There are 7.5 billion people in the world and the idea of finding a soulmate amongst the endless sea of possibilities is understandably quite intimidating.  Thankfully there are far less options when it comes to running and walking footwear, and finding your “sole-mate” doesn’t have to be intimidating or all that complicated!  Here are some important tips to ensuring you’re making the right choice….

  1. Go to the People Who Know Shoes – There are sneaker heads, those people who collect shoes for their looks and rarity and line up days in advance for the latest limited release, over-priced, gaudy shoe to drop…and then there are Certified Shoe Nerds, people who know shoes, how they are made, who they are made for, what they are made with, and every other nitty-gritty detail about them.  These types of folks live and breathe shoes and can be found in Specialty Running / Walking Shops.  Go find a Shoe Nerd, I promise it will be well worth your time!
  2. Not all Shoes are Created Equal – There are massive differences in the quality of shoes, the functionality of shoes, and the purpose of certain shoes.  With running and walking footwear, you generally get what you pay for.  For instance, a generic department store Asics or New Balance style of shoe will not be the same quality as those Asics and New Balance shoes found in a specialty retailer.  They won’t function as well or hold up as long.  Higher quality shoes tend to be lighter, made with higher grade textiles, and more durable cushioning technologies.  Specific shoes are also designed for specific feet and biomechanics.  Interesting side note here too, just because you might be getting the newest version of the model you are currently in doesn’t mean they will fit the same.  This is why it’s important to go to a store where the employees can help you navigate the sea of options and guide you to the appropriate models for you (see tip #1).
  3. Not all Feet are Created Equal – With 7.5 billion people in the world you can imagine there must be a lot of different types of feet and you would be correct.  Despite all of our differences though, there is a proper or preferred pattern of motion for our feet and legs referred to as our gait.  Some people’s feet and legs tend to pronate (roll inwards from outside heel to inside toe) through the gait cycle, while others supinate (rotate slightly outwards from outside heel to outside toe), and yet other feet are just right (darn those Goldilocks!) and move in the proper pattern of motion.  Based on your natural gait cycle there are certain models that will not only work better for you than others but also help prevent some of the common stresses and strains that can lead to injury.  Those Shoe Nerds out there are really good at making those matches (see tip #1).
  4. Size Matters – This is a really important reality to understand when it comes to the correct size of your athletic footwear.  Typically your athletic shoe should be the biggest shoe in your closet when it comes to the size on the tag. Our feet work best in an athletic environment when they have room to spread and splay.  Sizing up a bit will make things much more enjoyable, plus save your toenails!  Black nails might be en vogue, but it’s the polish that is trending not naturally bruised toenails!  It’s best to size up a half to a whole size from what you measure.  What, people still get their feet measured?  Yes, and that weird thing they use is called a Brannock device (you can thank me the next trivia night when you get that question right).  Go somewhere where they will actually use a Brannock to measure your feet, its length and width, and gauge the flexibility of your arch (see tip #1).
  5. Shoes Don’t Last Forever – Unlike a real life soulmate, our “sole-mate” won’t last forever.  You should expect about 300-500 miles of use out of a quality pair of running or walking shoes.  Now, you might be thinking, “It’ll take me forever to go that far,” but most people would be surprised at how fast those miles can add up.  For most of us that would mean replacing our shoes about every 6-8 months under regular use.  Our shoes tend to break down from the inside out so don’t be surprised if they still “look good” but seem to be doing less work for you.  If you’re like me, it can be hard to part ways with your favorite shoes, but the rest of your body will thank you for it if you stay on top of replacing functionally worn out shoes.

If it seems like this post referred you back to tip #1 a lot, it’s because it did!  It’s also because it was written by one of those Certified Shoe Nerds who works at a specialty store, Aardvark Sports Shop in Bethlehem, Pa.  Stores like ours love playing match maker when it comes to you and your shoes.  Rest assured we will analyze your feet, your gait, and your goals to narrow down the possibilities to those shoes that are the most compatible to you.  We may not be able to help you find your real life soulmate out of those 7.5 billion people (although we actually have a couple times…shout out to Todd and Kristy and Cory and Christina…another blog post for another time), but we are quite good at leading you to your “sole-mate”…at least for the next 300-500 miles!

Written by: Jon Notary – General Manager / Footwear Buyer at Aardvark Sports Shop and near 20 year employee who was hired in high school and although pressing his luck many times has managed not to get fired…yet!