How to Fit Running Shoes

Getting the Right Length, Width, and Shape

How to fit running shoes is the most basic and essential pieces of knowledge that a runner should have. You can get the most top of the line shoe out there in the market with all the bells and whistles, but if you don’t have the proper fit, it can destroy your feet and the rest of your body. This article will cover the basics of choosing the right length, width, and shape of running shoes to best fit your feet.

First and foremost, however, you need to figure out what type of shoe is best for your type of foot. We all have different needs for cushion and stability. If you don’t know what type of shoe you should be wearing.

After you figure out what type of shoe is best for your foot, you need to figure out what length is most appropriate for your foot. For running, you need to get a shoe that gives you at least a full thumbnail’s width between the end of your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Experienced runners do this because they know the foot stretches forward as it hits the ground, and it does it more and more as the runs get longer and longer. Not having enough length to accommodate for this can lead to a number of foot injuries such as black toe nails, hammer toes, or even dislocated toe joints.

Running shoes are generally made shorter than dress shoes by about a 1/2 size. Sometimes they can be shorter by a full size or even a full size and a half. Don’t be surprised if you wear a 9 dress shoe and have to buy a 9.5 or 10 running shoe. Some people, in most cases women, get offended at the thought of me « implying » that they have big feet. Understand that in the world of running, the shoe size number shown on the outside of the box really doesn’t matter. What matters is getting the right fit on your foot. More importantly, this is not a fashion statement. It’s a high impact sport from which if you don’t equip yourself properly you run the risk of getting injured.

Wow! We’ve covered a lot of information regarding length alone. Now let’s talk about getting the right width, which is equally important in how to fit running shoes. Running shoes will be available in widths 4A, 2A, B, D, 2E, 4E, and 6E. For men, a regular width is D. For women, it’s B. Every jump in a width forward (i.e. from D to 2E) will result in a shoe that is a 1/2 inch wider than prior. Every jump in a width backwards (i.e. D to B) will result in a shoe that is a 1/2 inch narrower than prior. Simply put, you should get a shoe that will match the width of the widest part of your foot, if not slightly wider. This part is usually the base of the toes. If you go into a store you can easily ask the reps to get you different widths and compare from there. If you plan to shop online, then you’ll have to measure the base of your toes to get a good approximation on what width to get. You’ll want to do this while standing. If you’re a male, 3.5 inches is average, so buy width D if you measure around there. If you’re a female, 3 inches is average, so buy width B if you measure around there. Adjust the width for every 1/2 inch variance in your measurement. For example, I’m a male and measure 4.5 inches across the base of my toes. I will get width 4E. Likewise, I’m a female and measure 2.5 inches across the base of my toes. I will get width 2A. Keep in mind that even in the same length and width specs, different brands will either be narrower or wider than others. New Balance, Saucony, and Reebok tend to be wider than most brands. ADIDAS, Mizuno, and Spira tend to be narrower than most brands. Every other brand will fit pretty average.

The shape of a shoe can affect the way a shoe fits on your foot as well. If you flip the shoe over and take a look at how the bottom is shaped, you will notice that running shoes will either be curved or straight between the inside part of the big toe and inside part of the heel. The amount of curvature varies from brand to brand and model to model, but in general, the curved shoes are best for slight over pronators (foot rolls in, usually a medium or average arch) and supinators (foot rolls out, usually a high arch). Straight shoes are generally best for severe over pronators (foot rolls in excessively, usually a flat foot or low arch). By no means will the shape of a shoe tell you if it will give you the correct amount of stability for your particular foot type. It’s just a way to tell whether or not the shoe will provide a comfortable fit for your foot shape. For example, if you have a particularly high arch and supinate, a straight shoe will rub against your pinky toe. Likewise, if you have a flat foot and severely over pronate a shoe that is not straight enough will rub against the inside of your ankle and midfoot.

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