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home > training > training tips > a running shoe guide for dummies - part iv

A Running shoe guide for Dummies - Part IV
If you followed along with our previous sections you should have the run down about the advantages of buying a serious running shoe.

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Related info:
Part III

Part II

Part I

By Mike St. Laurent
Posted Saturday, 15 January, 2005

We reviewed the different foot types, the down and dirty details on midsole cushioning and understanding stability features. Now that you know more than you ever wanted to about running shoes, it’s time amaze your friends with your newfound knowledge and set you loose on some running shoe stores.

Where to look for running shoes?

Step 1: Find a specialty running shoe store that knows runners

Locate the store in your area known for supporting runners, putting on races, and really fit testing runners with technical running shoes. Many of these stores have knowledgeable runners for sales help and may allow you to test run in the shoes or even have a tread mill where they can watch you run.
That is the store you want to support with your business. In the long run – figuratively and literally - you will be much happier with your choice of shoes and your running will be much more enjoyable once you have found the right shoes.

Before you go, you should at least know what type of shoe that you are shopping for. Is it: stability, cushion, motion control or would you be best off with a light weight trainer? It is important to know this before you walk in the door. It’s also a good idea to bring in a worn out pair of running shoes so you can show the sales person the wear pattern on the outsole.

Get intimate with your test shoes. Try as many as you like and take several models out for a test run. Hey these are the shoes you’ll be counting on to keep your healthy and running for the next 3-6 months. Keep in mind that the “top of the line” shoe or the one on sale may not be correct for your running style. In running shoes, more is not always better. The right fitting shoe with the correct type and amount of technology is your goal.

Step 2: Steps to test for fit, feel and function:

Choose the best fit over the latest technology. A poorly fitting shoe with the greatest technology will not make you a better runner or prevent injuries. Overall, shoes should be comfortable on your feet and support your feet through the full range of the running motion. Most shoes need minimal break in. They should feel pretty good right in the store. If they don’t – keep looking.

Beware of the dreaded black toe:

Shoes that are too short give you black toe nails. Test for length by standing fully upright in your new shoes with equal weight on both feet. Have a friend or salesperson check to see that your longest toe has no less than 1/4 inch from the end of the shoe, the ideal space is normally a thumb nail or ½ an inch. There should be plenty of room in the toe box to wiggle those toes. Remember to wear your normal running socks when testing fit.

Hint: Your feet change size during the day – they get larger. Make sure to fit test shoes at the same time that you normally run and wear your running socks.

Shoes too long - Do this heel check: With your feet in the shoe, it should be difficult for you to slip your thumb between your heel and the back of the shoe. If you can, your shoe may slip while running causing you to get a nasty blister on the back of your heel.

Fit to be tied – the forefoot check:
If you have ever tied your shoes too tight for a long run or a race you won’t forget this test. The top of your foot can get pretty sore when you tie your shoes too tight. Your test shoe should lace up evenly without the laces being binding across the throat (where you tie the shoe at the top). With the shoe fully tied, you should still have good ankle flexibility and range of motion. If not, the throat of that shoe is too narrow for your foot.

Seams to me:
Seams in the wrong place can cause blisters. Seams are where two materials overlap or are stitched together. They have a way of rubbing against your feet on a run causing hot spots and blistering. Check for seams especially by your pinkie toe and any other funky areas of your foot.

Widths- Widths - Widths! – don’t get left hanging
Different brands and even models within a brand have their own width tendencies. The right width makes all the difference. Trying on a shoe, you should feel like your foot is evenly distributed inside the shoe and is not left hanging over the side of the midsole Tie the laces the way you normally do.

If you have a narrow foot, check that the material at the base of throat of the shoes where the laces start does not bunch up.

Ankle room and heel counter:
For a good fit and good stability, your ankle should fit snugly inside the heel cup of the shoe. Feel inside the heel for a hard material. That is the heel counter. That counter should fit just right to your heel, but not press against your ankle bone. If it does, over time you may get a blister on your ankle.

Your arch enemy:
Look for a shoe with a good removable sock liner. This sockliner should have good cushioning and have a pre-formed raised area for arch support. Make sure your arch fits comfortably and does not cause any discomfort when running. Sometimes when it doesn’t, try a different pair of the same model out. Walk and preferably run around in the shoe for a while to make sure the arch area feels right. Sometimes even the smallest of pressure on your arch can cause pain in the tendons under your foot called your plantar fascia.

Hint: If you have orthotics, make sure you take them with you to test out shoes. Take out the factory sock-liner and place your orthotic in the shoe. Follow the steps above with your orthotics in the shoes to make sure you get a good fitting shoe.

Congratulations you have mastered zen and the art of running shoe technology. Good running!

Cool Running Note: Mike St. Laurent is the designer and founder of Loco Running, the shoes designed by runners for runners. See for more information.



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