You could apply the following principles to buying any shoe but I am looking specifically at exercise shoes, no matter what the intended use, e.g. running, walking, basketball, tennis or cross-training.
When buying shoes, getting to proper fit is arguably, the most important factor. Many athletic shoe retailers will have specially trained staff to measure your foot, assess the biomechanics of your gait and advise on the best type of shoe for your planned activities.
The second factor to consider is to make sure you spend enough. It is not a case of finding the cheapest shoe available but rather a case of working out what your budget is and spending enough to buy the best shoe for you. Whatever your budget, it will be easier to make a well-informed, smart choice if you follow these tips:
Check for Wear
The way that your old shoes have worn will be the best guide for deciding what features you need in your new shoes. For example, if the outside edge of the heel area is worn the most, you tend to roll along the outer edge of your shoe when you run. This is known as Inversion, although many retailers will mistakenly refer to it as supinating or under pronating. Runners with inversion typically have rigid, immobile feet and should look for shoes with heavy cushioning and soft midsole with less medial support. These shoes are usually built on a curved last and encourage foot movement.
If your heels shoes have worn mostly on the inside edge, you experience Eversion when you run, often mistakenly called over pronating by retailers. If you have an eversion problem, you should look for shoes that feature a medial post, a polyurethane midsole and a carbon-rubber insole. Most shoes for eversion correction are built on a straight last for more stability and support.
Examine the new Shoe
Your shoes need to be well made and be free of any flaw, or fault, that might introduce discomfort. Examine the shoes inside and out for raised stitching or stitching that is coming loose and if you find any, grab another pair of shoes. Minor issues like these can become major sources of discomfort and possible injury over the long haul. Also examine the intersection of the upper and sole of the shoe. Try to peel them apart and if there is any separation, choose another shoe.
Try different sizes
The sizes on the boxes and tags on the shoes really mean very little. Sizes vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and from model to model. Use the advice from the (qualified) retail assistant to find a starting point and work up and down (size wise) from there. Remember, proper fit and comfort are the be all and end all.
Get a three-way fit
This is not as complicated as it sounds. Put simply, it means:
1. The longest of your toes should clear the end of the shoe by 5 – 15 mm.
2. The ball of the foot should fit comfortably into the widest part of the shoe.
3. The heel should fit snugly without any slippage.
Try on both shoes
Most people typically have one foot slightly larger than the other, so getting a perfect fit for the smaller foot will mean problems for the larger foot. If you already know which foot is larger, base your decisions on how the shoe fits that foot. Finally, stand up after lacing up the shoe to allow your foot to flatten out and spread out under your body weight.
After you have been up and down on your feet all day, walking, running, whatever you normal day entails, your feet can swell by up to 5 percent between morning and night. Buying a shoe too early in the day could result in you purchasing a shoe that ends up pinching by the end of the day.
Don’t force it
Do not try to follow the example of Cinderella’s ugly sisters and try to force your foot into a shoe that is simply too small or one that allows your foot to literally swim around inside the shoe. There are still some badly trained, or unscrupulous, retailers who will try to rationalise the purchase and they have a number of tricks you should be aware of:
1. “That’s a good snug fit.” Snug really means tight, perhaps too tight.
2. “It will stretch with wear.” No it won’t. Modern shoe technology is designed to ensure the shoe maintains it shape and size. It may become more comfortable as it conforms to the shape of your foot, but it will not stretch.
3. “If you wear thicker socks it will fit perfectly.” Does that mean you also need a sock wardrobe? Before you go to the shoe store, choose a pair of socks you would normally wear with the shoes and take them with you or, wear them to the store. If the shoes don’t fit while you are wearing those socks, they will not fit. Don’t buy them.