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Running Shoes

 





Shoe Anatomy with description of toe box midsole and heel counter

You can use the following tips when shopping for any type of shoe.


1. Consider buying your shoes at a specialty running store. Your shoes may be a little more expensive, but you will most likely have a trained professional help with your shoe fit.

2. Take your orthotics. If you wear orthotics or use certain inserts or arch supports in your shoe, make sure you take these with you as they are key to the fit of your shoe. Not all runners need an orthotic, an insert or an arch support. Certain foot conditions, like posterior tibial tendon dysfunction, warrant custom made orthotics. Other types of feet, with mild to moderate collapse, may need prefabricated orthotics or arch supports. Some runners find that any type of insert in the shoe is just more comfortable. But, these are not necessary for every runner. A well made, properly fit shoe is actually more important.

3. Have your feet measured with your socks on. Socks can change the size of your feet enough to make a difference in fit. Also, if your feet swell in the afternoon and you typically run in the afternoon, make sure you have your feet measured in the afternoon. The measurement should include the heel to toe measurement, the heel to the ball of the foot measurement and the width.

4. Make sure the shoe bends at the toes, and only at the toes. The shoe should not bend in the middle (stiff shank). You want the running shoes to be supportive (this is the general rule for all shoes). To test this, place the toe of the shoe on the ground vertically, grab the heel and press down. If the shoe collapses on itself, it is too flexible and won’t be supportive. The shoe should bend only at the toe area, where the foot bends. Look at this example below of the running shoes below. You can see how the shoe on the right completely collapses with pressure and the shoe on the left only bends at the toes (where the foot bends). If you see collapse with a new shoe, even to a lesser extent, just put it back on the shelf and keep looking.


Shoe bend comparison testing for support and flexibility


5. Check the heel counter. The heel counter is the back of the shoe where your heel sits. You want to make sure the heel counter is not too rigid. When you grab the back of the shoe, at the heel area, it should flex a little, but maintain it’s shape. If there is no flexibility at all and it is too rigid, this can be uncomfortable and contribute to blister development. Both too rigid and too flexible heel counters can contribute to blistering. In the picture of this running shoe, you can see how the heel counter completely collapses with pressure. This is considered too flexible and this heel counter will not support the heel. Too much flexibility can also result in the heel sliding within the shoe.

Heel Counter shoe test for heel support


6. Leave wiggle room for the toes. The general rule is to have a fingers width between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Your toes should not be seated up against the end of the shoe. You should be able to move your toes freely within the toe box. A large toe box is especially important for those individuals with bunions and wide forefeet.

7. Check for medial to lateral support. To check for medial to lateral support (side to side support at the forefoot), stick your hand in the shoe and extend your hand out to the toe area. Medial means towards the middle of the body. Lateral means towards the outside of the body. Move your hand medial first and then lateral, trying to move the shoe material from side to side over the sole. If there is a lot of movement, the shoe is not supportive enough to hold your foot on the sole of the shoe. Without medial to lateral support, you will be more likely to develop blisters on the outside of your feet, more likely to develop tendonitis on the outside of your calf and more likely to sprain your ankle.

8. Wear the shoes for 10-15 minutes in the store. If they still feel comfortable, take them home and walk around inside the house with them. Keep them on for an hour before going out for a run. It’s a terrible temptation to put on the new running shoes and head out the door as soon as you get home. Try and resist. Many times, after walking around the house in the shoes, people will find areas of irritation and discomfort. It is much easier to try and return the shoe before they’ve had outside use.

More information on picking the correct shoe.
Information on lacing techniques.

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last updated 7/6/10

Disclaimer: The advice on this website is not intended to substitute for a visit to your health care provider. We will not be held liable for any diagnosis made or treatment recommended. Consult your doctor if you feel you have a medical problem.