Your most important step is buying new shoes

Like seeking a lifetime mate, finding the right shoe requires knowing where to look, knowing your needs and your goals, acceding your weak points, and being more concerned with the right fit than the right look. Just ask Cinderella.

WHERE TO LOOK THE SPECIALTY STORE, AND EXPERT STAFF

A specialty running store is the best shortcut to the right shoe for you, and a well-trained, dedicated salesperson is your best guide and ally.

The past 25 years have seen an explosion in choice of running shoes. Those of us who remember fondly our battered, all-purpose Gazelle adidas would now have difficulty making it twice around the block in those thin slippers.

While the goods news is quality and choice – and specialty stores should offer a vast selection – the bad news can be you, as customer, knee-deep in shoe technology bafflegab. Lateral, slip-lasts, EVA, supinator, pronator, foot strike, and even the innocent-seeming “air” are code words for the shoe parts and foot types that are neither helpful nor interesting to most mortals.

Enter the well-trained salesperson. She or he will be up-to-the minute on the latest shoe technology, and equally adept at demystifying shoe innards and hype.

At Runners’ Choice, all of the sales staff are runners, from recreational to elite, and can appreciate your trials and triumphs; their policy of complete customer satisfaction is your guarantee of success. Recently a regular client returned with a unique problem: an accident in a mock-artillery exercise had resulted in considerable skin grafting of the soldier’s left foot. Eleven pairs of shoes later, he found new ones that fit.

BUILDING YOUR PROFILE

Whatever your war stories, staff will want to work closely with you to narrow the options to three or four shoes. Be prepared to spend some time.

And be prepared to help them help you. How many miles a week are you currently running, or plan to run? Are these on grass or concrete? What shoes are you using now? Are you pleased with them? What are your goals? Any injuries, aches and pains, or beloved bunions?

Don’t be shy if your sales person asks you to take a 30-metre jog down the mall. (You won’t be the only jogger in corporate dress.) This will help determine your gait type. Twenty to 30 minutes is standard; an hour is not unusual.

GAIT TYPE

Determining your gait will guide you toward an appropriate family of shoes. At one end of the spectrum, there are pronators, who have somewhat flat feet that tend to roll inward while passing through the running gait. Depending on the degree of pronation, this common problem is hard on the ankles, hips, and knees. Wear on the inside of the forefoot may mean you’re in this category.

In the middle are the neutral foot plant types, those blessed with a straightforward foot strike.

A lonely 5 per cent of runners are under pronators, meaning they load heavily on the outside of their feet while running.

Runners’ Choice maintains a seasonal guide of current best shoes for plantars fasciitis on the market. Whether you’re a severe pronator, a mild pronator, a neutral foot plant, or an under pronator, you’ll find the current model of trainers and racing flats to suit you needs.

Better yet, bring along a pair of your used shoes (and orthotics, if you have them). They’re an excellent road map of your foot and gait.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR FITTING THE WHOLE FOOT

Running shoe aficionados threw out the standard foot measure long ago. That’s because no manufacturer sizes its shoes alike: a 9 in a Saucony may be a size 10 New Balance, or a 9.5 Asics or Brooks.

As a general rule, you need a thumbnail-width space at the end of your shoe as your foot expands with the heat of exercise, especially later in the day, and elongates as your foot strikes the pavement.

In terms of width, the shoe should fit snugly, but not too tight or you’ll experience cramping. Especially check the heel area for slipping. Again, you need a snug fit for stability and to avoid blisters.

Remember that a pair of shoes that feels great while you stand in them should be jog-tested. Running makes different demands than walking in a shoe. Heavenly pillows can become slippery Jello once you hit concrete.

WIDTH SIZING

Sadly it is still true that many women tend to buy shoes a half-size to a size too small. At the other end, a customer who had difficulty tracking down size 15 trainers to fit was known to settle for size 14, and cut holes in the toe box.

It is also true that many people with narrow feet or heels resign themselves to too-short shoes to get that snug feel. Conversely, people with wide feet buy too-long shoes.

At a specialty shoe shop, these long-time sufferers of black toenails, blisters or loose shoes can find relief. One manufacturer, New Balance of Boston, offers width sizing from EEEE to AA, and shoe sizing up to size 16 for men and 13 for women.

FUNCTION

Beginning joggers may feel their cross-trainers or old court shoes are adequate, if not ideal, for running. They aren’t. Runners strike the ground at about three times their body weight. Only running shoes provide sufficient cushioning, while stabilizing and neutralizing a jogger’s biomechanical imperfections.

PRICE

A word about price: While the budding tennis player can get away with a relatively inexpensive racquet to start with, the beginning runner’s body is not so forgiving. Under-developed muscles need all the cushioning and support you can given them. Be prepared to spend at least $80.

BE FLEXIBLE

That terrible foreboding you feel when a well-meaning friend tells you he’s found the perfect date for you is equally appropriate when receiving advice from friends on shoes.

Do not select shoes on the basis of a friend’s recommendations, or a neat ad, or colour, or brand. Your feet are probably different from a professional basketball star’s. No magazine article can tell you whether a shoe will fit your foot properly. Again, only you, assisted by a knowledgeable salesperson, can know for sure.

IF THE SHOE FITS

Once you’ve decided on the best tennis shoes for bunions for you, don’t get ready for a long life together. How short is long? A years or 300 to 500 miles, whichever comes first. Once the midsole begins to break down, your shoes’ cushioning is abandoning you and you’re vulnerable to injury.

If you’re ready for a trade-in soon, bring your shoes down to Runners’ Choice, for a $10 credit. Yourshoes will be donated to the Street City Community Shoe Bank. (This program is in effect until June 11.) You can also take advantage of a wide range of services offered to the running community by Runners’ Choice, including the Coors Light Running Series, training groups, running clinics, trips, and a network of medical and training specialists.

When seeking a pair of shoes, remember the wise fairy tale: a good relationship starts with a good fit. And if they don’t, remember the policy at Runner’s Choice: complete customer satisfaction.