THE TECH ASPECTS OF A RUNNING SHOE FITTING
Do you talk about the technical features of a shoe during the shoe-fitting process?
I like to always be discussing aspects of a shoe as I am untying it, taking the stuffing out and handing it to the customer. I
will try to explain how that specific shoe will differ from a lot of shoes on the wall.
For example, for a Saucony Triumph with an Everun midsole, I’ll explain
that the midsole is made from 85 percent TPU and not foam and explain how the ride will feel more bouncy than soft. Sometimes I won’t get too technical, though and just instead tell them that the Adidas Solar Boost was built on a slightly wider last and that it should better accommodate that person’s foot.
I always try to keep some technical aspects in play, but I don’t want to overwhelm someone with too many technical statements or verbiage.
In the end, layman’s terms will often resonate easier with people as they focus on the fit and what each shoe feels like.
How should the size and shape of a runner’s foot be considered when starting the shoe-fitting process?
Everyone’s feet are different, even if they wear the same shoes size. So it’s a matter of trying on several pairs of shoes to get the right fit. You could have a case in which someone has a very wide foot and if they tried the
wide version of an ASICS shoe would still be too narrow, whereas an Altra Torin might fit a lot better based
on the shape.
When it comes to finding the correct size for a runner, believe it or not, a lot of people don’t know their real foot size when they come into the store. When you put their feet on the Brannock foot-measuring
device, it might suggest something totally different than what they’ve said, and maybe because they wear that size for their everyday shoes or the shoes they wear to work.
For running shoes, it’s important to have a snug fit
in the heel and the midfoot and a little more room in the forefoot. Based on all of that, I will often size-up a half size or a full size larger when bringing out try-on shoes to make sure they have room for their toes to splay in the
forefoot of the shoe.
For example, if someone measures a 10 on the Brannock, I’m going to be pulling a 10.5 or 11 for many shoes that run small or are narrower in the forefoot. That has to do with knowing which the shape of
shoes and which ones contour in a little bit sooner than others in the big toe area. But it still comes down to trying on three or four pairs because the size and shape of every different model can vary a little or a lot.
How is the fitting process different for women?
One consistent issue with women trying on shoes is heel slippage, a feeling that the shoe is too loose in the heel. So a lot of times it’s about trying to find a shoe that has a firm, locked-in heel counter that’s going to counteract
that. Or it might be simply having them use the last eyelet on the lacing system or doing a looped tie to further secure the foot down.
THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS
What should a runner know about stability shoes?
While there are some great stability shoes on our shoe wall, I tend to try to get people in neutral shoes as often as possible. If a runner’s gait is showing some
pretty egregious overpronation, then a stability shoe might make sense.
Otherwise, I would prefer most runners to be in an inherently stable neutral shoe so the foot is controlling how their body moves and not the shoe. If
a runner needs a little support, we can add an after-market foot bed—like a Curex insole—instead of putting them into a stability
shoe that might be too controlling.
How much should the weight of a shoe matter?
I don’t like to talk about actual weights too much, even if I know that the Nike Pegasus is an ounce lighter than the Brooks Ghost. There is a lot of gray area when it comes to weight and much more than a number of ounces on paper. The specific weight doesn’t
always translate to how it feels on someone’s foot. It also depends on the heel-toe offset of the shoe and how heavy the heel is with respect to the forefoot.
For example, a lower offset shoe that’s a little bit heavier could
still feel lighter to someone than another shoe with a higher heel-toe offset that is lighter overall but comparably might feel heavier in the heel. It also depends on the weight of the upper too because you could have a shoe with a heavier
upper that doesn’t feel as heavy underfoot. Or you could have a shoe with a lighter upper but a heavier midsole.
Those are examples of why the weight of a shoe is not as simple as knowing that one particular shoe is 9.5 oz.
and another is 10.5 oz. So during the shoe-fitting process, I talk about weight generally but not specifically.
How much should price be an issue during the try-on and fitting process?
never bring price up unless someone mentioned a specific budget they want to stay within. If they do, then I will inquire what that is and try to cater to it. If a customer is adamant about not spending more than $110, then we’ll pull
out the New Balance Zante or Brooks Launch.
But price aside, we’re going to pull out
what we think will work best so we can get that runner in the best possible shoe and go from there. Usually people will want to get the shoe that feels the best on their feet.
Sometimes price does become a factor after the
fact when it wasn’t discussed up front, and that’s OK, because they’ve at least gone through the shoe-fitting process and can make a more informed decision based on all of the variables and not just the price.
FIT AND LONGEVITY OF A RUNNING SHOE
How should “a good fit” feel like to a runner?
It’s really about feeling a nice dialed-in fit without any areas that are uncomfortable, too loose or too restrictive at any part of the shoe—the midfoot, heel or toe
box. But that’s why the customer needs to be able to run in the shoes during the try-on process and not just lace them up and stand in each one. Of the three or four shoes you’re trying on, it comes down to which one feels the smoothest
to you when you’re running, landing on the ground and going through the heel-to-toe transition.
Really, aside from feeling the nice cushioning that all shoes have, it’s about which shoe feels like it’s disappearing on your
foot more and feels the most natural to you. If it’s kind of a toss-up between two models, then obviously aesthetics come into play. But first and foremost, it should be about the fit.
How much do you encourage runners to have a secondary shoe in their rotation?
It’s important to have multiple shoes for different kinds of running, but it also depends on what kind of runner they are and what kind of running they need. First and foremost, we try to make sure the customer gets the best possible
shoe for the majority if their everyday running needs—recovery runs, slower runs, long runs.
When we’re sizing people into shoes, we might discuss a secondary specialty shoe for someone to wear for tempo runs or interval workouts.
Or it could be a secondary shoe for trail running.
How long should a runner expect a pair of running shoes to last?
That depends on
a lot of things, including a runner’s biomechanics, the specific shoe and how they’re running in it. We typically tell people 300-400 miles is a safe span of mileage, assuming that the shoe is not also being used to walk 5 miles a day
in the city, mowing the lawn on weekends or something other than running.
In reality, it could be more, and it could be less. A shoe with softer foam like the Saucony Kinvara might
be done in 300 miles, whereas a Saucony Triumph or Saucony Freedom with an Everun TPU-based midsole
could go 500 or more. So 300 to 400 miles is a general guideline, but it really depends on the specifics as the shoe is worn for many weeks.
How do you tell customers to take care of their shoes?
running shoes are bound to get a little dirty. Some people seem to get worried about that, but I would never recommend anyone putting their shoes in a washing machine or a dryer. That’s going to change the shape of a shoe and how the shoe
fits and lead to it breaking down sooner than it should.
If you are worried about the shoe getting dirty, I recommend using baby wipes or a wet towel to freshen up a shoe and clean it up a little bit.