Buyer Beware: Bargain Running Shoes Aren’t Worth It

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When it comes to buying running shoes, the best advice is to visit your local shop, in person, to try on a pair. That's because fit is paramount: It doesn't matter how great a shoe performs for others; if it doesn't fit you properly, you won't run a step.

But, what about when you've found a pair you know works for you and fits well? You just want to get them on the cheap — we know. And, usually, that means scouring the discount bins at places like DSW or hitting the Internet.

A new website, shoekicker.com, acts like the expedia.com of running shoes, doing all the comparison shopping for you. With the click of a button, it'll find the lowest prices on in-stock inventory from stores' sites such as Finish Line, Nordstrom, DICK's Sporting Goods, and Zappos, but also from running-centric retailers like Road Runner Sports and Running Warehouse.

The site is stupid-simple to use, which is both an advantage and a drawback. Enter the shoe's name, your size, and gender, and it'll sort the best deals from 16 different websites — if your size is in stock. For example: We searched for "pegasus," hoping to score a deal on one of our favorite daily trainers, the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus, which has been around for more than three decades.

We were presented 13 results, with the best deal being from Amazon. The $100 shoe can be had for just $69.44. But it found some at slightly higher prices at Finish Line, Nordstrom, 6pm, DICK's Sporting Goods, Holabird Sports, Running Warehouse, Foot Locker, Sport Chalet, DSW, Road Runner Sports, City Sports, and Zappos.

Here's the downside to ShoeKicker: The site treats all versions of a model as being the same. Continuing our Pegasus example, the top result was for the Peg 31, which is now just about two years old. But it underwent a major overhaul for version 32, which is the shoe we really dig. The 31 was marshmallowy soft underfoot and the upper ran a bit snug compared to earlier versions. The 32, by comparison, featured an all-new midsole and outsole, with the stack heights being reduced (the drop was lowered from 12mm to 10mm) making the shoe firmer than the previous model.

While that might not sound like a big deal, it drastically changed the way the shoe rides. But none of this information is conveyed by shoekicker.com. Instead, you have to click through each of the site's results to find out which model is offered. You can still find deals on the newer shoe, but the discounts aren't as deep. Clicking on the Running Warehouse link brought up the Peg 32, for just $87.88 (of $110 retail). It's annoying to have to click through the results to find the right model, but it's still easier to do so than dig through each of these sites on your own.

That said, the site can be extremely helpful if you wear wide or narrow shoes, which are generally more difficult to locate on your own. Shoekicker.com found us five pairs of Pegasus in 2E and two in 4E, though all were at full price.

Generally, if you want the current model of a shoe, you're best served hitting up your local mom and pop shop, or visiting runningwarehouse.com, which offers discounted prices on many of the shoes it carries, plus gives you free two-day shipping and has a generous 90-day return policy. But, for older models that have become difficult to find, shoekicker.com can help.