“Take My Feet and Let Them Be Swift and Beautiful To Thee”
The fun thing about walking (yes walking is fun) is that it requires very little equipment to do it. A good pair of shoes, fast drying socks and some comfortable clothing. But just like a pyramid, it all starts with a good foundation: the shoes on your feet. So how do you go about choosing what’s right for you from the walls of your local walking/running store? Should you choose by color? By brand? How about the advice of your friends who love their model so much?
The first thing is to educate yourself of some basics, beginning with what type of foot do you have? Start by taking your socks off and looking at your foot. Is it wide, narrow, high arch or even no arch? Next you can get a general idea of how much support you will need by standing barefoot, feet shoulder width apart, and bending gently at the knees. Flex your knees to about 45 degrees and take note of what happens to your arch. Generally, the more it flattens out the more support you will need in a shoe. If your arch deflects a lot then look for more support. If it’s just a little then look for more cushioning in your shoes.
Armed with some knowledge you head off to your local walking/running specialty store. If you have pair of worn shoes bring them with you. They tell the salesperson a story about how you walk. If you wear insoles or custom inserts (orthotics) make sure you bring them too, as they dramatically alter the way a shoe feels and fits on your foot. Be prepared to fit in a larger size than your street shoe. With walking shoes you want a thumbnails length between your toe and the end of the shoe. This is because when your foot hits the ground it gets longer and wider. Since you hit the ground several thousand times per mile, if your shoe is too small you will blacken or lose your toenail, making you an outcast in the sandal wearing crowd.
Shoe size is one of the most problematic of issues when getting properly fit. The device to measure your feet, called a Brannock device, is accurate less than 20% of the time for walking shoes. Additionally, many brands and models are sized differently too, so you may be different sizes in different shoes. Don’t be concerned if “I’ve never worn that size before!” Try on the size above and below what you think is correct so you are confident in your selection.
The next step in the process is to try some shoes on. Start with cushioned shoe and take a test walk. A good store will allow you to try the shoe on a treadmill or outside and have the salesperson evaluate how you walk in the shoe. Is there enough support? You need a bit more? You’ll be provided with several choices. Don’t settle without trying on a variety of models and brands. An effective way to narrow your choices is to put different models on each foot. Through the process of elimination you choose what feels best. There is no best brand or model. With the help of your walking store specialist you will arrive at a choice that is both comfortable and correct for your training.