Choosing The Right Athletic Shoes

running shoesChoosing the right pair of athletic shoes really IS important.…consider this.  With each running stride, your body is forced to absorb impact forces as great as 3x your body weight.  So if you weigh 150 pounds, imagine 450 pounds of force pounding through your muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons with each foot strike. You can imagine that over the course of a three-mile run or any sport that involves a great deal of running such as soccer, basketball, lacrosse, football, or rugby, the amount of force the body absorbs is tremendous.  For these reasons, what you wear on your feet is critical if you expect to continue running, playing sports and working out for the long-term.

Follow these guidelines when choosing your next pair of athletic shoes:

  1. Find a good running shoe retailer who specializes in running shoes and gear.  Most communities have one store that all the runners seem to flock to – in our community it tends to be Fit Right and When the Shoe Fits. These stores generally have good knowledgeable staff who can really direct you towards a shoe that’ll work for your particular alignment and running style.  Fit Right conducts a video Gait Analysis and will watch you run and walk to view any issues that will be important to address with the shoe you purchase. Be sure to discuss your goals, training habits and needs with the staff-person and inform them of any problems you may be having with your body. It’s also wise to bring your old shoes with you so they can examine the wear and tear. 
  2. As a general guide, you’ll want to replace your shoes after you’ve logged 500 miles (800 km) in them.  Another good indication that you need a new pair of shoes is when you start to notice discomfort in your feet, ankles, knees or legs.  You’ll also know it’s time, when the shoe itself is starting to look broken down ie. your shoes are leaning to the inside or outside or holes or rips are starting to surface.
  3. Find a shoe that fits.  This can be a challenge in itself.  Follow these guidelines:
    • Have both feet measured for length and width, since foot sizes change as we age.  But don’t just go by size, shoe sizes vary among brands.  And be sure to measure both right and left since most of us have one foot that is wider and longer – it’s also best to go with the size that fits the wider and/or longer foot. In fact, most experts agree that people buy their shoes too small and don’t account for feet swelling. Be sure that there is at least one thumb’s width of space from your big toe to the end of the toe box in the shoe.  The shoe should be long enough so that all your toes can fully extend without being cramped and you can wiggle all your toes. The width of the shoe should match the widest part of your foot and should allow movement of the toes and spreading of the feet. Ideally, you want a shoe with a wide forefoot to allow your foot to spread out naturally versus being squished in a narrow shoe.
    • Invest some time trying on a bunch of different shoes until you find one that really feels comfortable to your feet.
    • Try to shop around the end of the day because there is a gradual increase in the size of your feet from the time you wake up in the morning.
    • Be sure to run around the store (many good stores will provide treadmills for their customers) to test-drive the shoes.
    • Buy thin socks that are designed for running and try them on with your new shoes.
  4. The trend in footwear tends to be towards minimalist shoes with a more neutral heel/toe drop and less ‘shoe’ to allow the foot to function as it was designed. If you go this route, you will want to progress gradually.  Many people have experienced serious injuries to the foot, Achilles and calve when transitioning too quickly from a shoe with a higher heel to toe ratio to something more similar to barefoot running so be careful. There is some good rationale to this approach however, you must start slow and easy and be sure to consult with an expert to determine if this approach works for your body.
  5. Be sure to purchase a shoe that is sport-specific.  So if you’re running, purchase a running shoe.  If you are doing more cross-training or activities that involve lateral movements, get more of a cross-training shoe that has a little more tread on the bottom to provide you lateral support.
  6. It’s important to know that a properly fitted shoe should fit well from the first day.  Avoid buying a shoe that does not feel comfortable just because you anticipate a “break-in” phase. 
  7. Don’t let a commercial tell you which shoe is going to be best for you.  The reality is what works for one person, may be completely inappropriate for someone else.  Try on various brands and pick the one that feels the best and gives you all the features you need.

Your foot is the foundation for all your movements so spend some time and money making sure you take care of them!  The rest of your body will thank you for it!

Looking for your next running race? Want to run for a good cause and have a blast? Join us for the Girlfriends Race for Cure. This is the BEST race of the year. You don’t want to miss it!

Sherri McMillan, M.Sc. has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for over 25 years and has received numerous industry awards including International Personal Trainer and Fitness Presenter of the Year. She is the author of five books including “Go For Fit – the Winning Way to Fat Loss” and “Fit over Forty” and is the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs.  She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver and can be seen running, hiking or cycling with her two children, Brianna and Jackson.  She can be reached at or

Note:  As an avid Columbian reader, you can redeem a 2 week pass at her world-class training studio to help get you started.  Contact 360.574.7292 for more details. 

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan, holds a master's degree in exercise physiology and has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for more than 33 years. She has received numerous industry awards including 2010 CanFitPro International Presenter of the Year, 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, 1998 CanFitPro Fitness Presenter of the Year and 2005/2006 ACE Fitness Educator of the Year - Runner up. She is a fitness trainer, fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals including "Go For Fit - the Winning Way to Fat Loss" and "Fit over Forty" and the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs. She has presented hundreds of workshops to thousands of fitness leaders throughout Canada, Australia, Mexico, Jamaica, New Zealand, Germany, England, Spain, South America, Asia and the U.S. She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver, the founder of WHY Racing Events & WHY Community, participates in various community fundraisers and can be found running, biking, or hiking around the community. Find more information at

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