have likely realized one of the dirty little secrets of our sport - while on the surface it may seem like one of the cheapest pastimes, the budget impact adds up in a hurry (with running shoes likely being one of the highest items on the list).
Jens Jakob Andersen and the fine folks at RunRepeat.com endeavor to “help you find your next pair of running shoes in a neutral, unbiased and transparent way” - and now they have turned their analytical minds and statistical skills towards helping you save some money on your favorite running shoes. Follow along as we break down some of the bigger findings, and then head over to the research homepage to get the full picture.
What is the Best Way to Save Money?
By now it really shouldn’t surprise anyone to know that the analysis here says what seems to hold true for just about every facet of the retail industry - looking across many retailers and 99.99% of all running shoes sold, it is generally cheaper to shop for your running shoes online. More specifically, this particular study ended up with an average savings of 38% when buying the same shoe online versus in a brick and mortar store, and just over 50% on average when buying the previous version of a given shoe online (vs. the current version in store).
What Sort of Information was Considered?
Jens and his fellow researchers gathered 183,911 running shoe prices over three distinct days in March, surveying 41 US retailers for prices covering 36 different brands (including running-specific, running/everyday, and multi-sport). This analysis was then plotted and charted in numerous ways, helping to draw some very interesting conclusions. For instance:
- Pronation support costs money - motion control shoes are on average the most expensive, followed by stability, then neutral, and ultimately minimalist shoes were on average the cheapest.
- Comfort cost money - whether it is waterproof materials (anywhere from $10-20 added on to the price) or a little extra cushion (running shoes are on average $5.60 more for every extra ounce of overall weight).
- Racing saves money - well, not quite (factor in fees, travel, etc.)…but racing-specific shoes are generally 17% cheaper than everyday running shoes.
- Groupthink drives price - the worse the reviews, the higher the discounts.
If you are the sort of runner who can branch out from just one model/brand, there is even more good news - switching brands, especially to a company with a wider focus than just running shoes (e.g., Nike vs. Brooks), can help you save more as well. As an example, here is how much you could potentially save per brand (ranked in order of the average discount available):
Is it Really That Easy?
On the surface, reading through this research would make anyone start to wonder why you would ever buy running shoes anywhere but online! Unfortunately, nothing is ever quite as easy as it seems - and while there are definitely some interesting data points among the charts and narratives, there are a few caveats worth keeping in mind as well.
The price data used for this analysis was all from online retailers, and assumed for the purposes of comparison that all brick and mortar stores always abide by MSRP/MAP (minimum advertised price, set by the manufacturer and contractually required if a store wants to be able to continue to carry that brand of shoes). After talking to a few local runners and running store employees, it is not quite that cut and dry. Discounts for local running clubs, special sale events, and in-store clearances of previous models/less desirable colorways help lower the playing field a bit (you should see my bright green Kayano 21s - not my favorite color, but they were $50 brand new at a local retailer!!), and some stores are even offering price matching with both physical and online competition if the customer brings it up.
Additionally, online retailers often offer a different price for different shoes sizes and colorways of the same model (think an Amazon listing with a $70-$200 item price, eventually narrowing down on a more firm price once you pick your size and color). While this may be enough to initially get you excited (I can get my favorites for only $70!!) and helps influence graphs within this research…it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get your shoe in your size for quite that much off of the normal price.
The general premise of the research still holds true (on average, it is cheaper to shop online), just please don’t expect to be able to save $40 every time on a popular shoe if you happen to wear a common size.
Your Shopping Experience
We are keenly aware of how lucky we are in Minnesota, home to not only some amazing trails and races, but also a number of wonderful specialty running stores - please stay tuned, as we have reached out to many of your favorites and ours, and will be coming back soon with some further discussion about when cheaper is not always better.
Have you purchased running shoes online? We would love to hear about your experience below, especially whether the deals have been good as some of these charts would lead us to believe.