When shopping for a new pair of running shoes, remember that you’re not shopping for just another shoe. Running shoes are all about function- they look different, feel different, and fit differently from your other shoes. So how do you know the fit is right to carry you on your next run? Here’s a few ways to be sure:
- When the shoe is undone, can you comfortably slide your foot in and out of it? Your heel should fit snugly into your new shoes, but not too snugly. If there’s too much tension when you’re trying to remove your heel from an untied shoe, you are likely to experience serious irritation and heel blisters while walking or running.
- Try a few different ways of lacing up the shoe to determine if the lip sits too tightly. The upper part of a shoe should be secure against your instep, but if there’s too much downward pressure for your liking in this area (on a shoe you otherwise love), experiment with a few different ways of lacing before deciding against the shoe.
- Make sure that the shoe isn’t too tight. You should be able to comfortably move your foot from side-to-side in the shoe, without going over the edge of the insole. Likewise, your little toe shouldn’t be sitting on the edge of the shoe- you should have some room to spread your toes out wide. Try pinching the shoe gently near the widest part of your foot—you should be able to squeeze about a quarter-inch of material. Shoes that are too narrow constrict circulation to your feet and will generally cause nasty blisters on your little toe.
- Make sure that the shoe is not too short for your foot. Our feet actually lengthen when we run or walk quickly, so choosing a shoe that fits lengthwise—but only just—while standing still in the store sets you up for discomfort down the road. Make sure that there is about a thumb’s width of space between your longest toe (which is not necessarily your big toe!) and the end of the shoe.
- Make sure the shoes flexes in sync with your foot. Before putting on a new running shoe, check where your foot bends, and then press the toe of the shoe down on the floor to see where the shoe bends. To be a good match for your foot, the shoe should flex in about the same place your foot naturally does. While you can “break in” your shoe to accommodate the way your foot moves to a certain extent, this isn’t ideal. Wearing a shoe that doesn’t flex enough, or in the right place, strains the foot, your calf and ankle muscles, and your Achilles tendon.
- Before deciding on a shoe, take a moment to test it in action. This should involve more than just taking a few steps, as many people do. If there’s room in the store, take a little test-jog down the aisle, and/or wear the shoe for a little while around the store as you browse at other items. Many specialty running shops offer treadmills for this very reason! Check the return policy too!