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If the shoe fits

By Jenny Whalley

Lots of people lately have noticed that with an increase in regular activity and the return of outdoor fitness, that perhaps their footwear is not what it could be to get the best return from their workout.

Everybody is different and therefore no one shoe fits all, but, do you know what it is you should be looking for when buying a pair of decent trainers?

Firstly is important to know how you run/walk.

Get your favourite pair of shoes (the older the better)

Set them on a flat surface and look at them as if trying to look past them – horizontally

If they are flat with no major wear on either side of each shoe just evenly worn across the sole – then you are what the industry calls ‘neutral’. While it is still important to find shoes that fit well and suit your feet (we will get to that later) you are less limited when selecting shoes that will benefit your activity.

The foot and ankle are aligned with the person’s weight, evenly distributed between the heel and toe

Steps Fall Evenly across the base of the foot from the heel to the ball

Shoe wear and tear occurs across the width of the ball and the heel

If your shoes have rolled inwards and there is uneven wear on the inside of your shoes, the industry would brand you ‘over pronator’. This means you are likely to be putting extra pressure on the muscles and ligaments in your legs from your ankles right up to your hips. Fortunately for you sports brands have started to cotton on to this fairly common gait and are developing good footwear with built in support or stability that will strive to hold your foot in the ‘neutral’ position when you are wearing them. It is important to note that sometimes this will feel odd and even uncomfortable initially but that persistence is key to wearing them in while you build your muscles to respond differently to what they are accustomed to.

Feet tend to roll inward with each step

Steps fall across the inner heel and inner ball of the foot

Shoe wear and tear occurs across the inner ball area (below the big toe) and inner heel

If, more unusually, your shoes are worn unevenly on the outside of the footwear. The industry calls this ‘supernation’ currently there are no specific workout shoes that would correct for this gait (way that you walk/run) it is therefore recommended that supernators opt for a ‘neutral’ shoe but with a wider base to relieve the stress that you are likely to be putting on your calves, and reduce the risk of rolling. It is often also recommended to go for extra comfort (cushioning – squishiness) as your foot will sit more snuggly inside the shoe and take out some of the impact that you are putting on your legs with that running style.

Happens when the foot does not roll inward enough with each step

Steps fall across the outer heel and outer ball of the foot

Shoe wear and tear occurs across the outer ball area (below the small toe) and outer heel

So now it is time to look for your new shoes – in an ideal world you would go to a shop and try on shoes, asking specifically, for support, neutral or cushioned shoes. Sometimes, time, cost, location, do not allow for this. Make sure when you do try shoe shopping – or trying on shoes you have ordered online, you are wearing the socks that you would usually select to wear with the trainers. It is also important to try running, squatting, jumping etc in the trainers to make sure that the movement feels right for you. The shoes should feel snug but not too tight, your toes shouldn’t be touching the end, they should feel comfortable in width, and when doing the laces up again ensure they are not too tight. When running or exercising in them, there shouldn’t be too much movement, feel like they are rubbing or feel uncomfortable across the top of the foot. You may find, you need to try on several pairs.

It is important when buying sports shoes that you keep in mind shoe sizes. Try not to be afraid of going up or down from your usual size – all brands and shoes fit so very differently, in length and in width. It is also pertinent to remember that when exercising we generally become hot, and in doing so our bodies – in particular our feet – swell, therefore, something that fits when you are out shopping, may not feel fitting and comfortable after an hour of running around the park. These days, lots of trainers have stretch in them for this exact reason, but still, I would recommend trying half a size either side to see what feels most comfortable.

My personal favourite way of testing out the fit of shoes is to remove the insole and put your heel into the heel of the insole. If they fit well, your foot will sit comfortably inside the insole, if they are a bit too narrow your little toe is likely to hang over the insole – which in turn will make your shoes feel quite tight. Likewise, if they are really big, there will be too much room particularly around the side and the toe box, but also too much room around the heel will make your shoes too loose, and cause blisters.

Recommendations for different shoes:

If you have wide feet, there are some brands that do a wide fit shoe including Asics, On Cloud, Brooks and Mizuno. Coincidentally, they are also wider fitting shoes in general so may not find you need to buy the specific wide fit shoes. Again always try them on as the different shoes within the brands fit so differently.

If you have quite narrow feet, Adidas, Reebok, Salomon and Saucony can be quite good. Under Armour are also worth considering as their shoes are often somewhere in between.

If your feet are normal, and you have never had any problems, you can probably just wing it and see what fits. Good, lasting shoes, generally include – New Balance, Asics, Saucony, Brookes & Mizuno, but that doesn’t mean any other brand aren’t good enough, ultimately if you find something that works, that’s all that matters.

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