How to Choose a Running Shoe That Fits You

So, you're looking for your running shoe, the running shoe that's going to fit you perfectly. And you search, and you search and you search and there's all these options, and you have no idea what to choose. Well, I'm Jesse Funk and on today's episode of Runners High, I'm going to show you how to choose a perfect running shoe.

So, you're looking for your running shoe, the running shoe that's going to fit you perfectly. And you search, and you search and you search and there's all these options, and you have no idea what to choose. Well, I'm Jesse Funk and on today's episode of Runners High, I'm going to show you how to choose a perfect running shoe.

If you've watched some of my other videos, you know, I've been a competitor runner in triathlete for almost 20 years now. What you probably don't know is I spent almost three years working full time fitting shoes; for runners, for diabetic people, a variety of people with their various medical ailments. So, I'm very familiar with putting shoes on feet and making sure that they fit well.

Now, I'll say because I've been in that position, your best bet is probably going to your local running store and relying on the staff there, because they're going to know things about the shoes that you just can't possibly know. And I'll get into that later. But if you want to choose your own shoe, there's a lot of things you need to take into account.

The first thing is your gait. Now, you'll see gait analysis is something that, you know, the local running store will offer, often times. And sometimes they'll just watch you walk, sometimes they’ll watch you run on a treadmill, sometimes they'll play it back on video. Somebody that's been doing it quite a while, they'll notice pretty quickly what's going on.

And there's basically three basic positions that's going on with your foot. A neutral position, which is where your foot rolls forward, with very slight amount of pronation, that's inward movement, a pronating foot, which is a like a large amount of collapse towards the inside, and then supinating feet, which roll to the outside. And each of them has a particular shoe, typically associated with it.

On top of knowing that gait the you have, which dictates Okay, if you over pronate, you might need a stability shoe, which we’ll cover in another video. Or if you have a you know, a kind of neutral gait, a neutral shoe or a supinating gait, then you might need a different kind of stability shoe with more posting to the outside. Again, I'll cover those specifics of what those shoes are in another video.

But the other thing to take into account is what's your foot shape, you know, what is your foot shaped like? Not all shoes are constructed on the same what's called a last. A last is the shape of the model foot that they use for particular shoe or shoe series. Now a good example of this, I worked at a New Balance store. So, New Balance is known for what's referred to as the SL2 Last, which is a narrower heel and a wide toe box, that's the front of the shoe.

The problem and this is where I say, you know, relying on your local running store is a big deal is it the SL2 varied between shoes. So, this model maybe has an SL2 and that model has an SL2, but how they fit in the intricacies of each shoe is going to be slightly different. And the people that are working in those stores, they can see the differences between all these shoes and all the different last shapes.

Those are you know what's going to help you get probably the best fit based on your feedback, you know, you put a shoe on you say, it's a little tight here and they feel the shoe. They say okay, I think maybe this shoe fit a little bit better. So knowing that your foot is shaped a particular way, you know that you need a particular shape shoe.

If you have, you know, bunions or you have a wider forefoot, then something like the SL2 that I mentioned with that wider toolbox is going to be a good option. A6 is also known for making a lot of lasts with a wider toe box.

Now keep in mind, I'm a big fan of being brand agnostic, you need to find the shoe that works for you. So, this is something that happened often when - came in the New Balance store. I don't know whether the owner has liked that I said this, but people would say, okay, tell me why New Balance has the best shoe. I would say, well, they're not.

They make good shoes, there are other companies still making shoes, you need to figure out the shoe that works for you. There's a lot of you know, things that play. So again, figure out what shoe shape goes with your foot shape is a big component. Some of that information is going to be available online. But a lot of that is going to be you know, relying on your local store to parse through some of that for you.

The next biggest thing that can take into consideration is what's the purpose of your shoe, you know, what do you use it for? I'm not going to use the same shoe to train in that I'm going to racing. And those even have variations in that I typically train on the road or a, I’ll say mild gravel trail. It's more like - or track. So, I have a pretty typical running shoe.

Whereas somebody that is on the trails all the time, very rugged terrain, may need something with a more rugged out sole, which is like the bottom part is going to be a little chunkier, it'd be able to deal with some of those rougher terrains without pushing through all the texture of the shoe into your foot. And when I go race, I'm going to be taking a different kind of shoes than what I train in. Typically for me, it's something lighter, a little bit more snug and not going to carry the weight that a training shoe would.

So, once you figured out the purpose of your shoe, you can kind of figure out okay, this is the category issues that I need to look at. And it could be a matter of the shoe I use like I said, I could take it on the trails, I'm on the trails, every so often, not real often. So, I don't necessarily need a dedicated trail running shoe. And you have to figure out your own purpose where you do most, most often and that's going to help you figure out what style of shoe to go to from there.

Here's the big one, and this was probably the biggest point of contention when I saw people they came in and asked me to help them, and that’s shoe size. So, many people get this wrong and it makes such a big difference. You can get printouts online, as I'm sure you sure that they're printing to scale to measure your shoe size. But the best way to go is to use a - device, the typical shoe measuring device you've seen everywhere, step into it, heel goes to the back, and then you measure up to where your toe is.

Now, keep in mind, whatever that number is, so say you're you come up to a 10 on the device. Well, you don't want a 10 shoe, a 10 shoe actually means that it's going to be right at the end of your toe. And that's part of the contention with the shoe sizing.

You actually need to go up probably a whole size from there for a running shoe. For just an everyday shoe, you probably go up a half size because you need a little bit of space between the end of your longest toe, whichever toe that is, and the end of the shoe.

The reason, especially with running shoes, is that as you exercise, your feet swell. You need extra room within the shoe for your feet to expand. When you don't have that, you can end up with a various amount of ailments.

The most common one, especially among runners is it you lose toenails. They get blood under them from being you know, repeatedly beat against the front of the shoe, and then eventually fall off. You can also get hammer toes and other ailments. But this is a big psychological hurdle for a lot of people that I saw. And I don't mean to pick on the women, but it was often women, there's something about size six, that women wanting to wear and often, maybe they would really need to be in a size eight.

And there's some big psychological difference between six and eight. But the deal is that each shoe size, and we're talking about American sizing, a shoe size is only a third of an inch, it's a very, very small increment, the difference between a six and an eight, two thirds of an inch, right...full inch up, it's a very small difference. But for the health of your feet, it is a huge difference.

So, if you've been wearing two small a shoe, and you move into the correct size, you are going to feel like you're swimming in the shoe. Because you're you're used to your feet being basically constricted, that's what you're comfortable with. And you kind of have to give it some time to get used to this proper fit because it's going to feel loose, it's going to feel like your foot is moving all over the place. But you need that room when you're running so your feet can swell and expand and not cause any construction issues within your feet.

The last thing I want to talk about in regards to sizing is that often more often than not, your feet are going to be two different sizes. So, don't freak out when you get that brand device and you measure them and you're like, something has to be wrong. We are asymmetrical creatures, not everything winds up. It is a rare exception, that somebody has the same size feet, but it's no big deal. It's pretty common.

There are even people that have you know, significant differences in sizes and have to get significantly different size shoes. And there are stores that accommodate that like New Balance stores, and I'm sure other independent stores as well. But what you have to keep in mind is that whichever is the larger of your two feet, then that's the one that you've got to go with in terms of sizing, because you need to accommodate the extra room for that one and extra room for the smaller foot will come naturally.

The last thing I want to talk about in a somewhat controversial consideration is the stack height differential under shoes. So, what am I talking about stack I differential, so here I've got my well worn LunarEpic 2, they make these shoes anymore, but this is what I've been running in. Not to be a Nike fanboy, I actually never thought I would be in another pair of Nike again, but that's another story. I wore - for a very long time.

So, the stack I differential is the difference between here on the shoe, the heel and the forefoot, like the stack it is how thick is this, how this is this, subtract one from the other, and that's your stack I differential. So, with this particular shoe, it is a four millimeter stack height differential. A traditional running shoe, what's been produced for the last couple decades is typically 10 to 12 millimeters. Meaning that your heel is posted up higher.

This gets into running form and running critique and somewhat, like I said controversy in terms of can you run with good form with the large stack height differential? And I'm not going to make that decision for you. I personally like the four millimeters stack height differential because I feel like I have a more natural gait with it closer to the kind of gait I have when I'm barefoot, though I don't personally advocate running barefoot all the time.

But that's something to take into consideration. And again, you can find that information online. A lot of manufacturers will say okay, these are the stack heights, they won’t say this is the stack height differential, but you can look at the stack heights, do the math yourself, what's the difference between them too and see, okay, now this you has the 10 to 12, whatever I'm after.

I will say if you want to go from a 10 or 12 millimeter stack height, a traditional shoe towards the four millimeter, it's probably good to do a progression and try to find a series of shoes that go from. you know, 10 or 12 down to a down to four. There are zero millimeter shoes, but often those go in the minimalist category, and those are not for everybody again, in my opinion.

So, what else do you need to know about how to choose a running shoe? I'm sure I've heard it and just didn't, you know, remember to include it in this episode. Leave in the comments below. Let me know what do you want to know about how to choose a running shoe. I'll see you next time on the next episode of Runners High.

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