What if you are traveling and your bag with your running shoes doesn’t make it. Your upcoming marathon “requires” that you put time on your feet while you are gone. You are one bad shoe purchase away from ruining your chance to make it to the start line. There is no reason that you make a bad shoe choice. If you concentrate on the shoe doing it all then you will make a bad choice. If you know how to make a shoe comfortable then everything will be fine.
We expect way too much from a running shoe. Let’s first start with your foot. Your foot is unique to you. More important than the size and shape of your foot is the feeling you personally get with a shoe on your foot. That is the really unique aspect. Shoe companies do a fairly decent job of matching size and shape. Well I should say it’s easy for a shoe company to match size and shape. Many are showing their weakness right now in the market. Where the shoe companies fail is in delivering enough variety in their fit to acomodate your unique needs. In fact there is critical thought missing in the world of shoe making around this. We can sit around and hope the shoe companies evolve or we can figure out our unique need and apply practices to all shoes.
My unique needs.
- I have a low instep and want a tight close fit across the instep – Most shoes today are built with generous room in the instep.
- My two feet are more than a complete size different. My right foot is 8 1/4 and my left is 8 3/4.
- I like a close fit around my arch.
- I like room in the forefoot but too much and my feet slide around.
- Heel fit is critical and I hate the runner’s loop to correct bad heel fit. It creates a world of trouble across the top of my foot.
So how in the world do I make 120 different shoes feel comfortable. Remember comfort in your running shoes is everything. Whatever comfortable is. The only time comfort doesn’t matter is when you are racing. When I say racing I really mean it. When you race the only thing that matters is going fast. So back to it, here is how I make 120 shoes fit comfortably.
Size – I rarely if ever buy a different size. If the brand doesn’t do the size right I’ll adjust. My running shoe size is size 9. Of the 120 shoes 118 are a size 9. The other two are 9.5 and that was because the retailer didn’t have a 9.
Socks – Every shoe I have requires a special sock. My go to sock for the first run in every shoe is the Features Blue Label. Once I’ve determined how that sock worked with the shoe I go with a couple different ways. Let’s say the size 9 fits too close or too shallow. For that I go thinner and choose the Balega Thin. I rarely need those socks. More often than not it’s either the Features or something with more cushion that takes up more room in the shoe. My current favorite for that is the Balega Comfort sock. Special Note: The most common mistake runners make is try to fit a shoe to their favorite sock. The biggest problem children here is those with wide feet. For some reason I can’t begin to understand, many people with wide feet like thick socks. That makes no sense, make your foot even wider before you put it in the shoe.
Insoles/Sock Liner – The industry standard right now is Ortholite sock liners. I simply don’t like them, they are too soft and after a few runs change the fit of the shoe. I like a good sturdy eva sock liner. Every brand uses and eva liner in at least one of their shoes. When I get a shoe with Ortholite and search the closet for the same brand shoe with the EVA sock liner and pull it out. Why the same brand? The sock liner is developed from the last used to form the shoe. Every brand uses a few different lasts but it’s a good bet you’ll get a better fit using the sock liner from the same brand. Special Note: I’ve helped a few runners with really broad feet who struggle to find any shoe that fits. The issue is their foot is broad through the entire foot not just in the forefoot. One runner found the only shoes that fit his foot were Altra but even then through the arch they didn’t fit correctly. To fix this we took the sock liner out and trimmed off the arch and the outside edge of the insole making it flat. You have to do that with Altra because their last is so unique. Nothing off the shelf would work. The flat insole gave him the room he needed.
Lacing – Your shoes come laced. That doesn’t mean they have to stay laced the way they were in the box. It’s ok to adjust the lace to fit your foot. The fine team at Run Repeat has a great picture of all the lacing options. They work great and they are easy to do. If you are having trouble with your foot falling asleep or going numb during your run try the lacing that limits the pressure across your instep (top of your foot). More than likely your issue is too much pressure on all the nerves on top of your foot.
Use these simply tips to find the best comfort in any running shoe. On that trip when your bag doesn’t make it, you can find comfort and any shoe, and if you do that, the few runs you have to do will go off without a problem.