To learn more about running shoes I went to Robb Finegan, co-owner and footwear buyer of Fit Right. I came away with a WEALTH of knowledge and a better appreciation for the shoe-selection process and how to choose the right shoes that maximize comfort and minimize foot injuries.
Stride Strong: What are some of the most popular running shoes that are trending right now?
Robb: Currently minimalist footwear popularity nationally is slowly declining, though the demand for zero-drop shoes and wide toe-box shoes like Altras at our stores are still high in Portland.
Stride Strong: What types of shoes are good for a heavier runner vs. a light runner?
Robb: There should frankly be no delineation between the two runners when it comes to shoewear. What actually matters the most is how the shoe fits on the individual and how the shoe matches their individual running biomechanics.
Stride Strong: How does a consumer know they have a good fit?
Robb: First of all there should ideally be a thumbnail's width of space from the top of your toes inside the shoe. This allows for the foot to expand after a long workout. The runner should feel secure through the arch while running in the shoe. There should be no uncomfortable pressure points. There should also be no slipping in the heel - buying a wider shoe may predispose the runner to this so they have to be careful with their shoe selection. Bruised toes is never a healthy thing. Essentially, a runner should be able to run without thinking about his/her shoes - this is a proof of comfort and consequently a good fit.
Stride Strong: Do walkers need different types of shoes?
Robb: There is frankly not much of a selection out there for long distance walkers. Shoes made for walkers tend to be much stiffer in their material and build, which does not add much to comfort. For the most part, walkers go through similar biomechanics as runners so running shoes are just as good for them. Walkers wearing running shoes do not get much of a disadvantage, and in fact may find their footwear more comfortable because of its flexibility and cushioning.
Stride Strong: What would you recommend for beginner runners and walkers?
Robb: They need to absolutely go through a Gait Analysis* to figure out what their biomechanics needs are. Runners and walkers need to plan time to be here in our store for a good 1/2 hour, trying on different pairs of shoes to be fitted correctly. The consistent advantage of going to a brick-and-mortar running specialty store is the ability to try on multiple running shoes with the expert guidance of someone who understands the intricacies of the shoes. Apart from aesthetics, running shoes are complicated in their build and function. Different brands also do different creative things to their shoes to enhance certain functions and sometimes it can be hard to navigate through all the choices. *[Click here to learn more about Stride Strong's Running Clinic Gait Analysis]
Stride Strong: Do certain brands of shoes outperform others?
Robb: Footwear designers move around a lot in their industry. So what you get is a big melting pot of ideas and designs/builds across all brands. A long time ago, it used to be easy delineating one brand from the other but nowadays all companies are doing equally innovative and functionally useful things for their shoes. Not any one brand is best at any one thing.
Stride Strong: Do shoe types and models change?
Robb: Shoe models do get updated every 12 months. Better vendors tend to keep their models more consistent, but runners should be open to wearing different models and types as times goes on because their bodies and biomechanics always change.
Stride Strong: What mileage should folks switch out their shoes? What about minimalist shoes?
Robb: As a rule of thumb, folks should be switching out every 300-500 miles. Heat, light and wear disintegrates the shoes. Minimalist shoes may have a life of 200-400 miles. The wear on the shoes all really depend on the individual running mechanics in the shoes - where the runner lands, how hard he lands and what terrain the shoes have been on. The wear would determine when the shoes should be replaced.
Stride Strong: I have heard experts recommend alternating between 2 pairs of the same shoe.
Robb: The theory is that if a runner waits until their pair of shoes are completely broken down and dead, when they switch to their new pair of shoes the harder, newer foam may hurt them or change their biomechanics. Some running enthusiasts opt to buy 2 pairs of the same shoe and start wearing their second pair when the first pair is halfway-worn.
Stride Strong: You mentioned that heat and sunlight disintegrate shoes. How about older shoes that go on sale? Are they disintegrated before even being worn?
Robb: For this reason, shoes should not be kept in stock for longer than 2 years and Fit Right is able to have sales turnover that is well below this time.
Stride Strong: Do socks matter?
Robb: Absolutely! Moisture-wicking socks prevent blisters. Much like shoes, ill-fitting socks can be detrimental to the runner's foot and comfort. An improper-fitting sock is one that is too loose or too tight on the foot.
Stride Strong: So basically, there are many gray areas and variabilities when it comes to shoes and running footwear.
Robb: More than the average consumer would think. It is very easy to select shoes based on brand marketing, aesthetics, heresay and popularity. However what runners should keep in the forefront of their minds is the functionality and fit of their shoes. This may mean that their ideal fit at the time is a different brand, type or color than what they initially insisted on. I therefore urge consumers to approach running shoe-buying with an open mind, but with one ultimate goal: comfort.