Running shoes have come a long way. Gone are the days of sore arches, beat up toes, and persistent blisters. From advanced cushioning to motion control technology, there is a shoe out there for everyone. Running shoes are designed to accommodate a wide variety of foot shapes, body types, and biomechanical inefficiencies. The challenge is matching the right shoe to each person.
We Believe Video Gait Analysis is a Key Part of the Fitting Process
At Potomac River Running, we will analyze your gait (foot strike) as you try out shoes on our in-house treadmill. A video monitor will enable you to see while in motion how your gait can be affected by the shoes you wear and help us identify the correct category of shoe for you. Although many stores may watch you walk or run, we strongly believe that this treadmill analysis is the best way to assess your gait -- running outside is a substitute, but we can't see you for very long once you've gotten up to your normal running or walking speed. Limits on our vision thus compromise our ability to give you the best opinion. Of course, if you are not comfortable on the treadmill we will watch you outside as a second best option.
Tips for Choosing The Right Shoe For You
There are a lot of ways to choose the "wrong" or "not quite perfect" shoe, and a few things to keep in mind as you narrow down your options. At Potomac River Running, out staff is trained to help you make an excellent choice, but at the end of the day, only you will be running in your shoe. As you choose a shoe, you will be thinking about size, width, your mechanics, the brand, and what you've heard about it. Keep in mind the following tips to help you make an educated choice! Below are five tips for making the "right" choice
It's not a cliche. Buy the right size. Be aware that an athletic shoe is typically cut shorter than your leather dress shoes, so you will automatically likely go up .5 to 1.0 full sizes just in that conversion. Why? Part of the difference is due to the shoe mold (last) used in making the shoe as well as the synthetic (i.e., less stretchable) materials used to provide cushioning and the shoe outer materials themselves (the upper). But beyond that standard conversion, your size may need to increase further because you need room for your feet to swell during exercise (and the longer the duration of your planned activity, the more chance for this swelling, so it becomes even more important for someone training for an endurance event.) If your feet do not have room to swell, you have a good chance of being afflicted with blisters, calluses, black toenails and other nuisance problems. More importantly, if your shoes are too tight and your forefoot bones (metatarsals) don't have room to expand as your foot strikes, they are less likely to absorb shock correctly and you put yourself at risk for many more significant injuries.
If you find that your shoes seem to fit fine in the store and have plenty of room, but you are later having trouble on the trail, you may want to shop for shoes late in the day, or after a workout when some swelling has already occurred. If you have a favorite thickness of sock, bring your sock with you or be sure to do your trying on with a similar weight sock. Ultra thin socks take up less room in the shoe than thick cushioned socks do.When trying on shoes, be aware of "first feel" of your foot in the shoe. If you can feel the end, it is too small. If you can wiggle your toes freely, that is a good sign. If your heel slides out of the back or your foot slides side to side inside the shoe, it is too big or not cut correctly.... Also, many people have feet of slightly different lengths -- always fit to the larger foot, even though the smaller one may have to adjust to the feeling of extra space.
As mentioned, running shoes don’t stretch out due to the synthetic materials. Why synthetic? You want light, breathable meshes, and materials that aren’t compromised by moisture and won’t lose their shape. As such, a running shoe should fit very comfortably from the first time you try them. That is not to say they don’t need a bit of time to “break-in.” You should give yourself some time easing into a new shoe, especially a new model. Spend some time walking in them, and take a few short runs before a long run. Let your body get used to the new shoe and let some of the flex points in the midsole and upper get used to bending where your foot bends. If it all possible, don't wear a brand new shoes for a long run on the first day out! We recommend trying the shoes out on a treadmill for a few miles before going out for a longer run -- that way if you have a problem, you can address it before you find yourself a long way from home. And, you can easily exchange the shoes because you will not have dirtied them outside.
Width matters, too
The average men's shoe is a D width and women's width is a B width. Some models labelled as a standard width are actually cut a little narrower or wider, and can be a good choice for someone with a slightly wider or narrower foot. If your foot is significantly wider or narrower than average, the Sales Associate may suggest styles available in widths. Most all the major running shoe brands make some of their shoes in wides and narrows. While most stores do not carry all styles in all widths, typically there should be something that gives you a good fit.
Basic Biomechanics Are Important
The type of shoe you should look for is best determined by knowing your biomechanics. If you overpronate, you should look for some stability style shoes. If you overpronate excessively, then a motion-control or extra stable model is likely the shoe type. If you are fortunate enough to pronate the ideal amount, then a neutral shoe with good cushioning that fits well should serve you best. And if you are one of the rare underpronators (sometimes referred to as supinators) you should also look to a neutral shoe but may need extra cushioning throughout the midsole.
How do you understand your biomechanics? While magazines and online shoe guides may suggest a "wet foot test", looking at the wear pattern of your shoe, or using or other forumula to help you select, ultimately the definition of running is that you in motion. Gait analysis shows you exactly what your foot does. For instance, many people mistake outside heel wear as a sign they are a supinator. What needs to be observed is what happens after the initial contact with the running surface. Most everyone will roll inward (medially) to some extent. The extent of the medial rotation determines what type of shoe you should consider. Also, don’t assume that if you have flat feet you need more support or that your high arches indicate you don’t. These are fair generalities but the number of times it is proven false while in motion is significant. Take the time to have someone watch you and make sure they are able to explain to you what they saw and what it means.
Brand does NOT matter
Shop by running shoe type, not brand. Running shoes are like cars -- there are many major manufacturers, each of whom makes shoes in different categories designed to fit and appeal to different customers. (There are many different mid-size sedans out there...you and your neighbor don't necessarily each feel the same one is "right.") If you know what type of shoe works best for you, know your biomechanics, and know the features of your foot (width, volume, etc.) then you may find yourself regularly returning to a particular style or brand. If you don't know what you like, if your shoe of choice has recently changed, or if you have had other changes (pregnancy, introduction of a new type of trianing, injury, etc.) you will want to keep an open mind and revisit your biomechanics before selecting a shoe. Have a gait analysis to determine the right category of shoe for you (e.g., motion control, stability or neutral). Then consider the various options in that category. Try not to be predisposed against a particular brand because of a bad experience you had in the past -- "I got a stress fracture wearing Brand X.... I'll never wear those shoes again." It may be that the category of shoe was wrong, in which case any brand's offering in that category would have caused you similar problems.
Choose the Shoe by Its Fit, Not It's Color, Recent Magazine Award, or Your Friend's Experience
Don’t buy a brand based on someone else’s success with it, or because you read great stuff about it somewhere. At Potomac River Running, we vigorously screen the shoes we carry to be sure they provide the technical quality we demand. We stand behind every style on our wall, but what we sold for your friend may not be right for you.... Gathering information is great but ultimately, you should be guided by what feels good to you rather than someone else. Ultimately, models change relatively often (12-18 months is typical) and the designers change companies almost as frequently. Being loyal is fine, but don’t be blindly loyal, and don’t buy by color alone!