“What is your arch type?” “What part of your foot strikes the ground first?” “How important is cushioning to you?”
More than an Internet Quiz is Needed
If you’re a runner and have poked around on the internet or read running magazines for advice on shoes, you’ve likely come across a quiz with similar multiple choice questions that supposedly tells you what shoe you should wear. But what if I think I’m more of a midfoot striker, but in reality, I’m landing closer to my heel? Or what about that nagging pain on the side of my foot? There’s no quiz question for that—how can I tell if the problem is related to the category of shoe I’m in, or if it’s just because my current pair is so worn down that it’s not giving the same kind of support it used to?
While thinking about the answers to quiz questions can lead to very general suggestions, it’s impossible to truly know what the right shoe is for you without being properly fit at a specialty running shoe store. At these stores, trained staff are able to match each runner’s unique biomechanics to the wide range of functionalities in shoes.
We Really Want to Find the Right Shoe for You
The mission of a running shoe is to keep you injury free and your feet comfortable. Running is very healthy but for some people it leads to painful conditions such as shin splints and sore knees. Very often the cause of such problems is inadequate shoes. Staff at specialty running stores are experienced runners, and many have backgrounds in sports medicine, kinesiology, or coaching. They can help assess not only general running form, but also dig into nuanced details and really get to the bottom of why you’re experiencing shin splints, or why a particular part of your foot is getting sore. Running store specialists are in the business of getting you into the shoes that are right for you.
At most places, you’ll hop on a treadmill and run for 20 to 30 seconds at a comfortable pace, and the running specialist will record a video of your gait. Then, they’ll replay it, slowing down the motions to see exactly where your foot is striking, the level of pronation (how much the foot and ankle roll in when you step down and bear weight on the foot), and other biomechanical factors that may affect your running form (are the knees tracking over the foot properly? Are the feet landing pigeon-toed or turned out?). They can also take a closer look at your foot to examine your arch and determine if you really need an insole or if a good stability shoe will do the trick, for example.
Many Factors to Consider When Getting the Right Shoe
The answer isn’t always black and white. For example, a common misconception is that people with low arches need a stability shoe, and people with high arches should wear neutral shoes. However, a person’s biomechanics and the structure of the ankles, knees, and hips can create exceptions: Bow-legged and pigeon-toed people will usually bear weight on the outside of the feet regardless of low arches, and knock-kneed and duck footed will usually bear weight on the inside of the feet regardless of having high arches. A combination of several factors are often at play, and the trained running specialists can provide a more holistic assessment to help find the right shoe for you.
There’s a world of difference between buying a pair of running shoes online or even at a mass sporting goods store, and a specialty running store. In addition to expertise in shoe fittings, the customer service is unparalleled. You’ll be able to test running in various shoes on a treadmill or outside the store and compare several different models. Additionally, most running specialty stores have a forgiving return policy for runners, and shoes can be returned or exchanged if you’ve found they’re not working for you after a couple of runs. The most important thing is sending you home in the right pair of shoes.
We LOVE Running!
You’ll also get tips from specialists who are passionate about running and full of information on nutrition, training plans, injury prevention, and more. Online retailers and sales associates at mass sporting goods stores are not going to be able to explain in detail how to keep your heel more secure by using the runner’s loop, or what stretches will help for IT band issues.
There is a strong local community environment at specialty running stores, and you’ll be supporting your local economy. Stores often host group runs, events and workshops, and they’ll offer discounts for local schools, gyms, and referrals. They are community resources for runners, not just a place to buy shoes and equipment. There are approximately 800 independently owned running specialty stores in the country, and getting to one for a proper fitting is worth the extra effort.