If you have been into an athletic store lately, you might have found yourself overwhelmed by all the options. There are several brands, styles and colors. I will be honest, in the past, I would buy the shoes that had a cool color scheme. I didn’t care if they were a trail shoe, a cross training shoe, a running shoe or a walking shoe. If I liked how it looked and it was the right price, I bought it. When I took up running, my trainer went over the importance of having the right shoe and being properly fitted for it. What? I had no idea! I soon learned that each shoe style has a different purpose, and it mattered.
Running shoes: designed for a forward motion and provide extra cushioning for the repetitive pounding motion that runners experience with each stride.
Cross training shoes: designed for lateral or side to side motion, flexible sole to help the floor during workouts such as aerobics or zumba.
Walking shoes: designed with a thicker heel and flexible sole to aid in the initial heel strike that takes place when walking (heel-to-toe).
Trail shoes: designed to help grip dirt, provide extra protection against rocks and often have extra protection around the toes.
Now that we covered a few of the types of shoes, how do you get the right fit? Some athletic stores, such as Run On and Luke’s Locker, have trained specialist to help you. For example, if you need a running shoe, the staff will observe your run to determine the type of gait you have, and then recommend different shoes that suit your foot. They should bring you various pairs to try on. At that point, you need to take for a test run around the store or on the pavement to see how they feel. In all likelihood, you may not really know that you have the perfect shoe until you take them for a run. Most of these types of specialty stores have a 30 day return policy.
Two training seasons ago, I switched brands. I ran in the new brand for a month and ended up returning them on the 30th day because my toes were repeatedly numb. I was so grateful I could exchange them for a different shoe. I then went on to run in Brooks, which for me are the right shoe. Everyone’s foot is different, so other brands such as Asics, New Balance or Altra may be the right fit for you. One other thing I learned through this process is that I needed a half -size larger running shoe than I wear in a dress shoe. This is common. Some people end up in a shoe that is one full size larger. Also, if you have recently had a baby, then your shoe size may have changed.
So in summary… don’t just choose the cute shoe! Make sure you are wearing the one for the activity you are performing. If you have a specialty store in the area, ask a professional to analyze your gait and help you pick a shoe that is best suited for you. If you experience any pain or numbness, the shoe isn’t the right one. Keep your shoes updated, especially running shoes. They tend to wear out after 6 months or between 400-500 miles.