Running and walking are some of the best and easiest forms of exercise around. They let us walk out of our front doors and begin exercising immediately. At their very core, they are simple activities – perhaps herein lies their appeal. But with so many different types of walking and running shoes out there, how do we know which one is right? Here are a few tips to picking out the right pair of athletic shoes for you.
Walking shoes are for walking; Running shoes are for running.
It’s as simple as that. When you have a shoe that you use for both activities, you open yourself up to problems with biomechanics, which can lead to pain or injury. A walking shoe typically has a wider base than a running shoe, and a running shoe will be angled up at the front to allow for a faster stride.
Know your foot type.
In other words, know the shape of your foot. A really simple way to measure this is with something known as the wet test. With a wet foot, step on a towel, piece of paper, or anything that will allow you to see your footprint. What does your foot look like? If you have an outline of your entire foot with little or no curve on the inside edge, you have low arches. You may also notice on an old pair of shoes that you have worn out the inside of the sole of the shoe much more than the outside. You are probably over-pronating, which is the body’s natural way of distributing the forces of walking and running evenly. Look for a shoe with lots of support and motion control. This will give your feet the optimum position while walking or running. If you have an outline of your foot that shows a lot of the forefoot and the heel, with a little thin strip connecting the two, you have a high arch. You may also notice on an older pair of shoes that you are wearing the outside of the sole of the sole much more than the inside. In this case, you are under-pronating, or suppinating. You’ll want a shoe with lots of cushioning, as you tend to put more weight on the outside of your foot. If you’ve done the wet test and you have a nice curve on the inside of your foot, you have a neutral arch. Look for a shoe with the right mix of cushioning and support, sometimes referred to as a “stability” shoe.
More specifically, a change in size matters most. Our feet, even as an adult, change size. Have your feet measured, at least once a year. Also keep in mind that size may differ from one brand to the other. A size 8 in one brand may not be a size 8 in another brand. Go with what fits, not the number on the box.
Shop Late in the Day.
As we walk around all day, our feet swell a bit. The same thing happens when we run or walk for a distance. It is for this reason that you’ll want to shop later in the day, when your feet have increased a bit in size.
Allow For Wiggle Room.
A proper-fitting running or walking shoe has about 3/8-1/2 inch of space between your longest toe and the edge of the shoe. This amount of space is about the width of a thumb, so you can use your thumb to measure this space very easily. You should be able to freely wiggle your toes inside of the shoe, but the heel should be somewhat snug. Avoid getting a shoe that slips on your heel – this will cause blisters and will make you less stable while walking or running.
Wear the socks that you plan on running or walking in. Different socks have different weights and thicknesses, and this should be taken into consideration when trying on shoes.
The most expensive shoe on the wall is not necessarily the best.
Shoes come in so many varieties because there are so many varieties of feet. Understand what makes a shoe expensive, and what makes a shoe cheap. There are many materials that shoe companies put in their product, like high-end gel inserts in the heel, or seamless interiors. The best shoe for you will be the one that fits you the best. If the ultra-cheap, $15 shoes don’t feel right, don’t sacrifice your comfort for economics. Those $15 shoes, if they don’t fit you properly, could cost you a lot more when you’re suffering from pain. On the same note, don’t go for the super-expensive, $200 pair with lots of bells and whistles that you may not need. If this shoe doesn’t fit as well, it’s not as good of a shoe for you.
Breaking in is Bad News.
Both running shoes and walking shoes should be ready to go, without breaking them in. Don’t get a shoe if it’s not comfortable out of the box, and don’t let anyone talk you into breaking them in.
Replace As Necessary.
Running shoes and walking shoes typically last for around 350-400 miles. This number may vary, depending on the terrain you run through, your body size, and the frequency that you run or walk. If the soles are worn out, or they don’t feel as supportive as they used to, it’s probably time to replace them.