We probably all know it: more money doesn’t necessarily buy you better performing running shoes. So next time you roll up to your local running store and assume that the higher the price tag, the more likely the shoe will fit your expectations of durability, comfort and ability to transform your 20 hour trail ultra into a 10 hour blitz, think again.
Nope, money can’t buy you shoe love… that’s the finding of online shoe guide portal RunRepeat.com, which bills itself as the “TripAdvisor for running shoes.”
Based on 134,867 reviews and 391 running shoes from 24 running shoe brands, RunRepeat.com concluded:
- The higher the list price of a running shoe, the lower the rating
- The 10 most expensive running shoes (avg. list price: US$181) is rated 8.1% worse rated than the 10 most affordable running shoes (avg. list price: US$61). Same for top/bottom 30.
- Running shoes from running specialist brands are rated 2.8% higher than running shoes from broad sports brands (Nike, Adidas etc.).
- Skechers, Saucony and Vibram FiveFingers are the best rated brands while Reebok, Adidas and Hoka One One are bottom performers.
- Skechers, Vivobarefoot and Puma are the cheapest brands and Hoka One One, Newton and On are the most expensive ones.
Of course, as a study based in Europe, this doesn’t necessarily reflect local (Australian / New Zealand) prices nor our brand market. For instance, anyone caught wearing and running in Skechers in Australia are instantly disqualified from any running club they claim to be attached to. And Vibram Fivefingers while still in market (check a review of a recent model in the current edition of Trail Run Mag HERE) have been off the boil for a while as everyone swings the other end of the meat on bone pendulum, to the Hokas (perhaps indicative of the current focus on ultras road and trail Down Under). And to be fair, while they are expensive, Hokas tend to get a good wrap from the converts (I haven’t heard anyone whinge about the high price tag, meaning we assume they got what they paid for).
So what’s the push behind such a broad ‘buying satisfaction’ report? RunRepeat.com says it remains noncommercial with the stated purpose of helping runners choose the right running shoes. The purpose of the study, the site says, is to create transparency.
“We did this study to spread the word that ‘the higher the list price the more value’ does not apply to running shoes,” says Jens Jakob Andersen, the founder of RunRepeat.com.
He says: “Brands have strong incentives to promote high-end running shoes, but our study very clearly outlines that runners buying more expensive running shoes are less satisfied than runners buying mid-range or cheap running shoes.”
“Unfortunately, brands [and their marketing budgets] dictate [or at least influence] what shoes are popular. Our vision is that runners choose running shoes based on what others liked and rated highly instead of what is promoted the most.”
So, in some ways this study tells us a bit about road runners, prices and perceptions of value (or lack thereof) in Europe (the study came out of Copenhagen, although reviews included may have come from anywhere in the world).
Jens does acknowledge some chinks in his study armour:
“No study is perfect. Here are some pitfalls of this study:
- One might expect that if a runner buys and expensive shoe, he will have higher expectations for the quality of the shoe and therefore he will more easily get disappointed. True, the more you spend, the more you expect. Though, the list price should reflect expectations. If you spend more on a running shoe, you would logically expect to get a better product.
- The reviews are from the aggregator RunRepeat.com, which attracts a certain type of runner, which might bias results (in both directions).
That being said, we still believe our conclusion is right put, and that the potential biases have not influenced the data in any very significant direction.”
So the question for us trailites remains: do you buy your trail shoes influenced at all by price (you know that point in the purchase decision cycle between two shoes, you can’t quite split them nor afford both, so you lump for the more expensive one the assumption the extra dollars must get something extra in terms of.. performance, comfort, prettier colours? Ummm).
Perhaps, however, we’re smarter than the road running mob: we’re much more about function than form or the prestige of a high price tag. And thus we hone in more accurately on shoes that simply do a damn fine job on dirt, without the flash. It’d be interesting to know…
[Case in point, Saucony Peregrines – long been lauded by those in the know as a killer trail shoe, has slight problems with degradation (they wear and tear like brown paper bags sometimes) but are cheap enough that, well, the value prospect is actually still pretty good.]
With that in mind, we’ll soon test the theory to the max: Dunlop KT26ers are on the gear test schedule… ($49.995AU and did you know: KT26 = Kinetic Technology + 26 Miles (length of a marathon)).
For those interested, here is RunRepeat.com’s current ranking of trail running shoes.
Interestingly the Peregrine’s are up there (#5), as are Vibram Treksports (#4) which are reviewed in current edition of the magazine (#18 downloadable for free here). Inov8s, Merrells and Salomon’s seem to rank up there, too. That said all those names appear at the bottom, too, pointing to the fact that brands can produce as many winners as losers and that you should;t even make a choice based on brand, but rather model of shoe.