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If The Shoe Fits…Run!

Daniel C. Farber, MD, Foot and Ankle Surgeon, discusses the importance of picking the proper running shoe and offers advice while going through the selection process.

Daniel C. Farber, MD

To avid runners, there is much more to the sport than simply lacing up any type of running shoe. They know that selecting the proper shoe is an incredibly important part of preparing for any type of competition.

If you're wearing a shoe that doesn't fit your feet properly, you have a better chance of developing an improper gait or poor biomechanics. This added pressure on the heel or ball of the foot could lead to pain, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, hallux valgus, (bunions) and lesser toe deformities.

When you're standing in the shoe store, most running shoes feel comfortable. Still, the true test doesn't come until you've pounded the pavement for several miles.

"Not all shoes are the same. Make sure you choose a shoe that fits your foot shape and running style," Dr. Farber recommends. "Remember that the most expensive shoe is not necessarily the best. The midrange shoes often have the more proven technology without the trendy price."

Runner tying shoes

Finding Your Shoe

So, how do you sift through the many different brands and styles to ensure your feet stay happy and you stay pain-free.

  • Try on all shoes. Sizes among shoe brands and styles tend to vary. Don’t select shoes by the size marked inside the shoe. Judge the shoe by how it fits on your foot.
  • Select a shoe that conforms as nearly as possible to the shape of your foot.
  • Have your feet measured regularly. The size of your feet changes with age. For women, it may change during pregnancy.
  • Have BOTH feet measured. Most people have one foot larger than the other. Always fit to the larger foot.
  • Get fitted at the end of the day. The best time to measure your feet is at the end of the day when your feet are largest.
  • Stand during the fitting process. Standing allows you to check that there is adequate space (3/8" to 1/2") for your longest toe at the end of each shoe.
  • Comfort is important. Make sure the ball of the foot fits comfortably into the widest part (ball pocket) of the shoe.
  • Don’t expect them to stretch. Avoid purchasing shoes that feel too tight, expecting them to “stretch” to fit.
  • Minimize slippage. Your heel should fit comfortably in the shoe with a minimum amount of slippage.
  • Take a stroll. Walk in the shoes to make sure they fit and feel right.

Finally, remember that knowing when to replace your running shoes is just as important as picking the proper pair. Dr. Farber recommends that running shoes should be replaced every 3-6 months (or 300-500 miles) as they show signs of wear.

"With less activity, once a year is adequate Dr. Farber said. "If a shoe is in good condition, but has lost the cushioning of its insole, you can oftentimes simply rehab it with an over-the-counter insert."

"However, if the shoe looks and feels worn and doesn't support your foot well, replace it no matter what the age."

Highly skilled and highly specialized, Penn physicians treat each joint condition, spinal disorder or sports injury with a personalized approach.

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