One of the most crucial parts of a good running/training plan is having the appropriate footwear for you. Great shoes can make a training cycle and the wrong shoes can break you down. Last year I made the mistake of switching shoes to something I thought was “cute.” I have been wearing Asics for years and although I bought another pair of Asics I opted for a neutral shoe despite using a stability model for quite some time. The sales person tried to warn me but I didn’t think it would be a big deal.
As many of you may remember I ended up with a terrible bout of Achilles tendinitis. It was so bad I could hardly walk and the hobbling I was doing caused major swelling on the top of my foot due to compensation. I was a mess and at first couldn’t figure out where this was coming from. I basically ended up not running for two months last spring and went nuts in the mean time. But as soon as I figured out that I needed to switch back to my old shoes, my recovery quickly sped up.
Lesson learned. We all need to make sure we are fitted with proper footwear. And your best bet and first stop should be to your local running store. Most running stores are full of employees who happen to also be runners, and typically major running nerds (thus why I love popping in there so much!). They are there to help you and want to make sure you are equipped properly.
Below are a few things you should plan on when you get fitted for running shoes and a few red flags to also watch out for:
Proper Measurements: The first thing you will do is get measured. Both feet should be checked out because sometimes you will find that one foot is a good bit larger than the other. You would be surprised by how many people are wearing a much too small shoe. This can be a sure bet for lost toe nails and blisters.
Running/Gait Assessment: The next step to a proper fitting is to have your running assessed. Typically this will happen while you jog on a treadmill. Most stores have iPads to video tape you with and some have some pretty sweet technology to show you where your problem areas lie. Even the most amateur set up can show if you are a pronator, neutral runner, or (like me) a supinator. They can also tell if you strike more on the heel or front of the foot. All of these will determine if you are better off in a neutral or stabilizing shoe.
Try Out Some New Kicks: Next up you will likely be given several pairs of shoes that are most appropriate for you and your running style. Make sure you try them all on and jog around in them. Do not reach for the cutest pair and head home. Remember that not all cute pairs are the best. Try them on and figure out which one feels like you could spend the next 300-500 miles running around in them.
The Upsell: Some shoes come at a pretty hefty price. But unless you are a major pronator or have other serious issues, odds are that you DO NOT need the most expensive pair of shoes in the store. In fact, if you are a beginning runner employees should encourage you to find a proper shoe that comes in around the middle of the line price wise. I have had beginner runners who were sold shoes that were $170 and unfortunately had way too much padding in them. While they needed a stabilizing shoe, the one they were fitted with was way too much for them and lead to injuries anyway.
Add Ons: While this isn’t always the case, once you have had a proper fitting you should be in a shoe that helps take care of any “issues” you might have. Most runners do not need an orthotic or other insert. However, a local running store I know has recently taken to selling the most expensive model to runners and then encouraging everyone to add on an insert.
As someone who uses an insert I am a huge fan of them. However, I had plantar fasciitis in the past and the aid of a lift in my arch helps to keep issues away. Yet, not everyone needs these and in some cases adding this on when it is not necessary could cause further injury.
Make sure you aren’t pushed to get additional bells and whistles with your shoes that are not necessary. If you have a good shoe, you usually won’t need those extras.
Know Yourself: I went in for a fitting a few months ago and the first thing the girl did was measure my feet. She then told me that I should be in a half size bigger shoe. Now, I have been running for a long time and during that time I have logged a lot of miles. In fact, I typically run near 200 miles per month. She kept trying to convince me that the extra half size would help my running. Since it was a free shoe given to me by the company I decided to give it a try. I figured I didn’t have anything to lose.
Well, a few weeks later my calves were killing me and I felt like my feet were sliding around in the shoes. I should have known better. Had I been losing toe nails on a consistent basis of having other issues it might have been a good idea to give the half size upgrade a try. But in this case I should have gone with my gut.
Getting the perfect pair of shoes should feel amazing. You should head out for your first run and feel like you have a new bounce to your step. That new pair should almost restore your love of running. There is nothing like a good pair of shoes!