by Dr. Phil Maffetone —

Understanding proper running shoe fit is the first step towards pain-free running and injury prevention. That doesn’t mean you should waste your time trying on or investigating those expensive, super-comfortable,  padded, and built-up running shoes that keep being thrown our way each year by profit-hungry running shoe companies. If you haven’t already liberated yourself and your feet from the “more-is-better” marketing hype, it’s not too late. So here are some tips for finding the proper shoe fit:

1. Never assume that you’ll take the same size as your previous shoe, even if it’s the same type or model.

2. Always plan on spending adequate time when shopping for shoes. Don’t rush—if you’re short on time, postpone it and set time aside for this important event. You may not find the right shoe in the first store you visit. Most outlets carry only a few of the many shoes on the marketplace.  This is still true with the new wave of minimalist and  barefoot running shoes.

3. Always try on both shoes. First, try on the size you think would fit best then walk on a hard floor. Even if that size feels fine, try on a half-size larger. If that one feels the same, or even better, try on another half-size larger. Many people don’t realize that a larger shoe may actually feel and fit better.

4. Continue trying on larger half-sizes until you find the shoes that are obviously too large. You know especially by the heel—it will start coming off when you walk. Then go back to the previous half-size—more often that’s the pair that best matches your feet. There should be at least a half-inch between your longest toe and the front of the shoe for most shoes.

5. You may also need to try different widths to get the best fit, although many shoes don’t come in different widths. The ball of your foot should fit comfortably into the widest part of the shoe without causing the shoe to bulge.

6. Use comfort as the main criteria. Don’t let anyone say you have to break them in before they feel good. The best shoes for you are the ones that feel good right away. While many salespeople are aware of how to find the right shoe size, many are not.

7. If the difference between your two feet is less than a half-size, fit the larger foot. If you have a significant difference of more than a half-size between your two feet, it may be best to wear two different-size shoes. How you accomplish this is up to you.

by Dr. Phil Maffetone, author of “The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing”