If the Shoe Fits

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Over the past 30-35 years there has been a huge revolution in the world of athletic footwear. There are literally hundreds of shoes on the market today for every sport one can think of. But, it is very important to wear the proper shoe for the activity you will be participating in so that your foot receives the proper support and stability.

As a runner, I have had many people ask me over the years what shoes they should get if they want to start running. More times than not, it is not the answer they want to hear. Shoes are the only real equipment a runner needs, but unfortunately one that many people do not want to take the time to go get fitted for. I have been told, "but I am not really a runner yet, so why can't I just buy what you wear?"

And my answer to them is, each of us has a different pronation, in other words how the foot rolls. If the ankles rolls toward the middle this is referred to as overpronation which is often seen in those with flat feet. If the ankles roll to the outside, this is called underpronation or supination. And if there is neither an inside or outside roll, this is commonly referred to as a neutral position or neutral pronation. Each of these situations require a different type shoe to offer the best support and stability while keeping injury risk low. This is why it is best to leave it to the personnel at your local running specialty store. They have been trained to analyze your pronation and gait, therefore, helping you determine the best shoe for you. And don't panic if they suggest you go up a half to a full size from your street shoe size. When running, the foot swells quite a bit and wearing a too tight or small shoe, can lead to blisters and potential injuries.

Walkers on the other hand should not walk in running shoes, unless they plan to integrate running into their walking program. Nor should a runner run in a walking shoe. Walkers need a shoe that offers some flexibility and because the impact of walking is not as great as with running, a walking shoe does not need the cushioning that a running shoe has. Many times too much cushioning in a shoe can lead to shin pain. Most running specialty stores will also provide a fitting service for walkers, so if you are uncertain as to what shoe is best for you, don't hesitate to head over to there to get fitted.

So what shoe should you wear if you don't run and you aren't a walker?

Most people look at the cross trainer as their option. Because you aren't running, you do not need the cushioning as well as the raised heel of a running shoe. A running shoe does not allow for adequate lateral or side to side movement that one may do in a step aerobics class. Cross trainers also tend to be heavier than a running shoe which is why one should not buy these for running or walking, but they will provide your foot with stability and support for your gym workouts.

Lastly, price does not guarantee the best shoe for you. Most people will spend between $60-$100 for shoes. These generally last most runners and walkers 6 months depending on the mileage you put on your shoes. Runners can generally get in 300-500 miles before they need to replace their shoes. So for $120-$200 a year that is a pretty good bargain if you ask me.

Next week I will give you a few tips to make your athletic shoe shopping experience a better one for you.

Do you believe that the shoe makes the athlete? How much would you be willing to spend for a shoe? Are you intimidated to go into a specialty running store?

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I spend lots of money on my shoes. The pediatrist actually take imprints of my feet and have them customer made. Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Yes! As m I poor? Yes! I am at poverty level. But I know the importance of good shoes. Report
CECELW 3/15/2020
I can agree, it's not the shoes, it's the walker/runner Report
Good info. Report
KITTYHAWK1949 11/28/2019
thanks for info Report
ILOVEROSES 10/19/2019
Thank you for a great article. Report
DJ4HEALTH 7/24/2019
thanks Report
PATRICIAANN46 6/8/2019
Thank You for a great article. My mom always insisted on the "Right" shoes and I have continued in her footsteps...………….no pun intended. Report
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
good info Report
good info Report
love the blog Report
Saucony is really good shoes. When I try to wear Nike, I have bad hip pain. Report
I've been participating in a training group for a 10 K in July. As a part of that, we have weekly information sessions. In one session a few weeks ago, it was recommended that we get fit for our shoes, and it made a huge difference for me. I was wearing a shoe that was a size too small and didn't have nearly enough arch support. The store I used actually let me walk around the block in a couple of different pairs to find the one that fit the best. I wound up with a pair that cost about $65, which is way more than I usually spend! But I look at this as an investment in myself to make my workouts more enjoyable and to prevent injury; the co-pay for a specialty visit and the necessary x-rays and probably prescriptions would certainly cost more than my shoes! Thanks for a great blog. Report
Thanks for your article. I'm an avid walker and am terrible about replacing my shoes. And my feet pay for it. After reading this, I will get out and buy a new pair, in a store where I can be well-fitted. Report
One thing I've done to cut down on the cost of running shoes (I myself like Saucony, although Mizuno is good, too) is to buy the 'old' shoes just as the 'new' ones come out, since they normally go on sale or are reduced. For example, I got Saucony Grid 8s just as the 9s were coming out, at almost half the price! Report
This is a great article to read. I bought a great pair of running shoes but instead of listening to my trainer I didn't change my shoes out soon enough and tore the tendon in my foot. I highly recommend seeing a specialist about your shoes if you are going to be a runner or a serious walker! Very important to make your feet happy. I would be willing to spend $150 on a pair of good running shoes. Report
This article inspired me to get fitted for shoes. OMG! What an incredible difference a well-fitting shoe can make! I have always bought whatever shoes I can find in my size on the clearance rack. Apparently that didn't work for me because I started having pain under the ball of my foot. Also, when trying C25K, I experienced enough ankle, knee and hip pain that I stopped running.

With my new shoes, I have started C25K again, and the only discomfort I'm feeling now is in my lungs (where I should be feeling it). It's a remarkable difference and I wish I had done it sooner. I'm never going to go back to the clearance shoes when it comes to exercise gear. Report
I also loved, loved, LOVED Reebok Walk DMX Max shoes -- I can still find them online in odd size lots occasionally. Report
I have been getting special shoes for many many years since I have no arches and a variety of foot problems always happen. I wish I could get mine to last at least 6 months but once the support starts to give a little I start building fluid up in the bottom of my feet and cant walk. I pay about 80 to 100 for shoes that I change every 3 months. Its worth it to keep me pain free. Though I have days I suffer when I just have to wear them heels! What us women must go through LOL! Report
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I can relate to the single mom who said that she put her kids feet first. I paid good money for corrective shoes for my son when he was growing up and for myself I bought shoes at Pic Way often $10 a pair or some as low as $5 and none had good support. I on the other hand was the one with flat feet and knee problems. Well I can tell you that now at my age of 54. I am "paying" for it in a BIG way. I will Gladly pay what ever it is for a pair of shoes that I can walk for at least a half an hour without pain. I have paid in the neighborhood of $150 for a pair of z-coils, which helped me with a variety of foot, knee, hip & back problems they have a built in orthotic for my arches. They are not exactly what one might call a running shoe as they are heavy. They did help me for years and then I weaned myself off of them as the shop here closed. I found Reebok DMX Max and loved those but now they are discontinued. So I am looking for a supportive shoe that will not hurt my toes either as I had broken my fifth metatarsal years ago and any pressure is extremely painful. I am greatful for the link to the website for a shoe finder. I need someone knowlegeable to find me a new pair of shoes.
For those of you who are young please heed this article. Wisdom learned is Wisdom indeed! Report
I can testify to what Nancy is saying. Living in the UK specialist shops for the appropriate attire for you feet for running is very rare. My husband stumbled on a store in the city centre where we live much to my excitement!!! We went in and were very surprised at the techniques used to check the pronation when you are put to the test of running on a treadmill with a pair of trainers on.

I have had pains in my left hip for a number of years now with the need to drop apprx 45 lbs so when I run it affects me quite badly, but since I have be running in the trainers prescribed to me by that store I have felt a vast improvement in the condition of my hip movement, partly from the weight I have partially lost and the trainers which have helped improve my posture.

Highly recommended...good job guys. Thanks Nancy. Report
Very informative. However, I tend to keep my walking shoes around until they fall apart. Your article says 6 months, but how can you really tell when its time to replace? Report
Wow - it's really hard for me to even consider putting down that much money for shoes - sure, I'll do it for my son, but as a single mom, money's not easy to come by and I tend to spend it on my son's needs rather than my own. I know the importance of shoes, but trying to figure out how to budget them in when I'm living paycheck to paycheck is the tricky part. My son found a hole in my shoe yesterday, so I guess it's time to step up and find some shoes that work for me. Report
Good article, Nancy. No two feet are exactly alike so we can't all wear the same brand of shoes. I'm easy to fit so have no problem. But I definitely believe this: "Be kind to your feet, they have to support your weight for many years". Report
I really enjoyed this article. The best shoe I have found is saucony. Anyone I have recommeded it to agrees! Report
The right shoe can make all the difference. I have back problems and one day at the gym a gal told me she had a back injury and she did PT and changed to shoe that designed for support at the right place for running and support of her back and now she is back to running 30-40 miles a week. Must be nice I said, but I took her advise and went to http://www.runnersworld.com and used their shoe finder and read about pronation, etc., found a couple shoes I thought would work and went to the shoe store. I was lucky and manager helped me and was happy to see my research and help me make my choice. I paid $59.99 for a pair of shoes and the first time I wore them I could feel a difference. I was desparate otherwise I wouldn't have done it.

I still have back problems and days where nothing helps but the shoes do make a BIG difference and are worth the money and time and effort to get the right ones! Report
I believe shoes are important, but because of limited funds I have never gone to a specialty store. I compare and try on a lot of shoes and make the best decision I can, but cost is a big factor. Report
I am such a morning exerciser...not because I am a morning person but because I have no choice. I'm a business owner and mom of two young and active children. So, if I want to get in a work out then I have to be at the gym by 5 a.m. (when they open) so that I can be home by 6:30 or 7:00 to help get the kids ready for school, me ready for work and then get to work...it's always a mad dash in the mornings. But by the end of the day I am too mentally exhausted that I just cannot think about going to work out...not to mention after school activities, dinner, homework, house work...and then usually more work work.... Report
I am a runner and know the importance of the right shoe for my foot and the sport. I have had a very different experience than many of the previous posters regarding the knowledge of those at the specialty shoe store. The staff that fits people for running/walking shoes at my local Fleet Feet is so well-trained in this - and just generally very good people to go to for advice on the sport - they are all amazing athletes themselves - marathoners, ultra-marathoners and tri-athletes. Report
I think some people might be confusing the concept of a regular shoe store that sells a lot of sneakers with an actual specialty running store. The idea is you want to find a place that sells shoes exclusively for runners. The store will probably have ''Running'' in the name (in my case the store was called ''Tortoise and Hare Running and Fitness Center.'') These aren't places you will find at your local mall, they are small and you will probably have to find them in a phone book or via google search. The people that staff these stores are absolutely expected to be knowledgeable about the proper fit for running. They should make you put on the shoes and observe you walking around in them, and poke and prod your feet--if not, find another store. Report
Intimidated to go to a specialty running store? No, but the people there are NOT trained, nor are the "experts". Most are like my 24 year old son who just need a job!
I got THE BEST running shoes when I had my feet analyzed by Ideal Feet (my "balance" wasn't very bad, but did have a few pressure points) and the guy recommended the shoes that they carry (Brooks). As a runner, I was pleasantly surprised that these shoes "breathe" well and ARE light weight. I use them ONLY when I run --- at $104 they'd BETTER have a special use!
Previously I'd bought Nike running shoes (sleek looking!) that I had to THROW AWAY(Good-Bye $80!!!) because they got too tight across the tops of my feet (over the arch) after running for about 30 minute stretches -- yes, the store "specialist" assisted me on the purchase.
Previous to that I bought my shoes at WalMart. Let's admit it --- $24 a pair is do-able to most pockets! Report
The right shoe is very important. I prefer New Balance or Saucony, for myself. Report
20 years ago I enrolled in an aerobics class and after 10 minutes my shins and feet were killing me. The instructor told me I needed an aerobics shoe.. I finally found a shoe that would work....I lost 44 pounds later doing Richard Simmons and walking. I wore those shoes out. I have never found a shoe that meets my requirements for aerobic and walking. I have walking shoes but you need shoes that you can turn and twist in to do aerobic workouts and most of the shoes have too much tread and don't bend very much. Do you have any suggestions? I have been looking for years. Where is a good store that knows what they should? Thank you....Grace Report
I don't believe that the shoe makes the athlete. Some may go through the effort to purchase the correct shoe, only to not follow through with the exercise they were purchased for. However, after reading your blog, I now understand the need to invest both the time and the money to make sure that my feet are properly supported. They are the foundation of our whole frame and if we injure them, or any other part of our leg because of the wrong footwear then the exercise was counter productive. While I'm not imtimidated to go into a specialty store, there isn't one near by me that I'm aware of. I'd prefer keeping the price well under $100. Report
I hate shoe shopping. I wear a 5 EEE. I have very short toes on top of that. I can still buy Barbie shoes or Hannah Montana shoes. I haven't found a pair of walking shoes that fit right for more than 2 years. The toes are pointy and that is painful. If a pair of shoes fit right, I buy them even if I don't like the way they look. Report
Very good article. I guess IT does make sense to get the proper shoes for the proper sport. I like this article. Report
This article shed alot of light on how important your type of shoes really are when working out, whether its running, walking, hiking, or aerobics. I do think that the shoe makes the athlete to a certain point. I just really can't understand the extreme prices on some of these shoes. In fact, I have not been able to bring myself to go to one of the specialty stores, because I am sure I will not be willing or able to spend the kind of money they want for their shoes. Since I don't run, I can typically get away with whatever cross trainers are on clearance at Famous Footwear, and if I understand the article right, I think this is ok for me. Report
Shoes are definitely important, especially for those who are going the longer distances. I train for and run 1 marathon a yr and probably 6 half marathons so shoes are a big deal. I wear the Brooks Trance 8 and have been with the same brand of shoe for the last 4 yrs. They are expensive, but I have two pairs and switch out, so they tend to last a bit longer. Report
Very good article. I, like others have better fit and feel with wearing a running shoe to walk for exercise purposes. Report
My husband is an avid runner and running coach. He has helped with determining pronation at camps for high school runners. (He learned to do this from a physical therapist.) The problem he has run into is that, even at the specialty stores, they don't know anything about this! Instead, he researches shoes before he goes out to buy so he knows exactly which ones will be right for him.

So, I'm just saying be careful. Mall-type shoe stores don't really train their employees in proper shoe fitting. And even if you are at a specialty store, they may not know how to do it either. So do your homework. Or at least ask a lot of questions to find out if they know what they are doing.

Runner's World magazine has good resources for learning about your foot as well as types of shoes that would work for your foot. Eastbay is an online retailer that provides information about their shoes. Report
i had no idea there was a difference in shoes, this is a nice article..need to look into some walking shoes Report
I have three different pairs of "workout" shoes. I have my Nike's for my jogging days, my Rebok for gym workouts and my Saucony for when I decide I want to walk the neighborhood or the treadmill. It also allows for a longer wear for each shoe.

Shoes, proper fit and affordability. Great article, thanks Report
When I was training for a half-marathon, I started to experience some problems. I thought I knew what kind of shoe I needed since I supinate badly. On the advice of a friend, I went to a running store and they analyzed my gait and suggested a particular brand of shoe. It changed everything! Suddenly I felt like I was running on a cloud, and my problems disappeared almost overnight. Definitely heed this advice! If you're worried about price, after the first time purchasing at the store that helped you out, you can always look for the same shoe on the internet and save money. Report
It is VERY important to go to someone who knows how to evaluate your feet and stance (both standing and walking) to get the proper shoe.

Just because it feels good at the store doesn't mean that it's going to work well for running or walking. I was regularly buying shoes because they felt good when I tried them on, only to go for a run and end up with sore legs, feet, and ankles. I finally went to a running store, had them evaluate me and purchased a pair of running shoes from them.

WHAT a difference! As the article says, what works for one person won't work for another. I can run with Saucony or Mizuno. My husband tends to have to stick with Nike. It's always a bit painful going in to buy another pair of shoes, but I figure that it's better for me - in the long run - to avoid injury and pain. Report
Thanks for the great information! I had no idea. I have started running lately, and had no idea that the shoes may make a difference in the transition from a walker to a runner! Report
I'm am fortunate on two fronts regarding shoes - for the last year I have been a tester for New Balance. I lover the fact that I can test both cross trainers and running shoes and I live in Boston where NB is not only headquarters but they have a factory outlet at the based of their HQ. Which means I can pick up on saqle new NB shoes for as little as $15 or $20 dollars. Since I test shoes I know which model lines will still suit me after a few workouts.
And yes some models have improved my workouts because of a better fit and lighter weight. Report
As a cyclist, I've got it easy! Just ;et me have my cleats and I'm on my way. Our biggest decision is what brand of pedals to buy, and then get the cleats that will fit that pedal. Shoes are stiff, no bend and no cushioning, to enhance power transfer, and not fit for walking at all. Report
I didn't know that there is so much information in my shoes. Will keep tracking your posts! Report