Need New Sneakers? How to Find the Right Shoes For You
Apr 27, 2017
It all started when Work For Your Beer co-founder Melanie Fox noticed that her pinky toe was sticking out of her two-year-old sneakers.
She knew that it was time for her to get some new cross-training shoes, but she wasn't sure where to start. She talked to me (Work For Your Beer co-founder Alicia Thomas) about it, and I tried to think back to the last time I got new running shoes... Then realized it was two years ago for me, too.
My toes were all still securely in place inside of my old kicks, but it got both of us wondering: how do you know when it's time to get new sneakers, and how do you go about finding the right pair for your needs? Do you wait until your sneakers start to fall apart on you, like Mel's, or is there some other standard you should go by?
A quick Google search told me that you should replace your shoes after 300 to 500 miles of use. For a runner doing five three-mile runs per week, this comes out to about every six months. Clearly, Mel and I were pretty behind on our sneaker buying responsibilities.
So, we decided to put ourselves in the hands of the experts. We met up with Mike Moran of Charlotte Running Company in Dilworth so he could help us each find the right pair of shoes to fit our specific needs.
Step 1: Measuring Your Feet
To kick off the sneaker selection process, Mike started by measuring our feet with a Brannock device. If you're nodding along but thinking, "What in the world is a Brannock device?" just know that Mel and I said the same thing, and as soon as Mike pulled the device out, we both said, "Ohhhhhh." Because it's precisely the same foot measuring apparatus you've been seeing at shoe stores since you were a kid, that your parents have seen since they were kids, etc.
Using the Brannock, Mike told us he was going to measure each foot once while we were seated for an "unweighted" measurement, then once while we were standing in the Brannock for a "weighted" measurement, to end up with a total of four numbers that would determine the actual sizes of each foot.
He started out with Melanie. When she was sitting down, her left foot came in around a size 8.5, but standing, it came in at a 9. Her right foot, on the other hand, measured a 9 while seated and a 9.5 when standing. The width of her foot was a 10 when standing, too. Mike said they find that it's pretty standard for one foot to be larger than the other!
When Mike measured my feet, I came in at a 7.5 when standing on both feet... but a 6.5 seated on my left foot, and a 7 seated on my right foot. However, the width of my foot measured at an 8 when standing.
They typically proceed with the largest number that they find, so Mike brought out shoes in an 8 for me and a 10 for Mel. The first pair that he brought out would simply be a "test" pair that we would lace up and try out during the next step of the shoe selection process, which brings us to...
Step 2: The Treadmill Test
Now that we had our test shoes on, it was time for part two of the process. Mike brought us over to the treadmill and told us that he would use an iPad to record each of us running for about 30 seconds.
Then we would play back the video, first in regular motion and then in slow motion, to watch for a few different factors that could determine what type of sneaker might be best for us.
We each ran for 30 seconds, then watched the video playback with Mike as he pointed out factors like dorsiflexion (the backward flexion of your foot when it lands on the treadmill), pronation, closed or open stance, and more. He also paid close attention to what our ankles were doing as we ran, along with our legs and spine, so that he could base his shoe selections on our biomechanics.
Mike determined that both Mel and I needed a neutral shoe rather than a stability shoe based on our treadmill tests. This surprised me, since my previous shoes were stability sneakers. He told us that studies show that putting people in stability shoes if they're an over-pronator doesn't actually decrease the likelihood of injury. He said that new runners tend to overpronate more, but after you've been running a while, you typically become more neutral (less overpronation) as the body becomes more efficient at the movement of running.'
Step 3: Trying On & Choosing Your New Shoes
Once we went through steps one and two of this process, Mike had all the information that he needed about our feet to bring us out a selection of shoes in our sizes that would fit each of our needs.
He brought out about half a dozen shoes for each Mel and myself to try on, and we laced up each one and took laps around the store to determine whether they were comfortable or not.
Mike made sure to mention to us that how the shoe feels when you try it on is pretty much how it's going to feel for the next three months. As technology has advanced, we've gotten to the point where hypothetically, you should be able to take your shoes right out of the box and run as far as you normally would that same day. Mike actually did exactly that when he ran the Boston Marathon, buying a pair of new sneakers and running in them right of the box, and he said he ended up with no more blisters than any other marathon he's ran in the past!
At this point in the process, as we narrowed down or choices based on comfort and function, aesthetics started to come into play. We each had a certain idea of how we wanted our new shoes to look, so we explained that to Mike and he brought out a few pairs that fit each of our descriptions.
Mel was looking for something that would match all of our Work For Your Beer gear, but that was still a funky, colorful, and generally happy-looking pair of shoes. Mike found something that was just right: a pair of fun, bright, coral-colored Adidas that fit Mel's foot perfectly in a 9.5 rather than the 10 we expected.
Then there was boring old me, looking for something completely neutral that would match basically every item in my wardrobe, because I have commitment issues when it comes to adding color to my outfits.
Thankfully, Mike was very understanding (if amused) and found me the ideal pair of black and white Nikes, which gave me just the right amount of support and were all-around comfortable on my foot in a 7.5 rather than an 8, like my old sneakers had been.
Then he let us in on a secret: these shoes actually don't even come out until Memorial Day Weekend, and the only reason Charlotte Running Co. even has them is because they're a Nike Power 40 Partner.
What does that mean, exactly? Well, it means that they're one of only 40 stores nationwide who even has these shoes until the end of May! Can you say baller status?
Bonus Steps: Drinking Beer & Petting Dogs
While we were making our final footwear decisions, another customer popped her head into the store and asked, "Are y'all dog-friendly?" To which Mike answered, "Yes, ma'am, we are!"
In fact, not only is Charlotte Running Co.'s store dog-friendly, but they even have dog treats behind the counter for when someone's furry, four-legged friend drops by. So, naturally, we used said treats to get this gorgeous girl to pose for a photo.
And of course, we were already very excited to come to Charlotte Running Co. for this whole shoe-purchasing experience because we knew that they had beer on tap. We're (obviously) avid proponents of working for your beer, so we figured that it would make sense to order a cold one after a few rounds on the treadmill!
Mike was happy to pour us Blue Blaze's Yellow Blazer, and we were happy to drink it.
If You Need New Sneakers, Go See a Professional
Basically, what we took from this experience is that we know way less about our feet than we thought we did. It never occurred to us to consider all of these factors when choosing new sneakers, but now that we walked through the whole process with trained professionals, we're never going back. These new shoes are just too comfortable to go back to randomly ordering whichever shoes we think are the cutest on Amazon after our pinky toes start popping out of our old shoes.
Looking for new kicks?
Head to Charlotte Running Co. and ask one of the folks over there to help you find the right pair for you! Or you can stop by the Dilworth location on Monday nights for their run club at 6:30 PM. Or both! (We recommend both).
There are actually five total Charlotte Running Company locations for you to check out, which are: