Check out Our Podiatrist's Injury-Fighting Running Shoe Fit Guide!

When it comes to running, finding the right sneaker fit is key. That's because those shoes are all that stands between your feet and the hard pavement. In that way, the wrong shoe fit can lead to a host of runner’s ailments. (That includes those infamous black toenails we runners love to hate.)

But choosing the right running shoes goes beyond fit. Today, there are so many sneaker options. And so much tech to sift through. But one runner's perfect sneaker won't be the right choice for someone else. So, to help you sift through the choices, please dive in as I share my sneaker fit guide for Houston runners!    

In three easy steps, you can find your best-fitting sneakers!

Best Running Shoe Tech for Runners

One of the hottest new topics in the sneaker tech world is toe spring. You may not have heard of this term. But you've probably noticed that a lot of new running shoes curve upward right under the toes. And that's what I mean when I talk about toe spring.

To be more specific, we measure toe spring in the degree of that upward curve. (The steeper the curve, the higher the toe spring rating.) The idea behind this sneaker tech is that toe spring helps you get forward motion in the front of your running shoe. It may be helpful for some runners. But others should stay away.

Here's the story. When you have a 'normal' gait, your toe joints should extend as weight moves to the front of your foot. This mechanism lets your heel rise. And it makes your body roll over the front of your foot. (Also called the forefoot rocker.) It's important because it makes your runs more efficient. So you can run farther, with less effort.

But, you can't have a forefoot rocker without proper toe joint movement. Those toes have to move at least 60 degrees upward to allow for your ideal rocking motion. So, for people with limited toe mobility, toe spring could be helpful. (Quite a few things can limit your toe joint movement. But two common causes are bunions and arthritis.)

 

Do Running Shoes Need Toe Spring? 

Sometimes, adding toe spring to a sneaker has more to do with the shoe than your foot. Because an upward curving toe can make up for thick, inflexible sneaker soles. And with the rise of maximalist sneakers like Hoka One Ones, sneaker tech is trying to make up for stiffness with toe spring. And that's why, with thicker soles, you'll probably notice more dramatic toe spring. Because it gives your body the room it needs to role forward.

The same is true for injury-preventing sneakers with plates in their soles. Plated sneakers like Nike Zoom Alpha Fly Next% propel you forward while cushioning the fall. But they also sacrifice your foreward rocker. Which is why they come with a serious degree of toe spring.

Here's my final thoughts on this type of sneaker tech. I'm all for features that correct your body's natural imbalances. (But I think custom orthotics do the same job. And last longer.) What I can't recommend is spending hundreds of dollars on these features if your body doesn't need them. Which is why my sneaker fit guide is all about your own feet. And making them the happiest they can be.

Sneaker Fit Guide: Get the Perfect Running Shoe for You Don't squeeze into tight shoes. Use this sneaker fit guide to prevent pain and injury

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has an official guide for picking the right sneaker. And I love almost all of what they suggest.

1. You don’t need a fancy shoe. In fact, a neutral sneaker, with no extra arch support or rigid motion control features is the best choice. Too much cushioning isn’t ideal. (It can throw off balance and your center of gravity.) Instead, look for shoes with enough room in the forefoot so you can wiggle your toes. Because fit over fancy features is key to preventing injuries.

2. Look at the height difference between the heel and toe of your shoe. (Officially called the heel-to-toe drop.) Now, most sneakers have heels that sit 12 to 16 millimeters above the toe. But the ACSM says that number should be no higher than 6 millimeters (1/4 inch). The reason? Exaggerated heel elevations promote heel-strike landings. And those may lead to a greater force of impact for runners. Leveling the toe and heel promotes a more cushioned mid-foot strike. And that's better for preventing foot injuries.

Not about to stand in the shoe aisle with a measuring tape to pick out the best pair for your feet? Here are three suggestions for shoes that meet the ACSM’s standards. Nike’s Free Line sneakers offer shoes with heel height differentials of 8, 6 and 4 millimeters. The Saucony Kinvara has a heel-toe differential of 4 millimeters. And the Altra Zero drop, as its name suggests, has no differential in height between toe and heel.

3. Find the proper fit for your specific foot shape. Before buying running shoes, have your foot measured by a pro. Also, make sure to run in the shoes—they should feel good right away, without a period of “breaking in.” Because the best shoes for you are the ones you feel great in!

 

Of course, there's one more rule to review. (Even if it's not truly part of the sneaker fit guide.) But here it is. If you feel pain when you run, call me right away for an office visit. When you come in, I can check your shoes and your gait. That way, I can stop a minor fit problem from becoming a major running injury!

 

 

 

Dr. Andrew Schneider
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A podiatrist and foot surgeon in Houston, TX.