Our Fit Process
Running shoes have come a long way. Gone are the days of sore arches, beat up toes, and persistent blisters. From advanced cushioning to innovative ways to support the foot, 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.
No two athletes are the same. The dimensions of your feet, as well as the strength and flexibility of the muscles and joints in your legs make you one of a kind. At =PR=, we apply our years of experience and product knowledge to meet your unique needs as you pursue an active lifestyle.
Running and walking shoes are designed to accommodate a wide variety of foot shapes, body types, and biomechanics. Using video analysis software, we assess your gait (foot strike) on our in-house treadmill at the precise speed that is comfortable for you.
By carefully assessing your unique gait, our experienced shoe fitters will identify an appropriate category of shoe for you. We invite you to watch yourself in slow motion to see how your gait is affected by the shoes you wear. Whether you run, walk, or spend time on your feet in other activities, this process will enhance your comfort. Our video gait analysis is a FREE service we offer in all of our stores!
The analysis does not stop at your feet, though! We capture a brief profile video of your running/walking mechanics to determine how your form affects your overall efficiency and comfort. Again, we are excited to share our observations with a frame-by-frame review of the basics of running/walking form and movement.
Together, both practices enable you to choose the best shoe for you. For runners and walkers, we can also identify ways to improve your running/walking economy, which will help to enhance comfort, reduce injury, and make exercise routines of all levels more manageable. You’ll want to come back in and repeat this process each time you need new shoes (every 4-7 months or 300-500 miles if you are using them for running.) As you change—whether this means your running form, your level of fitness, or your lifestyle—you’ll need to again confirm that you’re choosing the best shoe for you at that time! We encourage those who wear running shoes for purposes other than running to consider a different model for each use, as the shoe will degrade in different ways.
Don't Be Afraid
If you haven’t visited us in the past, we don’t want you to be anxious about the fit process. It is quick, easy, and informative and we love to answer your questions! However, we know that many people want to be as prepared as possible before arriving so we have provided some frequently asked questions and tips below to help you feel comfortable.
Whatever you have on! Many people choose to wear exercise gear, but every day we see folks dressed for work in suits or dresses. You are only on the treadmill for a couple of minutes so you won’t break a sweat. We have try-on socks for you to use too.
No, you don’t need an appointment and gait analysis is available any time we are open. All our staff is trained to advise you and make your footwear selection process easy and stress-free. Our gait analysis service is FREE in all our stores!
Absolutely! We are happy to perform a gait analysis on anyone at any time. Feel free to bring in friends and family members who aren’t currently in need of new shoes. We will give some insight on what shoes might be suitable for that person when he or she is ready to make a purchase, and can talk technique any time!
We hope that together with your input, we’ll help you find a great choice. But sometimes something isn’t perfect. We’ll make it right for you. Bring your shoes back in and we’ll revisit the fitting process with you and find you a new option!
Many medical studies suggest that rotating your shoes can reduce your risk of injury. What is right for you can depend on how you are using the shoes. We advise wearing a different pair of shoes for running/working out than you do for work/everyday wear. Walking/standing and running can affect the shoe differently and you also may be more comfortable a different style/category when running. Runners may also benefit from using a lighter, more responsive shoe for faster/shorter training vs. a more cushioned shoe for those longer days.
At =PR=, we are proud to partner with Project Sole for our shoe recycling program. Just bring your reasonably clean donation to any location and we’ll get it to the right people.
Tips from the Pros
It’s not a cliche. Buy the right size. Be aware that an athletic shoe is typically cut shorter than your leather dress shoes or other casual footwear, so you will automatically likely go up 0.5 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 road or 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. We have try-on socks of all kinds for you to use in the store. 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 in 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 pair of running shoes 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 at all possible, don’t wear a brand new shoe 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
Width Matters, Too
The average men’s shoe is a D width and women’s width is a B width, but most brands manufacture shoes in wide and narrow widths.
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 wide and narrow. 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. A neutral foot is one that doesn’t excessively over pronate or under pronate (supinate). In this case, a neutral shoe with good cushioning that fits well should serve you best. These neutral shoes allow the efficient foot to continue to function “naturally”. If lateral motion in the footstrike is excessive or at a level that is causing pain, then a shoe that guides your foot toward a more biomechanically efficient path may serve you best. These shoes have traditionally been called stability shoes, but current technology in midsole construction now allows more people to achieve the support they need from less controlling shoes. Therefore, a wider spectrum of shoes between the traditional “neutral” and “stability” categories may provide the necessary stability. If you overpronate excessively, then a motion-control or extra stable model is likely the shoe type that will serve you best. Finally, 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 another formula to help you select, ultimately the definition of running is that you are in motion. Gait analysis shows you exactly what your foot does while you are moving. 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 degree of the medial rotation gives insight into what type of shoe you should consider. 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. At =PR=, our video analysis is a great tool to allow us to illustrate your dynamic foot biomechanics and help you understand why certain shoes will provide the best comfort and reduce your chance of injury.
Consider the function of your shoes
Comfort and support aren’t the only factors to consider when buying your shoes. How you plan to use them can determine which specific models will suit your needs.
Do you want to spend as much time in your perfectly fit athletic shoes as possible? Consider shoes that will support your feet in those activities outside of running or walking. Do you plan to train for a marathon? You may really enjoy the plush ride of a high cushioning shoe while logging all those long runs. Do you enjoy track workouts or shorter races? Light and highly responsive shoes may be perfect for you. Do you often exercise in wet conditions, at night, on trails? We have shoes designed with these uses in mind. Maybe you want different shoes for different activities……consider a second pair!
Brand does NOT always 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 training, injury, etc.) you will want to keep an open mind and revisit your biomechanics before selecting a shoe. Have a gait analysis to determine a likely category of shoe for you (e.g., shoes with an appropriate level of cushioning and support). 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 Rather Than a 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 recommended for your friend may not be right for you.
Gathering information about what works for others is great, but ultimately you should be guided by what feels good to you rather than someone else. In addition, models change relatively often (12 months is typical) and the designers change brands almost as frequently. Being loyal is fine, but don’t be blindly loyal. Do you like to choose your shoe by color? We used to say “no” but there are so many options available today that we are confident that we can find shoes that you think look good and will help you accomplish your goals!