Running Shoe Fit Guide

Running Shoe Fit Guide

IF THE SHOE FITS...
JackRabbit's Running Shoe Fit Guide

Having the right pair of running shoes for your foot geometry, running gait and foot and running type can make or break the training and race day experience.  

JackRabbit guest blogger Brian Metzler interviews David Gettis - our JackRabbit Store Manager in Hoboken, NJ. to get his insights into the running shoe fitting experience. Read on to learn how the experience at JackRabbit takes running shoe fitting to a whole new level.

HOW WE FIT A RUNNER IN THE BEST SHOES FOR THEM

There are a lot of good reasons to visit your local running store to find your next pair of shoes. Not only can you get the input from an expert shoe-fitter who is well-versed in the current models and latest trends, but you can also try on several models to understand the vast difference in how various shoes fit the specific size and shape of your feet.

We checked in with David Gettis, the store manager for JackRabbit’s Hoboken, N.J., store to understand what an in-store shoe-fitting process is all about and why it is so important.

What can a customer expect from the shoe-fitting process?

It starts with us asking a lot of questions to find out what that individual’s running history is or if they’re just starting out as a new runner. We want to get an overall feel for what they’ve done in the past and what they’re looking to accomplish moving forward, specifically what their upcoming goals are in respect to mileage and races.

Each runner has different needs based on their experience, their foot size and shape and how they run. Whether someone is a new runner or an experienced marathon, we want to make sure we get a runner into the best shoes possible.

Often we’ll perform a gait analysis to see what’s happening with a runner’s foot strike and what the degree of pronation of their foot is as it rolls through the gait cycle. That’s kind of out the introductory process helps us decide which four shoes on the shoe wall would be best for them to try on. From there, they can run a bit in each of those and compare and contrast and see what feels best.

Why do you go through an individual shoe-fitting process?

It’s a very individualistic process. Someone might come in and say, “my friend says this shoe is great” and I’ll say “that shoe might be great for your friend but we have to take a look at you and your feet and how you run.” It’s a very personal thing based on a lot of variables as well as personal taste on how a shoe feels and how it looks.

And it’s funny how personal tastes work, no matter if it’s shoes or food. Someone might love something, someone else might hate it. That’s why going through the whole fit process can help a lot to determine what’s going to feel the best and work the best for an individual’s running needs.

Should a runner be brand loyal or brand agnostic while searching for new shoes?

We try to keep it model-specific instead of making any overall statements about brands. There are a lot of great models out there from a lot of great brands. There are models within each brand’s line that don’t work well for certain people, but that’s not a reason to write off the brand. It’s really more model-dependent than it is about a blanket statement about a brand.

Some people might come in with a brand loyalty, but we also have customers who are adverse to a specific brand for some reason. We try to have them suspend those notions as they go through the three or four models we present for the try-on process and then let them decide.

Running Shoe Fit Guide: Shoe tech

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 shoewould 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.

Running Shoe Fit Guide: The right shoe choice

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?

We usually 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.

David Gettis - Manager JackRabbit Running

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?

Your 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.

About Author

Melanie Mitchell

Transforming movement into adventure. Our Mission: To personalize the fit process, hand-pick the best products, and create unique experiences that grow active communities.

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