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85% of Us Are Wearing the Wrong Workout Shoes--Are You Among Them?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Although I'm able to give people advice about finding the best fit for a running or workout shoe, I have to be honest. When it came to workout shoes, I always chose style over support. In the store, I'd ignore things like cushioning, stability, and fit. I'd stand back, look at the wall of shoes, and pick whichever ones I thought were prettiest. After all, I'm about to fork over $100 for these suckers. I want to like them! I want to be motivated when I wear them! Ugly shoes didn't have a place in my closet and they certainly didn't make me want to put them out and head to the gym. I was very brand loyal and I wanted a sweet looking pair of shoes to go with my cute workout clothes. I was a shoe snob.

I really should have known better. I was a runner in high school and I'm a fitness professional. I know how important shoes are when you're working out—they are your foundation, after all. But I didn't heed my own advice about getting fitted for shoes or wearing sport-specific ones either. I figured it didn't matter because I wasn't a "runner." Finally, being a slave to style caught up with me. I started experiencing debilitating knee pain on a regular basis— while I worked out, after I worked out, and even when I was sitting still. I could barely bend my knee to squat or lunge.

Talking to Coach Jen (an experienced runner) one day, she asked me what kind of shoes I was wearing. We both knew that I wore "the cute kind" and that it had been a while since I replaced them. We also agreed that I should have known better.

Maybe it was because I was desperate to rid myself of knee pain that I finally listened, but she convinced me to go to a local running store to get fitted. It wasn't easy. After all, I didn't like how any of the shoes looked style-wise. But I forced myself to look past their color and design and listen to my other senses—how the shoe felt. The staff was so helpful. I was probably there for two hours trying on every shoe that had "motion control" to help fix what was a killer overpronation problem (which was likely causing my knee pain). I tried those shoes in all sizes, too. I finally ended up with the shoe that felt the best to me. $130 and several months later, I have not experienced any knee pain.

Do I like how they look? Well, they're not stylish, in my opinion, but they're not exactly ugly either. They're kind of average, I guess, but they've grown on me. Are they my favorite brand? Nope, but maybe I'll become loyal to a NEW brand since these shoes make me feel so great. Am I glad I did it? You bet. I thought that shoes without style wouldn't motivate me to exercise. But as it turns out, I am MORE motivated to go for a run now because I feel so great when I do. And I realize how silly it was to care about what my shoes looked like. It's not a fashion show.

Happy feet make for a happy exerciser. If you're ready to treat your tootsies better, the following resources will help you get on your way:

  • I found a great spread in the current (September) issue of SELF magazine called "Find Your Sole Mate." According to an American College of Sports Medicine report they cited, 85% of people wear running shoes that don't fit. That's not a little—that's a lot! And I was one of them! Here's a great little tip from the article: For the ideal fit, your big toe should be a thumbnail's distance from the end of the shoe. That could mean that you go up one or two sizes from your casual shoes for your workout/running shoes. I went up one full size when getting fitted for my new shoes. But my toes, which used to get a little sore from hitting the top of my shoe when I ran, sure do appreciate it. You can find an abbreviated version of this story online, but I'd recommend checking out the magazine while you can because it's full of many more tips than the online version contains.

  • Nancy recently blogged not once but twice about finding the right shoe. She's got some great experience and tips to share, so check out her posts!

  • SparkPeople's article "If the Shoe Fits, Wear It" is a pretty handy guide, not just for running shoes, but for all types of exercise shoes. For example, did you know that walking and running shoes are different and can't really be used interchangeably? Find out why and get more shoe shopping advice from the link above.

The right shoe for you doesn't have to be expensive. In fact, a recent Consumer Reports test showed that some inexpensive sneakers, such as Champion brand sold at Target stood up well with high-priced ones.

Could you be one of the 85% of people who wears the wrong kind of shoe? Are (or were) you vain about your workout shoes (or shoe size) like I was?