You’ve done all the prep work for this weekend’s marathon: You got in the long training runs, ate extra pasta and decided to pamper your feet by breaking the bank to buy an ultraposh pair of running shoes.
Before you start lacing them up, there’s something you should know: The old adage about getting what you pay for doesn’t always apply to running shoes. In fact, the opposite often is the case.
Jens Jakob Andersen, a former competitive runner and a statistics teacher at Copenhagen Business School, fired up his computers to run an analysis of 134,867 reviews on 391 running shoes from 24 brands that were posted on running websites. His conclusion: Higher cost doesn’t always mean higher satisfaction.
“The 10 most expensive running shoes [average price $181] have an average rating of 79 out of 100,” he said. “The 10 cheapest [average price $61] have an average rating of 86 out of 100.” In other words, the cheaper ones ranked higher.
Andersen conceded that higher costs typically mean higher expectations, which opens the door to a higher rate of buyers being disappointed. But, he said, that’s not enough to explain all of the negative reviews, pointing to the fine-dining industry, “where Michelin restaurants obviously do get better reviews than fast-food chains.”
He suspects that the costs of some models are driven higher not by the quality of the shoe as much as by the cost of marketing it.
“There is nothing wrong with a company selling premium running shoes,” he said. “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.”
Runners can see the results of his analysis — complete with lots of charts — at runrepeat.com.