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Why Running in the Right Shoe Matters

March 26, 2015

Did you know that approximately 27 million adults will experience a running-related injury this year, and that those injuries will result in more than $35 billion in direct costs?*

With up to 70 percent of recreational and competitive long distance runners estimated to sustain an overuse injury this year, the chances are high that any of us could be one of those sidelined runners.*

During the past few weeks, I’ve been studying running mechanics, gait and injury prevention as continuing education for my marathon coaching. Abnormal running mechanics are believed to be one of the most often causes of running-related injuries. The shoes we wear and our foot structure play an important role in injury prevention.* For newer runners, it can be tempting to pick a shoe based on how it looks versus how it fits. It can even be tempting to make a choice based on price. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Just as Cinderella’s dainty little foot is the only one to perfectly fit into that infamous glass slipper, how do we know if we’re running in the right shoes that will make the magic happen?

Road Runner Sports’ Shoe Dog® customized fitting analysis may be the solution.

For the past three years, I’ve been running almost exclusively in the Brooks Running PureCadence (you can read my review of the latest model here). Thankfully, I’ve remained injury-free throughout this entire period. As a result, it has been ages since I’ve had a professional shoe fitting and gait analysis. (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Well … )

I decided it was time to take a look at my footwear selection, as well as test myself in a number of different shoes to better understand how they affect me and my long-term running safety.

Road Runner Sports recently invited me to experience a custom fitting at my local store to learn more about my feet and stride. I jumped at the chance and was excited about the visit, but I must admit I was a little skeptical.

I’ve always thought of Road Runner Sports as a great store with a great selection of running gear, but not one I would ever go to for a professional fitting. My perception was that because they are a large chain, their staff aren’t as knowledgeable. I had one experience years ago with someone I didn’t think knew much about running, and ever since I’ve stuck to locally owned specialty stores in Atlanta, which are at no shortage here.

My mind was completely changed this past weekend.

Road Runner Sports did the most comprehensive shoe fitting I’ve ever experienced. As a running science geek, I was blown away by the technology and impressed by the process. Of course, I requested to try on all the different Brooks Running shoes across the stability and neutral categories (and I even sold a fellow customer a pair of Brooks Ghosts while I was there. Ha!).

How does the Road Runner Sports Shoe Dog custom fitting process work?

First, I answered some questions about my current running, like what kind of terrain I run on, how many miles I run a week and my history with injuries.

Next, I stood on a foot pad that assessed how I distribute my weight.

I was surprised to learn that about 63 percent of my weight was on my right foot and the other 37 was on my left. I am right-side dominant, including on the bike, so this was a good reminder that I need to work on strengthening my left side further. It also showed that I have high arches.

Next, I ran barefoot on the treadmill so my shoe fitting expert Sean could assess my foot mechanics and pronation (essentially how your ankle, forefoot and heel react when your foot makes contact with the ground) at my strike, mid-stance and toe-off points.

All the other places I’ve ever been tested had me run in shoes. I really liked running barefoot to see my pure mechanics without any alteration.

Sean and I then looked at my foot mechanics on the screen in slow motion so I could see and better understand my issues.

It was no surprise to me that I’m a slight over-pronator, meaning I need some stability in my shoes. My ankle rolls inward when my foot strikes the ground, but my toe-off is fairly straight.

Next up, Sean made me some handcrafted, custom-made insoles. I am not a big fan of orthotics unless you are experiencing a specific overuse injury, but these are really interesting. (Again, my perception changed.) You stand on this machine, they are custom heated and created to fit the exact bottom of your foot. They retail at $71 for Road Runner Sports VIPs. They make them for everyone as part of the fit process, but you aren’t under any obligation to purchase them.

Finally, it was time to try on shoes. Bring on the motherload of Brooks Running shoes!

Sean told me that if he didn’t know I preferred Brooks, he also would have had me try on some Asics, Nike and Saucony. I did try on a pair of the Saucony Mirage which are the closest thing to the Brooks PureCadence. Unfortunately, all of their stores across the country were out of the PureCadence in most sizes. This really bummed me out, but it enabled me to be open to considering some other options.

The coolest part of the entire fitting process is that you can watch yourself on the screen in multiple shoes at the same time to really see which is best for you.

I ran in the Brooks Ravenna (stability category), the Brooks PureFlow 4s with my insoles (neutral shoes with slight stability from the inserts) and the Saucony Mirage (lightweight stability shoe). When compared side-by-side, I was shocked that the PureFlows with the Road Runner Sports insoles were nearly perfect and much better than the other two options. (Mind changed again!)

I also really like that they have a 90-day no questions asked guarantee in which you can return your shoes. This enables me to come back to the store when they have their PureCadence in and decide if I want to keep my PureFlows with inserts or get the PureCadence instead. I’m also a big fan of their store-brand socks after running in them several times this week.

Overall, it was an exceptional experience and one I would highly recommend. Call in advance to learn a little bit more about the shoe fitting experts at the Road Runner Sports near you so you’re comfortable with your expert. Perhaps schedule an appointment with one of the managers or coaches who fits your needs and experience level.

Be sure to stop by runladylike.com every week for the next three weeks as I’m teaming up with Road Runner Sports to share more on running form and mechanics. Next month, I’ll also be giving away this complete experience to one lucky winner, including a Road Runner Sports Shoe Dog custom fitting, shoes, custom insoles and socks. Don’t miss a post!

Happy running!

*The data cited in this post is from the text Running Mechanics and Gait Analysis by Reed Ferber and Shari Macdonald. They cite numerous studies from across America and around the world as part of their findings. All of those citations can be found in their text and references section.

Road Runner Sports provided me with a custom fitting experience, pair of shoes, socks, custom insoles and gift card for free in exchange for an honest review about their fit process. This is part of their Running Buddy blogger team. No benefits I receive from a company ever influence my review or what I write about the products/experience in any way. I only share things here on runladylike.com that I would feel good about for myself, my closest running friends and YOU! If you ever have a negative experience with anything I write about on runladylike.com, feel free to send me an email at runladylike@gmail.com.

Have you been professionally fit for running shoes lately? Did you experience any surprises? If you’ve ever been through the Road Runner Sports Shoe Dog fitting process, what did you think about the experience?