Getting the Best Fit

By , SparkPeople Blogger
This is part 2 in a series about choosing the best shoe for your selected activity. As mentioned in my earlier blog, If the Shoe Fits, the best shoe for you may not be the shoe your best friend wears or even the same shoe you have worn for years.

Shoe manufactures are well-known for releasing new models each year, therefore discontinuing previous shoe models. Most manufacturers do so in December, while others wait until the spring. But know that when a new shoe is released many times there is a slight modification to the shoe's construction that can cause a shift in the way the shoe fits for you. So don't assume just because you have worn the same shoe that these changes will not affect your running or walking gait. This is why most experts recommend a yearly refitting.

However, it is very important to arrive to the store with a few pointers under your belt. Below is a list I comprised which may help you get a better fit.

  • If you can, go at the end of the day to get fitted. Because you have been on your feet most of the day, your feet are more swollen than they were first thing in the morning. I have even been known to get fitted after a nice run.

  • Bring the socks you plan to wear with your shoes. If you bring in a thin sock to try on shoes, but you plan to wear a thicker wicking sock during your activity, you may find that the shoe may be too snug when exercising. And if you haven't given socks much thought, this is the time to do so. Wicking socks pull moisture away from the feet, consequently reducing the risk of blisters. While they are on the pricey side, I have found them to be essential for those whose feet sweat profusely. Whatever you do, avoid wearing cotton socks during your activity as this allows the sweat to sit against the skin which can lead to blisters.

  • Make sure the shoe is comfortable in the store. If the shoe does not feel 'just right' in the store, try on another shoe. Shoes do not need a breaking in period, per se, so keep shopping. When I first started running I tried on well over 10 pairs of shoes before I found the one for me.

  • Consider a different way of lacing your shoe If you find a shoe that fits well but is still a little snug across the forefoot or too loose in the heal, know that there are many different lacing techniques that your sales person should be able to show you. Because I have wide feet and narrow heals, I have been using a lacing technique that allows for great forefoot expansion while allowing the shoe's collar to be drawn more snuggly.

  • Ask about the return/exchange policy at the store. Exchange and return policies vary between stores. Some stores will not accept returns if the shoe is shown to be worn or if the return period is greater than 30 days. Many stores will offer an exchange but be sure to ask.

  • Breaking in a shoe, well sort of. As mentioned earlier, shoes should not need a breaking in period per se, but most experts recommend wearing your new shoes around the house for a couple hours a day for a few days. The reason, the heat from your foot allows the inner sole to mold to your foot therefore allowing for better comfort when you do take them out for a walk/run.

  • Don't wear your new shoes for your longest run or walk until you have worn them for a few shorter runs/walks first. You will want to allow time to transition into your new shoes, even if they are the same make and model you have worn before. I have been known to wear my new shoes for the first 2-3 miles of my long run and then transitioning back into my older pair. This is one reason why you do not want to wait before your old shoes completely wear out before you get fitted for your new ones. And never wear new shoes for a race without wearing them for a few weeks.

  • Write the date on the insole of your shoe. If you decide these are the shoes for you and you do not plan to return them for any reason, writing the date on the bottom of the shoe will remind you when started wearing your shoe so that you can keep track of the mileage and time.

  • Replacing shoes. Most shoes will start breaking down between 300-500 miles, but this time frame can vary among shoe manufactures. If you begin to experience new aches/pains and you have not altered your training, this may mean it's time for new shoes, even if you are well short of the mileage mentioned above.

    Purchasing the best shoe for your dollar is something I think we all strive to do. Wearing the proper socks and being fitted when you have time to sort through all the different makes and models should help you get the best shoe for your foot and activity.

    Have you been fitted for shoes at a local running specialty store? What was your experience? Do you consider socks and timing to be important factors when being fitted for shoes?

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    Wow, who knew? This was certainly an eye opening article for me. I am due to purchase new shoes so this was right on time. Great advice, thanx. Report

    I have heard and read the same thing about buying older model shoes. I have also read that running in the summer heat, when the road surface is quite hot, can also lead to a greater breakdown in the shoe material so you may not get the same mileage from your shoes in the summer as you would when the temps are cooler. THANKS for sharing your tip!!! Report
    I found it interesting to learn that the materials inside athletic shoes have a shelf life. So, if you find a great pair of shoes, do not be tempted to buy extra pairs to have ready when the first pair wears out. Because it is quite possible that the extra pairs will be degrading over time while they sit in your closet and therefore no good (or not as comfortable / supportive as they once were) when you go to wear them. It is best to buy new shoes when you need them, from a store that has a high turnover in their stock, i.e. they don't have shoes sitting on their shelves for long periods of time! Report
    A good fitting and great shoes and socks will help you achieve your fitness goals- it's hard to get the motivation to work out if your feet hurt. When I started on my quest to lose weight, I had constant foot and heel pain. I exercised in this condition for about 3 months before I went to Fleet Feet on a friend's recommendation. They watched me run and walk and then measured my foot and recommended I also get an insole to help with my foot pain. I tried 3 or 4 pairs of shoes. What a difference! I felt like I was floating when I did my cardio, and my foot pain eventually went away thanks to my new shoes and more pounds lost. I recently went in for a new pair, and had to be refitted again, as I wanted to do more running, and I had lost 70 pounds and half a shoe size. I also no longer needed the insole. Yes, this cost more than picking up a pair of sneakers at the department store (about $100.00 for the shoes, $10.00 for the socks) but it was worth every penny to be pain free and motivated to continue! Report
    I'm going to use the advice. I need new shoes and along with the information from my podiatrist and this information I should find some great shoes. I'd really like to find a great pair of Brooks at the outlet store. Thanks for sharing this info! Report
    Great Article! I am a strong believer in the technical sock (100% non cotton). That is the type of sock we usually recommend. Report
    I have been fitted several times and it is well worth it. Road Runner Sports does a great job of helping you find what will work best for you both in the stores and on the phone or website. Report
    Great tips. Had not thought about buying shoes at the end of the day. And I have always worn cotton socks so that tip was new and so helpful. Report
    Good shoes are so important. I am on my third pair in 14 months. Love the walks : ) Report
    Socks are essential! I finally broke down and got good socks along with the great shoes and haven't had a problem with blisters since! Report
    Never thought about the fact that you should be fitted at the end of the day. Great tip! Report
    My old shoes were worn out and uncomfortable. Went to a fitness store and bought a new pair yesterday. Tried several brands, and picked the one most comfortable. The sales clerk was very knowledgable and helpful. Bes to go to a store where they can help put in the right shoe regardless of price. Iti is worth it. Report
    Like the info that you gave us. Thanks this will be useful! Report
    Awesome!!! Thank you so much; perfect timing! I am participating in the Breast Cancer 3-day 60 mile for my first time this September. Great article. Road Runner Sports in Kent, WA has been a blessing for my fittings so far, time to go back for two new pairs- only 5 more weeks until my walk! God Bless, -Mariam. Report
    This article really gave me some good information. I need a really good pair of walking shoes and now I know more what to look for. Report
    Great tips Nancy, glad I read this entry! Report
    the 2 best ways to track you soes are: Logrun, which is a excel program, and other is Sport Tracks, which keeps track every soe your wore-Rabbit
    I used both!! Report
    great article Report
    It's one of the best article, that I run across-Rabbit Report
    Great article! Very informative and helpful. Thanks!:) Report
    I think you did a terrific job writing this. A lot of times I order shoes from catalogs, and they are only slightly tight. I never thought about lacing them in a different manner. It is so much trouble to send them back, I have just given them to someone else, or charity. I have decided not to order them any more. It just seems that it makes more sense to buy them from somewhere I can try them on. The main reason I have bought them from a catalog, is that I have epilepsy and can't always drive. It won't be long till I can again. A lot of times it just seems like more trouble than it's worth to get someone who will tell me when they are going somewhere where I can buy something I need/want so I can get what I need or want to so I just order it. Thanks again! Report
    Socks are a huge factor for shoe fitting. I actually buy new running socks (a six pack of the same sock) when I buy new shoes. I try the combination in the store and see what feels the best. I found out that a six pack of socks used exclusively for running/walking with my running shoes have about the same lifetime as my shoes, so I replace them at the same time.

    Here is another consideration (and it is important): Unless you are blessed to live in a climate where the temperature does not vary much, and you do not need winter socks, your shoe that fits fine with thin, moisture resistant summer socks, will not fit well with any sort of thicker socks that you need to protect your feet from the cold in the winter time. So one might want to consider buying a summer combination of shoes/socks and come October/November a winter combination of shoes/socks. By March/April, your winter shoes will probable be ready to be replaced anyways... Report
    Haven't been fitted yet, but hope to do so soon. Hoping that might help with some of the pain I've been having. If that doesn't help, next step will be custom made orthotics. Great blog - very informational. I've saved as a favorite. Thanks. Report
    Great info--I didn't know about the different lace techniques--thanks for the info.

    One thing that helps me a lot is having orthotics that were molded for my feet. I have a lot easier time now finding shoes that work for me--it seemed impossible before. Report
    Best money I ever spent was on getting a full-priced pair of running shoes at a nice running store, with a professional fitting. Found out I needed to go up a whole size! (I like Brooks Adrenaline at the moment) Since then, I'm so careful about getting the right shoe, whether for running, step aerobics, or just every day stuff. Report
    Great article! Just until recently I found out we needed different shoes for different things. I do Zumba and my running shoes weren't the best for all the dancing. I got some Dykå Studio and I love them ! What difference a shoes can make! Report
    The staff at Fleet Feet (Albany, NY) have always been super - even though I don't look like someone who exercises I have never gotten any "attitude" there, even when I was brand new to running. (Unlike another "runner's" store in the area.) Last time went in I was talked intro trying some of the wicking socks, and am so glad that I did! I used to wear cheaper socks inside out after putting vaseline on my feet (to prevent chaffing/blisters) and with these new socks I don't need to do that at all! I'm a big fan of the Brooks Addiction - but many brands don't make shoes in my size (for sneakers, a women's 12)! Report
    Socks are very important to the fit of a shoe. I know sometimes my shoes that I normally wear running feel different because I have several different kinds of socks. I'm not sure about the time of the day, really never gave it much thought. Usually, when I do shoe shopping and I am shopping for other things as well, and save that for last after I have been on my feet most of the day anyways. Report
    I just had my baby, but before that I was a runner and this is the most improtant thing you can invest in. Great article! Wearing the right shoe prevents short and long term injuries. Report
    Any recommendations for an "every day" shoe? I am convinced that I ruined my feet by wearing a running shoe all day every day. The fat pads on the balls of my feet shifted forward & my metatarsals are unprotected. I would like a shoe that doesn't push back. I had no problems as long as I was wearing cheap sneakers from WalMart. I bought a pair of more expensive shoes & ended up with foot problems. It is nearly impossible to find a sneaker that isn't aimed at a specific purpose these days--running, walking, cross-training---even at WalMart. I just want a comfortable, regular, protect-but-not-weaken/injure-the-f
    oot sneaker.
    I am a cyclist now since walking can be painful, but I still have to walk places. Report
    Never knew this but gives me a reason to go shopping Report
    Definitely, get fitted at a specialty running store, even if you are a walker. I wear the Brooks Trance 8 and of course they now have a 9, so I need to get my second pair of shoes soon. I use Runner's world, to track my miles and the miles on my shoes. I have two pairs of shoes and switch between the two pairs. Once one pair gets near the 200 mile mark, I buy another pair. Shoes are THE most important piece of equipment for a runner or walker. Report
    Going shopping! Report
    I haven't had any trouble with this so far, maybe because I learned what to look for in shoes a long time ago. I wear Brooks Ariels, which are great motion control shoes, can be worn with prescription orthotics, and have plenty of room for my toes. I have started noticing that it doesn't feel very good to run in my walking shoes, even on a treadmill. I may have to get a second pair of running shoes just for working out at the office gym. My street shoe size is 8.5 wide, but my running shoes are 9.5 wide. I love ordering them from, because I never have to worry about being able to find the right width. Report
    I have always made it is rule to buy several pair of running shoes when I get "new ones" as it is easier then to have a style that fits, and know I won't be upset if I got back to get another pair and "they no longer carry that style." I learned that about shoes YEARS ago, when they started in with being always trying to change the styles. I wore that Pink Reebok shoe for a long time after they "discontinued it" because I'd gotten several pair. Now I wear New Balance as they are wider and more comfortable. Report
    One more hint: take your old shoes with you!


    The clerk can see what worked for you in the past, and therefore more quickly pick new ones for you to try. The wear pattern of your old shoes also provide valuable clues about what to look for new shoes. Report

    You really should consider getting fitted for running shoes. Cross trainers are not designed for running and are too stiff that they do not allow proper flexibility of the foot. As far as potassium supplements, unless you are under medical supervision, I would highly recommend you avoid taking them. Too much potassium in the body can lead to heart arrhythmias which can have dangerous consequences.
    For those that do not live close to a proper running store (I live an hour away), make time to go there, get the recommendation or buy a pair there (or have them tell you what to get and get it online). After you have worn them to make sure they really work for you, order another pair just like it so you have 2 to switch between. Keep a log so you know when you are at the 300-500 mile mark and need to switch.

    Great article Nancy! Report

    I agree with VAS117. The deal with races is to NEVER try anything new. No new shoes, socks, shorts, shirts, running bras, refueling sources, zilch, nada, nothing. The reason, your body has adapted to the things you have been wearing, eating, and drinking and changing anything can cause issues not only during the race itself but afterward as well. BEST OF LUCK and let us know how you do!!!!

    I have been getting more serious about my walking and have recently gotten out of my old running shoes -which I wear everywhere- and brought a commercial pair of walking shoes. While they aren't Bart Hersey (professional racewalker wear these shoes), I really can tell the difference and I like the extra padding.

    I am starting to think about the socks I wear both everyday and when I am walking. Currently I wear Hanes socks which I purchase at the local Walmart. But I am starting to purchase No Balance socks which cost more and I have to go to my local Rite Aid to buy. The No Balance feel thicker and again I like the extra padding.

    I live in the country and my nearest running shop is about two to three hours away, but since I am seriously considering marathon walking, I will probably plan on going and looking around. But I may get nuts and get the Barts. Report
    I am new to C25K training and am in week 6. I am having trouble with foot and calf cramps at night. My shoes are fairly new easy spirit very comfortable cross trainers. I'm drinking my water, streching before and after, and eating banana's 2 a day and taking a potassium supplement. Could the shoes be causing the problem. I don't get much rest at night. Report
    I used some old walking shoes when I started running... gradually added it in to my walk. Soon, it became evident that I needed running shoes and after reading a lot about what makes a good fit and trying on nearly 25 pairs of shoes - nothing seemed quite right. I got over my own fears of going into a running store as a beginner who was obviously overweight! I got fitted around the noon hour, and did wear the socks I wear while running - and my fitting went well. I had to travel and hour and a half to the specialty store - and the later part of the day wasn't an option. I did notice it took a while for them to really be comfortable during my runs... so the advice on the breaking in period was great. Thanks for the info! Report
    What a timely article! I just bought new running shoes yesterday and need to do some adjusting to the way I tied them. Report
    This makes sense. Now I know when to actually replace my shoes and not put up with the discomfort. Thanks Nancy! I look forward to a brand new comformtable pair in the next 300 - 500 miles of walking! Report
    Great info, thanks. Report
    What to do for those of us who live in rural America. I live 2.5 hours from the closest thing I would call a city. When I went to the local shoestore, I couldn't even get them to tell me which models were better for walking. I did get some help by calling New Balance company directly and ended up ordering a pair over the phone. Would love to be fitted though... Report
    Great article. It's hard to find the right shoe and sometimes when you think you have, you begin to experience a problem after you have broke them in. Thank you for your advice! Report
    To MDDR5657 - I'm not an expert by any means, but I ran my first 5k last year and I wouldn't have even thought about using a 3-day old shoe for the race. I had been training with my old shoes and darn it, they were going to see me finish that race! Maybe Nancy has a different opinion, but I don't think 3 days in a brand new shoe would be good for your first road race. They might be better shoes for you in the long run, but they'll probably feel different than your old ones did and could "throw you off" a bit.

    That being said, I was having bad heel pain for some reason lately (the running group I was with last year suggested I might have plantar fasciitis or a heel spur) and thought even though I don't put a lot of mileage on my shoes, it might be time to look for some new ones. I went to a specialty running store and he put me in a pair of shoes that feel wonderful! I went at the end of the day with my running socks and my old shoes so he could have a look at them. I told him about the heel pain, he watched how I walked and put me in the right shoe for me. Since then my feet have felt much better. I fell into the "but I'm not a serious runner/walker, I shouldn't need new shoes yet" trap. I didn't track mileage on them and they still looked nice on the outside, but they were 2 years old! I definitely won't be making that mistake again. Report
    I actually work at a shoe store so the laces suggestion comes as great advice I can share with customers. I personally run in the wrong type of shoe, but since I don't run that often I guess there's not too much of a need to worry about having the wrong one. Great article! Report
    Nancy - I am going to be jogging/walking in my first 5K in one week. I am actually getting my shoes fitted by my daughter-in-law at a running store that specializes in fitting you properly but I won't be getting them until 3 days before the event. Do you recommend I don't use them this time around and use the walking shoes I have been wearing which are now getting old but they are comfortable. I was thinking it would be okay to use the new ones if I wear them around the house and go for a couple of runs before the race but now I don't know after reading this article. Help! Report