You looked so good when we first met. All sleek and alluring. Mysterious. I'd heard things about you, but I was blinded by energetic appeal. It was great at first. You had such bounce in your step. You were fun and flashy. But in the end you did everything to rub me wrong. I trusted you. I depended on you for support. I thought you were there for the long haul. I needed you and you weren't there. Then came the straw that broke the camel's back. That awful day when you completely let go. I fell to the ground sobbing. No response from you. Nothing. Where was the flash and shine? Where was the promise of support? Nothing. Crickets chirping.
Ever felt like you and your running shoes need marriage counseling? If you're not wearing the right shoe for you, then you know the pain and discomfort it can cause. The problem is, that just like there is no formula for finding the perfect life partner, there is no sure fire formula for determining the perfect shoe for you. Trial and error is inevitable for a runner looking for the "perfect shoe."
Then just like sometimes in life you and your partner grow apart, so do you and your running shoes. Sometimes your feet change. Women often go up an 1/2 or whole shoe size after each pregnancy. The more you run, the more your feet will change too. And just like in life when you are suddenly dumped by a partner for no reason, a shoe company will "dump" you or discontinue a shoe (or tweak it too much) leaving you lost and befuddled.
So what's a runner to do? Here are a few tips to help you find the best shoe for you.
1. Find Out Your Foot Type: Have your gait evaluated by a running coach or at a running store with knowledgeable staff in gait evaluation. I always like it when doing this, that the evaluator has your actually run. As a running coach, I've seen over an over a gait evaluation based on watching a person just by walking. Many times a person's running gait is very different from their walking gait. Most walkers don't forefoot strike, but many runners do. Watching a person walk won't show their true running footstrike.
2. Try On Lots of Shoes: Once you know your foot type (over pronator, under pronator, or neutral), find a store that will allow you to try on several different makes and models of shoes that fit your foot type. All stability shoes are not alike. A neutral shoes are not alike. A great running store will be patient with you, allowing you to try on as many shoes as needed. They'll also not push you into a specific shoe, they'll guide you, answer your questions, but allow you to make the final decision.
I'm often asked what's the best running shoe. I never recommend one particular brand of shoe, because what works for one runner may very well not work for another. There are some brands, I've never been able to wear. Nothing wrong with those brands, they just don't work with my feet. So, let your foot be the guide in picking the best shoe for you. The latest and greatest may or may not be what you need.
3. Check Out the Return Policy: Buy your shoes from a place with a good return policy. Most have a 30-day no-questions-asked return policy and some even have a 60-day return policy. Most don't do a cash refund, but instead give store credit which is still great. Often you really can't get a feel for a pair of shoes until you wear them on a few runs. In the store they may feel awesome. Out on the run, they may feel horrible.
4. Allow time for shoes to break in: It may take a week or two for a shoe to break-in and feel good. Keeping this in mind when race training, be sure to start wearing new shoes at least two weeks prior to race day in order to break them in properly. If you're ever in true pain on a run due to your shoes, take them back immediately.