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How far in advance should I buy running shoes before a race?

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If you have the help of a knowledgeable retailer, you shouldn’t be concerned about buying running shoes before a race. The shoes will fit right out of the box. Because special attention will be paid to the shoe’s length, width, and comfort. When those three things are correct, the shoe will be ready to wear that day—even if it’s race day!

If you buy running shoes before a race without any help, you are more likely to have problems. There’s a good chance that the shoes won’t fit properly. So it may help to wear them at least a few weeks beforehand. You’ll need to wear the shoes long enough for them to deform around your feet.

running shoes before a race

Get these things right if you want to buy running shoes right before a race

1. The shoe should be long enough to spread and swell into.

Runners land with a load equal to approximately 3 times their body weight. Hundreds of pounds landing on a soft object, like your foot, will cause that object to spread. Hundreds of pounds of ground reaction force per landing add up—a 150-pound runner could experience 180 tons of ground reaction force per foot, per mile, at 10-minute mile pace. Allow about 0.5 inches of room, beyond the longest toe, for the spreading and swelling that will definitely follow.

2. Wide feet need wide shoes.

The average US women’s shoe size is around 8.5. We’ve sold thousands of pairs of shoes, and that experience has suggested to us that about 60% of women have wide feet. But just about all of our female customers are wearing medium shoes when they walk into Run Shoe Store! A medium shoe forces wide feet over the edge of the midsoles. That causes the upper to create forces against the foot, and the foot reacts with force against the upper, which will eventually deform the upper. The shoe will probably feel too tight until it deforms.

Do world-class runners get new running shoes before a race?

running shoes before a arce

I was a competitive athlete that trained with some of the world’s greatest athletes. I saw shoe companies give the very best athletes many pairs of shoes—more shoes than they would ever reasonably need. I never once saw those athletes use a worn running shoe before a race. They always wanted the newest pair of shoes, and they never complained about comfort. Because their shoes always fit!

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Phil Clark