5 Rules About Buying and Wearing Triathlon Running Shoes - Part 1

Decided you want to make a more informed decision about purchasing and wearing your next pair of triathlon running shoes? Look no further! Here are five rules to consider before lacing up:

1. Support Your Local Running Shop

Yes, you can buy shoes cheaper online. Unfortunately, this fact is killing (in my opinion) a very necessary industry. Your local running/triathlon store provides important services that the browser window simply cannot deliver.

  • You can try on the shoes.
  • Local stores, with people who care about running, may have the ability to analyze your gait.
  • You have access to sample the more running-focused shoe models big box companies might not be stocking.
  • Local stores can be a central hub for the running community.
  • Many stores allow you to return or exchange the shoes, even after a few weeks of running in them.

Actually, a few of those services are some of the rules I’ll be speaking on soon.

Primarily speaking, though, support of your local running/triathlon store is important because it keeps alive a specialized focus on an otherwise less promoted sport we happen to love. Keeping it around is worth spending a few extra bucks.


2. Know Your Gait

As mentioned in rule #1, many running specialty stores have experts with the ability to analyze your running gait. Knowing your gait and how your feet land in a particular shoe is important for avoiding inefficiencies, unnatural stress on your joints, and inevitable injuries.

For example, a large number of runners, both seasoned and inexperienced, may over-pronate upon landing. Pronation is a term used to describe our natural tendency to land on the outside of our feet and roll inward with each step. Over-pronation is what happens when we roll too far inward. A bowed out ankle is usually evidence of over-pronation.

Triathlon Training Running Shoes










If diagnosed as an over-pronator, don’t worry. This doesn’t mean your running career is over. Over-pronation is common and easily correctable. I myself over-pronate a fair bit and I’ve been running (somewhat successfully) for 16 years! All this means is that the recommended shoe might be a stability shoe. These have extra firm foam on the medial side to prevent the runner from rolling too far inward.

It’s my personal opinion that this isn’t a rule set in stone. An experienced runner might be fine with a neutral shoe (no medial side extra firm foam) despite being a slight over-pronator. It’s a case-by-case basis.

In the same vein, those who land mid-foot with their foot plant might be fine with a traditional heel-to-toe drop shoe. And vice versa for heel-strikers. What’s most important to me is how natural the runner looks biomechanically in a cumulative sense (don’t just focus on one idiosyncrasy) and more importantly how the runner feels in the shoe.

All that said, most running store sales associates trained to analyze your gait will be able to offer valuable insight into which shoe will work best for you based on your form. Strike a balance between the consideration of their input and knowing what feels right for you.

[Note: Heel-to-toe drop refers to the level of slope from the heel to the toe. Traditional shoes have a 10-12 mm drop, meaning the heel is much higher than the toes. Minimalist shoes have a 0-4 mm drop, simulating a more barefoot approach. Typically mid-foot and fore-foot runners like to go with the more minimalist design since their heels aren’t hitting the ground as forcefully and, therefore, have no need to absorb that impact. Heel-strikers usually need a traditional shoe to absorb the impact and then roll forward and down.]

Triathlon Training Running Shoes





3. Speed Laces

You will be wearing these shoes during a triathlon so we can’t forget the speed laces. When it comes to the tightness of your shoe, what I often tell people is that we want the shoe to feel like a comfortable glove for your foot. Not too tight, not too loose. Almost like the tightness of a sock.

You’ll also want to practice slipping your shoes on as if simulating T2 and then taking off running. If there’s slippage, tighten up the speed laces a little bit. Find what’s most efficient and comfortable for you and enjoy never tying your shoes again!

That should get you off to a good start on triathlon shoe selection. I’ll wrap up this discussion in the next blog.


My initial advice for buying and wearing triathlon running shoes is to always support your local running store, get your running gait analyzed, and invest in speed laces.


What rules do you follow when it comes to your triathlon running shoes? Do you use the same shoes for training and racing? What’s your brand?

JARED MILAM is a professional triathlete, TriDot coach, and member of the Tri4Him Pro Team. He has 16 years of competitive running experience and 11 years of competitive triathlon experience with a half Iron PR of 3:59 and a full Iron PR of 8:30. Coaching under the TriDot system since 2011, Jared loves working with aspiring triathletes of all ages and performance levels.

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