Does the Right Running Shoe Really Matter?

By Jen Van Allen, Fleet Feet Sports contributor

When you first start running, it’s tempting to grab whatever athletic shoes you have on hand. But it’s not a good idea. Worn-out or ill-fitting shoes are a common cause of overuse injuries. And wear and tear are not always apparent to the naked eye. If you want to run comfortably and stay injury free, it pays to invest in a good pair of running shoes that offer the support and the fit that your feet need.

It sounds like a simple process—but there are lots of common mistakes that people make when shopping for shoes. Here are some tips on how to make the most out of your investment.

Don’t wait for wear out.

It is generally recommended that shoes be replaced every 300 to 500 miles, but wear and tear can vary widely. If you wear your shoes in lots of rain and snow, or cover lots of tough terrain, they may wear out sooner. In your training log, note the day that you purchased your shoes, and keep track of the miles you run in them. If the shoes start to feel flat, or you start to develop little aches and pains that aren’t related to increases in mileage or workout intensity, you may want to consider replacing your shoes sooner.

See the experts. 

At a specialty running store like Fleet Feet Sports, you’ll find trained staff members who can answer your questions measure your feet, conduct a gait analysis, and watch you move in various pairs of shoes to help you find the best pair to fit your needs. Click here to learn more about Fleet Feet’s Fit process.

Bring what you’ve been wearing.

When you shop for a new pair of shoes, take along the socks and any inserts that you’ve been wearing on a regular basis. That way you can realistically evaluate how well the new shoe will fit your feet. And don’t forget to bring the shoes that you’ve been wearing too. The wear patterns on your old shoes can provide valuable insight into your biomechanics that can help the salesperson identify the best new pair to meet your needs.

Size yourself up.

You may think you know your size, but it’s best to get your feet measured each time you buy new shoes. Foot shape and size can change over time, and one model’s fit can be drastically different from another’s. Many people also have one foot that is slightly bigger than the other. Many people end up getting a running shoe that’s a half size larger than their street shoes. The extra room allows your foot to flex and your toes to move forward with each stride. Try shoes on both feet and take them for a test run around the shop, on a treadmill, or on the sidewalk.

Don’t be put off by price.

It may feel like a lot to spend more than $100 on a pair of shoes, but whatever investment you make in shoes will pay off in the form of hundreds of happy pain-free miles. If you just opt for the cheapest pair, or put off replacing your worn-out shoes, you could end up injured, and end up spending many hundreds of dollars on copayments to doctors and physical therapists.

Go for function, not fashion.

It can be tempting to be wooed by shoes that “look speedy,” come in your favorite colors, or are what everyone in your running group is wearing. Remember that there is no one best shoe for everyone. There is only one shoe that offers your feet the unique support and fit you need at any given time. And as your body changes and ages, and your training evolves, your shoe needs will change too. Try on as many different models and pairs as possible.

Jen Van Allen has spent the past six years working as Special Projects Editor for Runner's World magazine, and writing stories for the magazine. She also has a book, The Runner's World Training Journal for Beginners, and contributes stories to The Portland Press Herald. To read the full article, visit https://www.fleetfeetsports.com/blog/shoe-shopping

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