Find the Right Fit
Make sure your shoes are wide enough that your toes don’t get pinched, and long enough that your big toe doesn’t reach the end. Additionally, the heels of your shoes should be flat and straight, which is most appropriate for people who use walking to promote general wellness. You may even want to consider going up a shoe size to prevent uncomfortable friction. This is extra important if you have any foot issues like bunions or a pinched nerve between your third and fourth toe, called Morton's neuroma. Dr. Rachel Brewer, sports medicine physician at Rocky Mountain Pediatric OrthoONE adds, “Running and walking shoe fit is very individualized. Don’t be captured by the shoe logo or color and pay attention to your gait, foot type, activity level and prior injury history when discussing running or walking shoe fit.”
Make It Personal
The shape of your shoe should be one that best matches your individual foot. This is in regards to the width of your foot as well as the height of your arch. While your shoes need to be supportive, they also shouldn’t feel too stiff. This principle of “making it personal” also applies to your running style. For example, if you are more of a heel striker, you may require more cushioning versus if you are a forefoot runner. Dr. Brewer states, “There are a multitude of individual characteristics that factor into deciding what shoe is best for you – don’t be overwhelmed, but realize that you can’t ignore your genetics in terms of your foot type. Also, pay attention to your gait to understand that a heel striker has different needs than someone who lands on the ball of the foot.”
Consult a Salesperson
The easiest way to find the right shoe is to ask. Visit a store that specializes in walking or running shoes and have a fitting to find the type of shoe that works best for your feet and exercise habits. During your fitting, the salesperson may inquire about how often and far you walk or run, along with on what type of surface you usually exercise. Along with stride length, he or she will also look to see if you have low, high or flat arches—and if your foot rolls, which is called pronation.
Take Your Time
Even with expert help, you may need to try on a lot of different shoes before you find the right pair, so try not to get discouraged. Take your time and walk or run around the store in a few different pairs of shoes for several minutes, not just a few steps, and be sure to wear socks when you try on shoes. You can repeat the process at home on a carpeted floor, so you can still return your shoes if you’re having second thoughts. Lastly, try not to worry about style. The benefit of shoes that fit right and feel great far outweigh having the perfect style or color. “Once you find the right walking or running shoe, don’t hesitate to buy several pairs so that you can transition into the same style once they are worn out,” says Dr. Brewer. “Running shoes typically wear out at around 300-400 miles.”