A Shoe Doesn't Need to Cost
an Arm and a Leg

RunRepeat.com is an ad-free, non-profit online aggregator of running shoe reviews written by the vast community of distance runners whose opinions and experiences help consumers make informed shoe purchases. The website says that it has more than 100,000 user reviews, with 2,500 of these by "experts.” The site supports itself by selling unbiased reviews (like those within the Amazon reviewer community) to companies who rely on them to boost their market profile, but RunRepeat.com does not recommend running shoes, specific brands or stores to consumers.

The founder of  RunRepeat.com is Jens Jakob Andersen, a former competitive runner and lecturer in statistics at Copenhagen Business School. He recently pulled together data from 134,867 user reviews of 391 running shoes. RunRepeat.com then compared the shoe ratings in the reviews with the list prices of each of the 24 brands examined. The results of the study indicate that a higher price is not at all a good predictor of more customer satisfaction.

In fact, the study found that expensive running shoes are worse rated than inexpensive shoes. Specifically, the study data shows that, as Andersen says, “People buy three times as expensive shoes to get eight percent less satisfied. This makes me question the consumerism we are experiencing towards premium running shoes.”

Here are a few surprising take-home points from what is after all just one statistical regression. Nevertheless, the sample is large enough to give any runner pause about plunking down hundreds of dollars on a running shoe.

  • The higher the list price, the lower ratings the running shoes received. There are reasons beyond shoe quality as to why this might be so —e.g., expectations may be impossibly high for the most expensive brands. But that can work both ways, after all: the more you spend, the more susceptible you may be to confirmation bias that you have bought a truly great shoe.

  • The 10 most expensive running shoes (avg. list price: $181) were rated 8.1% worse than the 10 least expensive running shoes (avg. list price: $61). This is a fairly extraordinary finding both in that it isn't simply that consumers could take or leave either—they rated the cheaper shoe better by a significant margin—and because the price difference is so dramatic: threefold.
  1. Running specialist brands were rated 2.8% higher than running shoes from broad sports brands.
  1. The top three best rated brands were: #1 Skechers, #2 Saucony and #3 VibramFiveFingers, while the three lowest rated were #22 New Balance, #23 Adidas and #24 Reebok. (Adidas Group owns both Reebok and Adidas.)
  1. The three most affordable brands in the study were #1 Skechers, #2 Vivobarefoot and #3 Puma, while the three most expensive brands were #22 On, #23 Newton and #24 Hoka One One.

For more detailed information, check the following chart, which lists the 10 most and 10 least expensive running shoes reviewed, along with their reviewer ratings.

Run Repeat, Nov. 2015,
http://runrepeat.com/expensive-running-shoes-are-not-better-than-more-affordable-running-shoes-study

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