For runners everywhere, a common pain point is experiencing a shoe that just doesn’t cut it. A shoe that fits perfectly will erase most questions and uncertainty around foot discomfort, pain and possible injury. To ensure a good fit, Fitness Sports is here to help you understand more about the fitting process.
In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide to help you find the perfect running shoe fit, enabling you to achieve a healthier lifestyle, hit more PRs, and enjoy running for a long, long time.
You can expect to learn more about the following:
- Different foot types and how to determine your own foot type
- Factors to consider when choosing running shoes, such as cushioning, arch support, and flexibility
- The benefits of getting a professional fitting and how to properly try on running shoes
- Common fit issues and solutions for each one
- The importance of breaking in and maintaining your running shoes to extend their lifespan and ensure optimal performance
The Importance of Finding the Perfect Running Shoe Fit
Wearing the wrong shoes can cause a host of problems that may hinder your running. The right shoes can provide the necessary support and cushioning to help prevent common running injuries such as plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and knee pain. They can also improve your running form and efficiency, allowing you to run longer and faster with less effort.
On the other hand, wearing shoes that do not fit properly can cause blisters, calluses, and even toenail issues. Shoes that are too loose can cause your foot to slide around inside the shoe, leading to chafing and irritation.
Understanding Your Foot Type
Before delving into the factors to consider when choosing running shoes, let’s go over the three main foot types: flat, neutral, and high-arched.
- Flat Feet (Overpronation): Flat feet have little to no arch and tend to roll inward when running. This can put extra stress on the feet, ankles, and knees.
- Neutral Feet: Neutral feet have a moderate arch and roll slightly inward.
- High-Arched Feet (Underpronation): High-arched feet have a high arch and tend to roll outward when running. This can also put extra stress on the feet and legs.
How to Determine Your Foot Type
To determine your foot type, there are a couple simple tests you can do at home:
- The Wet Test: Wet your foot and step onto a piece of paper or cardboard. If you see a complete imprint of your foot, you likely have flat feet. If you see a curve on the inside of your foot, you likely have neutral feet. If you see a narrow curve or no curve at all, you likely have high-arched feet.
- Examine Your Current Running Shoes: Another test is to examine the wear pattern on your current running shoes. If the wear is on the inside of the shoe, you likely have flat feet. If the wear is evenly distributed, you likely have neutral feet. If the wear is on the outside of the shoe, you likely have high-arched feet.
That being said, we highly recommend testing your arch at your preferred shoe store. The experts will have a much better idea of what you’ll need to avoid issues brought on by under or over-pronation.
Know Your Foot Type Before Selecting Running Shoes
When you know your foot type, your chosen shoe will be much more likely to match your pronation level. That way, your running style and gait won’t be a cause for concern. For example:
- Those with flat feet may need more support and stability to prevent overpronation and reduce the risk of injury.
- Those with high-arched feet may need more cushioning to absorb shock and reduce the impact on their feet and joints.
- Neutral feet may be able to wear a wider variety of shoes, but it is still important to consider factors such as cushioning and support.
By determining your foot type and considering factors such as cushioning, support, and flexibility, you can select shoes that will enhance your running performance and reduce the risk of injury.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Running Shoes
When it comes to choosing the perfect running shoe, there are several factors to consider. Each factor can play an important role in ensuring that the shoe you select is not only comfortable but also supportive and protective. Here are some of the most important factors to keep in mind:
Cushioning refers to the amount of padding between your foot and the ground. The right amount of cushioning can help absorb shock and reduce the risk of injury. But, too much cushioning can be detrimental and negatively affect your balance and stability.
Let’s put cushioning application into practice. For instance, runners with high arches may require more cushioning than those with flat feet. Additionally, runners who prefer long-distance running may require more cushioning than those who prefer short sprints.
Arch support refers to the level of support provided to the arch of your foot. The right amount of arch support can help prevent overpronation, which can lead to injuries such as plantar fasciitis or shin splints.
When selecting a shoe based on arch support, it’s essential to consider your foot type. For instance, runners with flat feet may require more arch support than those with high arches. Some shoes even come with removable insoles that allow you to customize the level of arch support.
Heel-to-toe drop refers to the difference in height between the heel and the toe of the shoe. This factor plays an important role in determining the level of support and stability provided by the shoe. Shoes with a higher heel-to-toe drop provide more support and stability, while those with a lower drop offer more flexibility and a natural feel.
When selecting a shoe based on heel-to-toe drop, make sure to keep your running style in mind. Runners who prefer a more natural feel that’s close to the ground may opt for shoes with a lower drop, while those who require more stability may opt for shoes with a higher drop.
Keep in mind, a drastic change in heel-to-toe drop can take time for your body to adjust to, so we recommend gradually transitioning to a new drop level.
Flexibility refers to the shoe’s ability to bend and move with your foot. It ensures that your foot can move naturally and comfortably while running. Shoes that are too stiff can affect your gait and lead to foot and leg injuries or discomfort.
Runners with flat feet may not need as much flexibility in their shoes as runners with high arches. Additionally, runners who prefer a more free feeling may opt for shoes with more flexibility. It’s important to note that flexibility can vary throughout the shoe, with some areas being more flexible than others.
Breathability refers to the shoe’s ability to allow air to circulate around your foot. A really good running shoe should keep your feet as cool and dry as possible. Shoes that are not breathable can lead to blisters, hot spots, and other foot injuries.
When selecting a shoe based on breathability, it’s essential to consider the materials used in the shoe’s construction. Shoes made with breathable materials such as mesh and synthetic fabrics are ideal for runners who sweat heavily or run in hot and humid environments. It’s also important to note that some shoes come with ventilation features such as perforations or mesh panels.
Shoe weight also plays a crucial role in determining how comfortable and efficient your running experience will be. Shoes that are too heavy can negatively affect your speed and performance, while those that are too light may not provide enough support and protection.
Runners who prefer long-distance running may opt for shoes that are lightweight and comfortable, while those who prefer short sprints may opt for shoes that provide more support and protection. Lighter shoes, while highly sought after, may not always be the best option, as they may sacrifice durability and support.
Durability refers to the shoe’s ability to withstand wear and tear over time. It helps ensure that your shoes last for a long time and provide consistent support and protection over the life of the shoe. Shoes that are not durable can lead to injuries, discomfort, or simply fall apart far too soon.
When selecting a shoe based on durability, you should consider the materials used in the shoe’s construction and the quality of the shoe’s design. Shoes made with high-quality materials and designed to withstand wear and tear are ideal for runners who want shoes that last for a long time. The running terrain and frequency of use can also affect the shoe’s durability.
Traction refers to the shoe’s ability to grip the ground and provide stability while running. It plays a crucial role in ensuring that you can run safely and confidently on different surfaces and terrains. Shoes that do not provide enough traction can lead to slips, falls, and other injuries.
When selecting a shoe based on traction, you’ll need to know what surface you do most of your running on. For instance, runners who run on trails may require shoes with more traction than those who run on roads. Runners who run in wet or slippery conditions may require shoes with better traction than those who run in dry conditions. Some shoes even come with specialized outsoles designed for specific terrains.
Pricing and Past Experience
In general, it’s also important to prioritize factors based on your own needs. For example, if you have a history of foot or ankle injuries, investing in a higher-priced shoe with added support and cushioning may be worth the cost. But, if you’re a beginner runner who is still figuring out your preferences and running style, starting with a mid-priced shoe may be a more practical option.
It’s also worth noting that price doesn’t always equate to quality. While some high-end running shoe brands may offer added features and technology, there are also plenty of mid-priced options that provide excellent support and durability. Make sure to do your research and read reviews from other runners to determine which shoes are worth the investment.
Selecting the perfect running shoe requires careful consideration of the factors above. By taking into account your foot type, running style, and preferences, you can choose a shoe that provides the right amount of cushioning, arch support, heel-to-toe drop, flexibility, breathability, weight, durability, and traction. With the right shoe, you can run safely, comfortably, and confidently, and achieve your running goals while minimizing the risk of injury.
Getting a Professional Fitting
Getting a professional fitting will increase the chance of being happy with a purchase down the road. A professional fitter can help you understand your foot type, identify any potential issues with your gait or running style, and select the right shoes that will provide the necessary support and cushioning for your feet.
Benefits of a professional fitting
You’ll have peace of mind when getting fit for running shoes by a professional. A shoe fitter will get to know more about your running goals and any past injuries or issues you have experienced while running. That way, the fitter is equipped to provide the best shoes in any given situation. By the end, you’ll have a shoe that fits well, prevents injury and improves performance.
Where to get a professional fitting
You can get fit for a shoe at virtually any specialty shoe store. Various sporting goods stores and shoe retailers also offer fitting services. Various shoe brand websites also provide guidance on shoe fitting.
When choosing where to get a professional fitting, be sure to choose a place that has a reputation for having a knowledgeable staff. Look for stores that specialize in running shoes and have a wide selection of brands and styles to choose from. Bonus points if the store shares their knowledge of shoes and running on their social media accounts. This is usually a sign of a good store.
What to expect during a professional fitting
During a professional shoe fitting, the fitter will ask you to walk or run on a treadmill or on a flat surface to analyze your gait and foot strike. They may also use a pressure plate or other technology to measure your foot pressure and weight distribution.
The fitter will also measure your feet and assess your arch height and foot width. They may also ask you to try on several different pairs of shoes to see how they fit and feel, so you can compare and contrast before making a decision.
Questions to ask the fitter
When you go through a shoe fitting, it’s important to ask the fitter or associate any questions you have. This is an investment, so you should learn anything and everything you can during the process. Some questions to consider asking include:
- What type of shoe do you recommend for my foot type and running style?
- How does this shoe compare to other shoes I have tried on?
- What features should I look for in a running shoe?
- How often should I replace my running shoes?
- What are some things I can do to keep running regularly and prevent injury?
Make an informed shoe decision
After the fitting, the fitter will provide you with recommendations for shoes that will work best for your feet and running style. It’s important to take this information into consideration when deciding what pair to buy now, and in the future.
Look for brands and styles that have similar features to the shoes recommended during your fitting. Pay attention to factors such as cushioning, arch support, and heel-to-toe drop.
Remember, finding the perfect running shoe fit is not a one-time event. Your feet and running style may change over time, so it’s important to get a professional fitting periodically to ensure that you are always wearing the best shoes for your needs.
Trying on Running Shoes
Comparing the fit between different shoe brands and styles will help you make a better shoe decision. A proper fit is important when it comes to preventing injury and improving running performance. Here are some tips for trying on running shoes:
How to properly try on running shoes
- Wear the socks you plan to wear while running.
- Loosen the laces and slide your foot into the shoe, making sure your heel is snug against the back of the shoe.
- Stand up and ensure there is enough room in the toe box for your toes to wiggle comfortably.
- Tighten the laces to a comfortable level, making sure they are not too loose or too tight.
- Walk around the store for a few minutes to get a feel for the shoes.
- Jog or run in place to see how the shoes feel while in motion.
What to look for when trying on running shoes
Pay attention to the following factors when trying on running shoes:
- Comfort: The shoes should feel comfortable and not cause any pain or discomfort.
- Fit: The shoes should fit snugly, but not be too tight or too loose.
- Support: The shoes should provide adequate support for your foot type and running style.
- Flexibility: The shoes should be flexible enough to allow for natural foot movement while running.
- Cushioning: The shoes should provide enough cushioning to absorb shock while running.
- Breathability: The shoes should allow for proper ventilation to prevent sweaty feet and blisters.
- Traction: The shoes should have good traction to prevent slipping on wet or uneven surfaces.
What to do if the shoes don’t feel right
If your shoes don’t feel right, don’t be afraid to try on different pairs that catch your eye. Trial and error is key. Finding the perfect fit will save you lots of future troubles, and likely result in a much more enjoyable running experience. If you’re unsure about the fit, ask your preferred fitter for assistance.
How to compare different running shoes
To compare different shoes during the trying-on process, consider the following:
- Try on shoes from different brands and styles to compare fit and comfort
- Take note of the features and benefits of each shoe to determine which ones meet your individual needs
- Consider the price and value of each shoe
- Don’t rush into a decision
Common Shoe Fit Issues and Solutions
Sometimes we will find shoes that fit very well for the most part, but not quite perfectly. If you are a little more picky, it will be easier for you to point out some negatives about the shoes your trying on. Here are some common issues that runners can come across when trying on shoes, and solutions to address these issues.
Tight toe box
One of the most common issues in running shoes is a tight toe box, which can lead to discomfort and blisters.
To help remedy this issue, try on shoes with a wider toe box or a more flexible upper material. Make sure that your toes can move freely. Additionally, make sure to keep toenails trimmed to prevent them from rubbing against the front of the shoe.
Another common issue when wearing shoes is heel slipping, which can also cause blisters and discomfort. This issue is often caused by shoes that are too big or have a loose heel counter.
To alleviate this issue, consider trying on shoes with a snug fit in the heel area. Look for shoes with a secure heel counter that provides additional support. Additionally, heel pads or inserts can help to prevent rubbing, but they aren’t for everyone.
If a shoe isn’t a great fit, arch pain is a common problem among runners. This is caused by shoes that lack proper arch support, and can lead to discomfort, fatigue, and even injuries such as plantar fasciitis.
One solution for arch pain is to prioritize arch support in your shoes. Look for shoes with a firm midsole that provides support and stability. You can also consider using arch support inserts or custom orthotics to improve the fit and provide additional support.
How to prevent common fit issues
Preventing common shoe fit issues starts with getting fit the right way. Consider getting a professional fitting and trying on different shoes to find the best pair for you. Make sure to break in your shoes gradually and maintain them properly to extend their lifespan and prevent the common issues above. Finally, pay attention to any discomfort or pain and address it right away to prevent injuries.
Breaking in Your Running Shoes
For a runner, a pair of broken in running shoes is like heaven on Earth. Running shoes that are not broken in properly can cause blisters, chafing, and other discomforts that can negatively impact your running and increase your risk of injury.
By breaking in your running shoes, you allow the materials to adjust to the shape of your feet, which can improve the fit and gradually improve your performance over time.
Importance of breaking in running shoes
When you break in running shoes, you make the material softer, and end up creating a shoe that is more form fitting to your foot. A broken in shoe will help prevent debilitating injuries such as blisters, foot calluses, swelling and rashes, and even plantar fasciitis.
How to break in running shoes
The best way to break in your running shoes is to start by wearing them for short periods of time and gradually increasing the duration and intensity of your runs.
Begin by wearing your shoes around the house or for a short walk to get them used to your feet. Then, gradually increase your running distance and intensity over the course of a few weeks. This will allow your feet to adjust to the shoes and vice versa.
How long does it take to break in running shoes?
The length of time it takes to break in your running shoes can vary depending on the type of shoe and your individual foot shape and running style. Generally, it can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to fully break in your shoes. It’s important to listen to your body and not push yourself too hard during the break-in period. If you experience any discomfort or pain, take a break and allow your feet to rest.
Maintaining Your Running Shoes
Proper maintenance of your running shoes is just as important as finding the perfect fit. If you aren’t taking care of your shoes, don’t be surprised if your consistency and improvement suffers. Here are some tips to help you maintain your running shoes:
Why should you maintain running shoes?
Taking care of your running shoes can help extend their lifespan and ensure that they continue to provide the necessary support and cushioning for your feet. It can also prevent the accumulation of dirt and debris that can turn what was once a durable, grippy shoe, into an eye sore that is also a safety hazard.
How to Clean Running Shoes
Cleaning your running shoes regularly can help remove dirt and debris that can accumulate on the surface of the shoes.
To clean your shoes, start by removing the laces and insoles. Use a soft-bristled brush or cloth to gently scrub away any dirt or stains on the shoes. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that can damage the shoes.
For tougher stains, you can use a mild detergent or shoe cleaner specifically designed for athletic shoes. Be sure to rinse the shoes thoroughly with water and allow them to air dry completely before wearing them again.
When to Replace Running Shoes
Knowing when to replace your running shoes is crucial for maintaining performance and preventing injury. On average, running shoes should be replaced every 300-500 miles, or every 6-8 months, depending on how frequently you run and the type of terrain you run on.
Signs that it may be time to replace your running shoes include worn-out soles, flattened cushioning, and visible signs of wear and tear on the upper part of the shoe.
How to Store Running Shoes
Proper storage can also help extend the life of your running shoes. When you’re not wearing your shoes, store them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Avoid storing them in a damp or humid environment, as this can cause the shoes to develop mold or mildew.
It’s also important to store your shoes in a way that allows them to maintain their shape. Stuffing them with newspaper or using a shoe tree can help maintain the sturdy shape of your running shoes.
How to make running shoes last longer
In addition to proper cleaning and storage, there are several other ways to extend the life of your running shoes. One way is to rotate your shoes, using a different pair for each run. This can help prevent excessive wear and tear on any one pair of shoes.
You can also take steps to protect your shoes from damage while you’re running. Avoid running on rough or uneven surfaces, and be mindful of any obstacles that could cause damage to the shoes.
Finally, investing in high-quality shoes from reputable brands can also help ensure that your shoes last as long as possible. Look for shoes that are designed specifically for running and that offer the necessary support and cushioning for your foot type and running style.
By following these tips for cleaning, storing, and extending the life of your shoes, you can enjoy many miles of comfortable and injury-free running.
Finding the perfect running shoe fit can level up your running performance and help keep you strong and healthy. As we have discussed, there are several crucial steps to take when choosing running shoes, including understanding your foot type, considering various factors, getting a professional fitting, trying on shoes properly, addressing common fit issues, breaking in and maintaining your shoes.
It is essential to prioritize finding the right running shoes, as wearing the wrong shoes can lead to discomfort, pain, or serious injury. Research has shown that wearing properly fitted shoes can reduce the risk of injury, improve running efficiency, and enhance overall performance.
Fortunately, there are many resources available to help you find the perfect running shoe fit. In addition to local running stores that offer professional fittings, there are also online resources, such as shoe brand websites and experts who offer personalized consultations.
Remember that finding the perfect running shoe fit is not a one-time event. As your feet and running style may change over time, it’s important to regularly evaluate and update your shoe selection.
We at Fitness Sports highly recommend that runners prioritize finding the right running shoes for their foot type and individual needs, and take the necessary steps to ensure a great fitting shoe. Your feet and body will thank you for it in the long run.