Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Right Fit

This post is all about the process of getting properly fitted for running shoes. It's not going to be interesting for everyone, but I wanted to detail the process for me and for anyone who wants to do this in the future.

I've heard many runners say that one of the most important things you can do for your running is to get properly fitted for running shoes by a professional. And since I know I have weird arches and I'm doing something wrong when I run, I thought it would be a good idea for me to take the plunge and get fitted.

I can't even express how happy I am that I did this. I learned so much about the dynamics of the foot, and what my foot strike looks like.

I learned of the running superstore, Fit2Run, when we had to go there to pick up our IronGirl swag in April. I was instantly in love. This store is Heaven for any runner. It is jam-packed with an indoor track, treadmills, shoes, Garmins and watches, socks, energy packets and bars, clothing, and basically everything you could ever think you would ever need for running. It also has Videotaped Gait Analysis, where employees work with you to figure out the perfect shoe for your type of foot.

I should admit now that I was a bad blogger and didn't take any picture during this experience. Nonetheless, here's the breakdown:

Step 1: A short talk
When my mom and I got to the store, we were immediately greeted by a man named Keith who was more than willing to help us. He first just talked to us about our running and problems we're having. I mentioned the numbness and arch pain, as well as the occasional shin splints.

Step 2: Foot Mapping
I stepped onto the "Foot Mapping" machine in my socks to see what my foot looked like and where my pressure points where. The verdict? I place most of my weight on my heels. While my right foot looked mostly like the outline of a foot, my left one looked more like two little islands, with no arch to speak of.

Keith also had us step off the machine and bend down in a semi-squat without letting our heels touch the ground. It was there he could see that my ankles were turning in (i.e., overpronating).

Step 3: Videotaped Running
We ran on the treadmill for about 20 seconds at a 4.5 speed. A video camera was positioned from calf down, which perfectly captured our foot strike.

Keith would rewind the tape and stop it when one of our legs hit the treadmill. He was looking for two things with this: a straight line from calf down, and for our heel to hit the treadmill.

My left leg was looked at first, which showed a severe overpronation. It was so eye-opening for me to see how much my ankle curved inward when I was running! I had no idea! No wonder my arch would kill me and my foot would turn numb!

My right leg wasn't so bad, but did show that my heel wasn't hitting the treadmill in the way it should.

Step 4: Trying on shoes
I had many eye-opening experiences during this analysis, and one such experience was finding out that shoe companies actually make shoes for overpronaters. As in, they make the same style of shoe for people who have a neutral foot (my mom) and overpronators. The trick lies in the gray shading around the arch. That signals extra support and stability that overpronators need.

I tried on a bunch of different brands: Asics, Mizuno, Brooks, and one other brand that I can't remember. My favorites were probably the Asics, because I'm particularly fond of the brand. After running around the track with the different shoes, we settled on the Asics and Brooks as the two final possibilities.

Step 5: Personalized arch support insoles
Our next step of the process was getting a personalized arch support insoles. This was a pretty neat experience and shows just how far running technology has come! First, Keith took a picture of my feet at three different angles (just standing, standing in a semi-squat, and with my toes lifted up). Then he put the insoles on a foam block, had me stand with all my weight on it and then do a little see-saw motion of putting weight on my heel and then my toes, heel, then toes, for a few times. We did the same on the other foot.

Step 6: Testing out the shoe
The last step of the process was trying out the shoe with the insoles in it. A
t this point, I was pretty much certain I was going to get the Asics. They felt good, they looked good, and they weren't as expensive as I imagined. So we tried them out on the treadmill. They did correct my overpronation quite a bit. It wasn't perfect but it was so much better than before.

But Keith wasn't happy. See, Keith is a self-confessed perfectionist. And he wanted my ankle to look as straight as possible. He brought back the Brooks shoes. I wasn't too keen on them since I felt like my foot was sliding out of it but he promised me that it offered better stability for my foot. Since I know he's a little more knowledgeable about feet and shoes, I put my foot fate in his hands.

The Brooks shoe made it a little bit better than the Asics did, and he got me a smaller size which I think was the whole problem.

Step 7: Trying not to cry at the price
I bought the shoes (Brooks Adrenaline GTS 10), as well as the personalized arch support insoles. I was also suckered into joining their membership club, which cost me about $10 more. (It's $30/year, but a lot of that was figured into the shoe price) But this gives me 10% off all future purchases, plus I can return my shoes within 30 days and they'll let me exchange them. (Otherwise, they would have to look unused.)

I spent more than I expected, but I'm really happy with my purchase. I ran/walked 5 miles in them on Sunday and my arch didn't hurt at all! My feet also didn't get numb, which it's been doing more lately. Getting used to them is a process, but it always is.

I cannot even stress how important it is to get your foot properly fitted for running shoes, if you're serious about running. It was such an eye-opening experience to see how I was landing on my foot and how much I was harming it by not supporting it properly.

Have you ever gotten fitted for running shoes? What did you learn during your fitting? If not, would you ever get fitted for running shoes?


  1. This was so interesting, I had no idea there was so much to a good pair of running shoes! I'm very impressed you're taking such good care of yourself :)

  2. Yah! Glad you're back in the running game. It's a fun experience to get fitted for shoes but yes, the price makes me want to cry too.

  3. Wow, I had no idea you could do something like that! Very interesting Steph!

  4. YAY I'm glad you got fitted for the right shoes. It's going to make such a huge difference in your running!!!

  5. Awesome for you for making sure to get fitted—I'm definitely going to recommend it to people in the future!

    I recently bought a new pair of running shoes, and i wish I would have gone somewhere where they could have done analysis on my foot. I know that I am an overpronator, and I did some research on what shoe to buy, but I probably would have benefited from help picking the shoes and maybe from having some personalized insoles. Can I ask how much the analysis ended up costing in addition to the shoes?

  6. This was so interesting to read! I'd really love to get this done, because I am almost certain that my shoes aren't the right fit for me. (Probably one reason why I don't enjoy running!)

  7. Wow, I'd love to go do all that and find some new shoes since I've gotten that numb feeling a few times before. It's amazing what a difference shoes can make for you.

  8. i had no idea that that is what that grey area meant, too cool! so glad you got fitted, its def important, i can't believe the difference it's made!

  9. I know you can go get shoes fitted but I've never done it! Maybe if I get more serious about running. I've never had expensive trainers. In primary school, we ran around in shorts/trackies and Warehouse running shoes.

    I did buy running shoes this week for $30 from the Warehouse, and I can tell you they beat running in, er, skate shoes hands down. BF told me off for not buying expensive ones from a proper sports shop, but to be honest, I wouldn't even know the difference at this stage. I'm easing into it..

  10. I am so glad you got fitted for shoes. It is so so so so important! I have been fitted for shoes and have found shoes that work great for me (Mizuno Wave Riders). Your store had a way more technical approach, which is really cool!

  11. I have a hell of time finding shoes I like that fit comfortably. I had no idea it was such a high-tech process! haha.

  12. Oh, wow! I wish I would have known about this place when I went to International Mall while in Florida. (Of course, I hadn't started running then.) Next time I'm down, I'll definitely visit them.

    I love my Nike Frees so far, but for my next pair of shoes, I definitely want to get fitted. I just need to find a place that will do it! :)

  13. My friend Jaclyn used to work at a store like this, so I've heard about all this cool shoe-fitting stuff before. Only, I'm not a runner in the slightest ;)

  14. Ha. I was starting to wonder how much all of this cost! I have been fitted for shoes and ended up with the Adrenalines. My husband was fitted too and his shoes did not work as well. I bought over the counter inserts that I sometimes wear, but haven't been lately. I think I need to go down to the Ravenna or something.

    It's interesting that one foot was so different from the other! I wonder how our bodies end up like that!


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