Fitting Shoes For Your Feet


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More than you wanted to know about running shoes...
Obviously running shoes are the most important piece of equipment a runner needs. Good fitting running shoes can help prevent injuries and can help a running gait be more efficient. The running shoe market is huge and most of the running shoe companies make a significant investment in the technology and science of running shoes.

How to Choose Running Shoes:
All runners need the best protection that running shoes can provide — a good running shoe needs to absorb shock, control motion, be flexible and be durable all at the same time. Because of the complexity of individual foot biomechanics and the complexity of running shoes on the market, it is usually a good idea to buy running shoes — not necessarily from us, but we'd love it — where they have the expertise to help you find the best running shoe for your feet.

To help you get the best shoe; here are some tips that will help:

  • shop in the later part of the afternoon — feet get bigger during the day and they will get bigger when running
  • wear the socks that you would normally wear during running
  • take into account when deciding which shoe is best for you — how much you run; how heavy you are; type of foot you have; presence of any specific foot problems
  • it can help us if you bring an old pair of running shoes with you, so the we can see where your shoes tend to wear the most

Which is the best running shoe:
There is no best running shoe. Every runner is different; every brand of running shoe is different; each model of running shoe is different - the challenge is to match the features of each runner to the features of a particular brand and model of running shoe. This is why it is important to study the type of foot and shoe you would need to fit your foot.

How to fit running shoes:
The first step is deciding what type of foot you have - it is probably the most important aspect of matching a brand and model of running shoe to the individual.

How to do that: Try the water test to determine what type of arch you have. When barefoot, get your feet wet and step on a dry spot. Take a look a your foot imprint, especially the arch area. Do you see your whole arch or not much at all? This will tell you right away if you have a flat foot, a medium arch or a high arch. As a rule of thumb:

Water Test

A flat arch: tends to roll in and need shoes with motion control
A neutral arch: can use a moderate stability shoe
A high arch: benefits from a cushioning shoe.

What happens to the foot when running:
During normal running and walking, the outside of the heel strikes the ground first — which is a common area of wear on the outsole of the shoe. The foot then rolls inward and flattens out along the arch. The foot should then roll in through the ball of the foot - this helps make the foot a rigid lever for efficient propulsion. A number of biomechanical problems can interfere with these normal motions. A running shoe can help facilitate normal function and help overcome any biomechanical problems that interfere with proper motion. Note: An inappropriate running shoe can actually hinder normal function.

Usually, most runners who develop an injury either roll out (supinate) or roll in (pronate) too much. Normal amounts of pronation and supination are needed for normal function, but abnormal amounts increase the risk for injury.

Excessive pronation is the most common cause of running injuries. A pronated foot rolls inward at the ankle, the midfoot tilts inward and the arch flattens. Those who over-pronate generally have very flexible and unstable feet, so they need running shoes with a lot of motion control. A motion control shoe has design features that give a high level of support - a firm post on the inside of the midsole; a firm or dual density midsole; and a firm heel counter.

A supinated foot rolls outward at the ankle and has a high arch. It tends to be more rigid and very poor at absorbing shock, so this type of foot needs shoes with a lot of cushioning. Note: Cushioned shoes tend to be poor at motion control.

How to fit running shoes:
Once the type of running shoe is matched to the type of foot, several brands and models should be tried on for comfort and fit.

Tips on how to make sure the shoe fits:

  • Check for adequate length by determining if there is a full thumb width between the end of the longest toe and the end of the shoe.
  • The toe box should allow the toes to move around.
  • The shoe should have adequate length at the widest part of the foot - it should not be too tight, but the foot should not slide around either.
  • If in doubt, err on the larger size.
  • Your heel should fit snug and held at the rear without slipping.
  • Be conscience of the arch in the shoe; it should feel comfortable.
  • Walk or jog around the store to get a feel for the shoe. Try several brands and models in the type of running shoe you need - they will all have different fit and comfort characteristics.
  • Always select shoes largely on the basis of how they feel.
  • If you have orthotics, fit the shoes with them in. Also, buy shoes with insoles that can be removed so you can modify or replace them with orthotics.
  • Running shoes should feel good the day you buy them. They won't "break-in" after a few runs.

How much room should I have in the end of my running shoes:
We like to fit shoes with a thumb's width at the end of the shoe. This is really important if you run longer distances, for feet swell significantly the longer you go. If you get black toenails, you are fitting your shoes too small. The best time to try on shoes is in the afternoon. Your foot is the largest at this time of day. Try them on with the same type of sock you will be wearing. Changing from a thin sock to a thick sock can change the shoe size.

How long do shoes last or how can you tell when you need new ones:
The standard answer is 400-600 miles. This is a good rule of thumb for all runners, but it really depends on your weight, height, and running style. The midsole, the cushioning and stability layer of running shoes usually wears out before the outsole. The rubber outsole is very durable today, so it's usually the last to wear. I am always amazed when someone comes in with a pair of shoes with 1000+ miles on them. My legs and joints couldn't take it. I can ultimately tell I need new shoes when my legs feel sore, my joints hurt and I start to get blisters after a run. This is a sign my shoes have already worn out. If I look at my shoes, sometimes wrinkles in the midsole will indicate excessive wear.

Prevent injuries; replace your shoes before it's too late.

The Anatomy of a Running Shoe:
Running shoes have become more complicated over the years, but still consist of some basic components:

The outsole: This is the treaded layer on the undersurface of the shoe, usually made from carbon rubber or similar material. It resists wears and provides traction. It may also have a studded or waffle design to enhance traction on different surfaces.

The midsole: This is considered the most important part of running shoes as it is the cushioning and stability layer between the upper and the outsole. The most common materials for the midsole of running shoes are ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), polyurethane (PU) or a combination of the two. Often there is a dual-density midsole that has a firmer material on the inner side (medial side) to help limit pronation (rolling in) of the foot. A lot of proprietary technologies developed by different manufacturers go into the midsoles of running shoes (e.g. air, gel and high-tech plastic materials).

The upper: This is the part of the shoe that wraps around and over the top of the foot. It may be made of leather or a synthetic material that is lighter and breathable (to reduce heat from inside the running shoe). The tongue of the upper should be padded to cushion the top of the foot against the pressure from the laces. Often, at the back of the running shoe, the upper is padded to prevent rubbing and irritation against the Achilles tendon.

The heel counter: This is a firm and inflexible cup that is built into the upper of running shoes and surrounds the heel. It is usually very firm so that it can control motion of the rearfoot.

Post or footbridge: This is the firm material in the midsole which increases stability along the inner side (arch side; medial side) of the running shoe.