Who’s not bewildered by the wall of options at the shoe store? And how many times have you bought a pair of shoes only to find out they didn’t agree with you?

I can see why many folks pick based on color as the other more important features are unknown to us or difficult to understand.

But rest easy…here are a few tips to assure your shoe purchase will fit right and keep you away from injury.

Drive the extra 10 minutes to “that” store

Either you’ve had the experience yourself or your friends told you about it, but there is “that” store that gives you a feeling you’re making a right purchase. They do it through proper fitting and thoroughly educating you on what you’re buying. They are runners themselves and they make sense. This is absolutely invaluable when choices are so abundant.

You’re maybe buying shoes 2-3 times a year. With research indicating the wrong shoe can increase injury chances, its well worth going to the right place. New to running and don’t know where the right place is? First, ask friends. Reputation develops for a reason. Next, check Google reviews. If people are taking the time to review the place and rate it positive, they’re doing something right.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”

If you have a shoe that you love, continue with it. You’re own assessment of a shoe and its performance is a valuable predictor of its actual likelihood its right for you. In an industry famous for fads and trends, knowing what works through experience is invaluable.

There are cases where changes in shoes are still warranted, but these changes can be made slowly. For example, you’ve been wearing a heavy motion control shoe for several years and your speed has suffered due to the extra weight. The store you visit wants to wean down the weight of your shoe so they put you in a slightly lighter shoe. Over time, you’re running in a neutral lightweight shoe and now are faster for it.

Don’t trust a model

The new model of your favorite shoe can’t always be trusted. The scenario is you’ve been running in the Kinvara 4 and before that the Kinvara 3. So you’re in the store and say “Kinavara 5 please. Don’t need to even try them on.” I did just say don’t change shoes if you’ve found one that works. But I will also highlight that shoe companies can make significant changes to the same shoe year after year. So what to do? Ask the store about any changes and then consider this in the purchase. This could make for a situation where another brand meets your core requirements better than the shoe that was working for you. This highlights tip #1: Go to the store that helps you with this decision.

Keep your shoe foam high and mighty

Research indicates somewhere between 300-500 miles of pounding, the EVA foam in our shoes compresses down quite a bit. Now this affects each of us differently with some people able to run longer on flatter foam than others. Eventually all of us have to get new shoes. So, we go from a dead, flat foam to a brand new, high cushion foam. Sounds great but it can have an effect on our mechanics. A good idea is to rotate shoes. Here’s a scenario: You buy 2 pairs of shoes (can be the same type of not). Start using Pair “A,” and when Pair “A” is half worn out start using Pair “B.” Replace Pair “A” with a new pair (“C”) when Pair “B” is halfway worn out. You’re never going from completely worn out to completely new.

Let a foot be a foot

The foot is an amazing creation. It’s flexible enough to feel and flex to the ground while stable enough to accept our weight. Humans have always worn shoes but, until relatively recently, these shoes were flat, flexible pieces of cloth or leather. The modern running shoe, with all the cushion and “anti-pronation” features, has actually increased running injuries. So human anatomy and anthropology tells us we should wear as little as possible while maintaining comfort. This means some people will need heavy, supportive shoes but many do not. Generally, I recommend a neutral shoe with 4-6 mm drop from heel to toe for most people. Some people need orthotic support, usually temporarily, while others may need a motion control shoe. Have a conversation with your shoe store about your running and find where on the spectrum of shoe support you land.

Don’t forget, if you have to spend a few extra dollars to a local store to get the right shoe, imagine what you save by preventing injury with the right shoe? It’s not even a fair fight. Think preventively and get good, local help.

Use these tips to de-stress the show buying experience and feel confident in your purchase.

Dr. Eric Schweitzer, DPT

Dr. Eric Schweitzer, DPT

Founder at IdealRun
Doctor of Physical Therapy, author, professor, runner and triathlete – has practiced physical therapy for more than 15 years.He runs a successful physical therapy practice, Premier Physical Therapy, located in Clearwater, Florida and is the founder of IdealRun a personalized online running gait analysis.
Dr. Eric Schweitzer, DPT

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