Workout shoes: Tips on how to get the perfect fit

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Amelia Phillips

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Get it wrong and you could be in a whole world of hurt, or even worse – injured. Get it right and it’s like wearing your slippers everywhere.

Walk into any athletics shoe store and you soon realise that navigating through the different brands and types of shoes is something worthy of its own ‘degree’.

My resident personal trainer, Amanda Clout spoke to some experts in the field and asked them how to ‘choose the right shoe’. Here are some great tips and things to consider before you set out:

Always on the look out for a new pair of shoes (because 13 is not enough). She spoke to Sean Tindale, owner of Runnulla Performance Footwear and Clothing in Sydney, for over six years. And he’s been in the fitness Industry for 15 years, with an 18 year experience in Rugby League.

While I love my brightly coloured Nikes and Adidas I decided it was about time to talk to a professional and find out what makes a good shoe. 

Initial Assessment – get ready to be questioned!  

Sean’s recommendation that anyone serious about his or her training, where possible should see a Podiatrist in the first instance as they will put you through an assessment of your gait, putting you on the treadmill with different types of shoes to determine which one’s properly fit your build and foot strike. They can also recommend good orthotics, if needed.

Where seeing a Podiatrist is not an option, Sean said any good assessment should cover the following:

  • Observation of the way you stand and your posture;
  • Injury history;
  • Your training history – what type and how often;
  • What surface you workout on;
  • Whether you are a newbie, or heading into your second marathon;

What are the options for what kind of training?

There are several options when it comes to athletic shoes that are good for gym training and running. A lot of shoes are spilt 80/20 which means you can still run in them, however if you are doing a lot of lateral work – aerobics/step classes or netball for example, then a X-trainer is recommended because they are heavier and the rubber is “compressed instead of blown” to put up with that lateral movement. They are durable with toes that are stitched and outer soles which are rounded, designed to put up with the stopping and starting as well as the rolling of the toe you find playing sports such as netball.

Similarly, if a majority of your training is done pounding the pavement, or treadmill then you should be looking at a running shoe as they are specifically designed for that purpose.

While it’s a tough sell, Sean recommends buying two pairs of shoes. If you engage in a particular activity, it’s a good idea to invest in the specific shoes for that activity and not reuse the same pair for all.

How do pick the right shoe?

You have all the knowledge and a variety of appropriate shoes are selected, both Sean and John (running coach) will tell you it’s the ‘first feel and fit’ – once you put your foot in, walk around have a run around the corner, you will know straight away ‘that’s the shoe for you’.

A shoe that corrects your landing:

  • If you pronate, supinate or are neutral (direction in which your foot rolls when landing). You can check this out yourself by looking at the bottom of your shoe – if you have wearing on the inside of your shoe it means your foot rolls in. This can be corrected by orthotics or the ‘medial posting’ on the inside of every brand of shoe (hard dense foam).

Size

  • A shoe should be half a thumbnail from the top, sometimes-another size up. You need more space then you think particularly as foot expands with heat and blood. Sean has seen people with arthritis and losing toenails because the shoe has been too small.

Suited to your training

  • As mentioned above there are a variety of options which will be determined by what you are using them for. If you do tempo, sprint or track work you will go for a lighter shoe because it will help you with speed. If you do longer distance running you will want more material to give support and cushioning to help maintain technique.

What’s the best brand?

Sean doesn’t have a ‘preferred’ brand, as he believes there are strengths in certain shoes such as:

  • ASICs, the number one seller; they put a lot of technology and research into their shoes, and use a gel that gives a softer feel.
  • Saucony and New Balance are good for those that have broader feet.
  • New Hoka’s are becoming popular because they are light therefore recommended by a lot of doctors for patients returning from injury or ankle/back issues. Being light they are also popular with those who have a lot of ‘volume’ in their training.
  • Adidas PrimeBoost has a new technology where the foam doesn’t break down, lasts up to 700kms and is lighter. Great for marathon runners.

How much should I expect to pay and how long with they last?

When it comes to a good pair of shoes ‘quality does cost’. For a good running shoe, Sean said expect to pay anywhere between $180 and $250. That’s not to say you can’t buy a good pair for around the $120 mark, ‘but more than likely you will be back in store three months time needing a new pair’ and the same goes for X-trainers. Sean recommends that you pay that little bit extra up front and it will be better in the long run (no pun intended!), you will also reduce the risk of injury, make you feel more confident and ultimately reach your goals

An average person depending on what activity they are doing will vary. For the runners an average shoe should last between 700 and 800 kms.

Other tips?

Here are some other helpful tips from Runnulla:

  • Lace locking: used to pull the collar of the shoe in to give the ankle more support;
  • Always take your orthotics with you;
  • People with a high ‘in step’ or those that suffer numbness in the toes can mistake the shoe as the problem. Sometimes it is the way you have laced them up, so play around with how you are tying them up;
  • Socks are important! You can get compressed socks which are great for runners;
  • Some of us have one foot a whole size bigger than the other – use insoles or extra socks to help fill in the gap;
  • Once you are in a great pair of fitting shoes, talk to the expert about possible compression gear, which is great to support muscle tissue, reduce fatigue and DOMS.

The overarching message: If you are going to do it…do it properly!

What do you look for when you’re buying new training/workout shoes? Share your tips below.

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