Like my fitness advisors used to say, the legs are the foundation to your athletic power, the running shoe is a key element to your fitness foundation. Your shoes not only help you maneuver in the environment in which you perform your activities, but they can also help reduce pounding impacts and hopefully injury on your body. Of course much of the shoes success is based on “matching the tool to the job”. A running shoe will cause issues if used for such events as basketball and vice versa if you start putting in some solid mileage. This information will primarily focus on running shoes but much of the considerations can apply to all forms of footwear.
Most running shoes primarily come with an air (Nike), gel (Asics) or EVA (New Balance, etc) type soles. They each provide a different impact value and even within each you can have distinctly different strike structures and levels of support and cushioning. My advice before purchasing any shoe online is to at least try on a pair at a local store. I prefer a local running store as they typically will fit the shoe, evaluate your running style, etc. One franchise chain that provides such services is called Fleet Feet Sports. They actually let you purchase the shoes and try them for several days with the opportunity to return them if they don’t fit. Most stores won’t take back shoes if they are worn outside (always good to validate store policy before purchasing), and it is difficult to determine how a shoe really fits by doing laps around your living room. My personal preference is to buy at least my first pair locally for the service they provide and then buy extra pairs online (making sure the brand and model are exactly the same).
If you decide to buy online and aren’t sure of the model you want, here is a link to the Runner’s World Shoe Advisor site that provides a good bit of information to identify shoes that fit your style and preference.
- Make sure the shoe fits the activity and that it fits your “running” style.
- Understand the store return policy before buying. Don’t get stuck with a poor fitting shoe.
- Make sure the shoes fit properly and especially that the seams don’t bother you. Although they break-in, when you log long miles any poor fit can cause blistering.
- Try on the shoes with the sox you will tend to use. If you try on with thin socks but normally run with a thick wool sock, it may impact the fit/size of the shoe.
- Although some shoes come in waterproof gore-tex, it is worth understanding if it is more important to give up breathability for waterproofing.