Choosing the Right Running Shoes

Ask Coach Jenny

Q: How big of a difference do the correct running shoes make as far as brand, fit and arch? ~Jeff

A: Hi, Jeff. I love this question because everyone has different needs for running shoes and yes, the fit really does matter. What works for you may not work for me and vice versa. And running in the wrong shoes can cause aches, pains and detours in your routine.

That said, it’s important to note that shopping for running shoes can be as overwhelming as the cereal aisle in the grocery store. There are rows and rows of flashy-colored shoes and styles, enough to make you lightheaded. But there are a few things you can do to make the shoe shopping process flow with ease and maybe even a little joy, too.

  • Get fitted. Find a local running specialty store in your area. They should measure and look at your feet, and watch you run and walk in shoes to make sure they are the right fit. Some stores even record and analyze your stride on video so you can see for yourself (bonus points). If they don’t provide these fundamental services, it’s time to look for a new store. Every brand of shoes offers good quality; it’s how they fit, feel and function on your feet that matter the most (in other words, don’t shop by color or one brand only).
  • Research and learn. If you don’t have access to a running store in your neck of the woods, use the wet foot test below to determine your foot type and research shoe styles online or at a sporting goods store. Having this information will help better guide you to learning the right shoe for you, whether you have a store or not. Using shoe websites that offer free shipping and returns (Zappos) is also a handy perk when trying to find the right fit and size.
  • Go later in the day. Shop later in the day when your feet are swollen to avoid buying shoes that are too small. Your feet swell when running and it’s important to find a size that will leave a thumb’s width space between the front of the shoe and your longest toe. It’s also important to fit the width and volume of your foot. Nothing should bind or feel tight. If they do, try another pair. Remember to bring your current running shoes if you have them to check for wear patterns and the socks you plan to run in (wicking are the best).
  • Take the wet test. Get to know your feet by performing a “wet test” to determine the shape of your foot (arch, flat footed or in between). It’s an easy way to zone in on the functions of a shoe style for your foot type.
  • Wet the sole of your foot.
  • Walk onto a paper towel, paper shopping bag or piece of paper.
  • Look at the shape of the wet pattern.  It will indicate whether you have a high or low arch or are neutral.
  • From there you can narrow down your shoe options to match the shape of your foot.

Check out this link from RunnersWorld.com if you’d like to know more about the wet test and which type of arch you have. http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-240-319-326-7152-0,00.html

  • Track the miles. Lastly, write the purchase date of the shoes with a black marker on the side of the sole. This will remind you when you bought them and if you track your miles in a log, you’ll know when to replace them as well. The replacement date varies greatly by the shoe and the runner’s form and weight, but the general rule of thumb is every 300-500 miles of use or 4-8 months. Keeping your shoes fresh makes a huge difference in keeping the aches and pains away!
  • Also good to know. Minimalist shoes are a hot trend these days, and it’s important to be mindful that going with less shoe requires patience and time to develop foot strength and balance to run with less under foot. Some adapt faster than others, but for all of us it takes time to adapt to less under foot from a traditional fully supported shoe. Make sure you are well educated on how to make the transition or run in less shoe before you reduce the support in your shoes – especially if you’ve been running in supportive shoes for a while, have injuries or are training for long distance events.

There you have it, Jeff. I hope you find these tips to be helpful the next time you’re looking to trade out those old running shoes and slip into something more comfortable, and supportive, for your feet.

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