For Running Shoes, A Higher Price Tag Doesn't Always Mean Better Quality

Study finds runners who spend more money on their shoes are less satisfied with quality and performance

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Want to make a runner’s blood boil? Easy. Just tell them their super-expensive sneakers are wildly overpriced and probably not any better than a pair that costs significantly less.

They’ll likely go on a tirade about arch support, heel cushioning, footstrike and the likes, using any and every argument they can think of to justify the steep price of their oh-so-precious running shoes.

Turns out, though, those arguments might be meaningless.

A recent study conducted by RunRepeat.com examined 134,867 user reviews for 391 different running shoes from 24 brands and found expensive running shoes are more frequently rated worse than cheaper ones.

“People buy three times as expensive shoes to get eight percent less satisfaction,” said Jens Jakob Andersen, founder or RunRepeat.com. “This makes me question the consumerism we are experiencing towards premium running shoes."

Less surprisingly, the study also found that not all running shoe brands are liked equally. But Andersen made a point to note that the goal of the study was purely to inform users, not to hurt or promote any specific brands.

“We are an independent institution that pursues the vision of sharing the truths of the running shoe industry, and to help consumers choose the right running shoes," he said.

Key Findings

The first ever study to analyze the correlation between the cost of running shoes and user reviews, the results revealed four main conclusions:

1. The higher the list price of a shoe, the lower the ratings it receives.

2. The 10 most expensive running shoes, which have an average list price of $181, are rated 8.1 percent worse than the 10 cheapest running shoes, which have an average list price of $61.

3. Brands that specialize in shoes specifically for runners are rated 2.8 percent higher than running shoes from broader sports brands.

4. The three most affordable brands (in order) are Skechers, Vivobarefoot and Puma. The three most expensive brands (in order) are Hoka One One, Newton and On.

The main lesson learned: just because a running shoe costs more money, doesn’t mean it’s superior to others on the market that cost less. In fact, spending less money on your sneakers just might guarantee that you’ll be more satisfied with them.

“Our study very clearly outlines that runners buying more expensive running shoes are less satisfied than runners buying mid-range or cheap running shoes,” Andersen said.

He also noted that while higher prices most likely lead runners to set higher expectations for their shoes, the price should still accurately reflect the quality of the product, and therefore, the ratings too.

“There is nothing wrong with a company selling premium running shoes, but in my honest opinion, it is a problem when a running shoe brand spends massive amounts of money on marketing to promote products [consumers] dislike,” Andersen said.

So, next time you’re in the market for a new pair of running shoes (which is quite often for avid runners), ditch the consumeristic mindset that often leads us to believe something is better just because it has a higher price tag.

And as we always recommend, when you’re shopping for new running shoes, be sure to test them out. The best way to find out if they’re right for you is to take them for a test drive.

More Reading:
Top Running Shoes For Fast Marathons
Best Running Shoes Under 100 Bucks
What Your Favorite Running Shoe Brand Says About You

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