Running Shoe Fit Guide: What to Look for When You Shop

Buying Guide

Some running shoes can pinch and rub, but a pair that fits will support you all the way to the finishing line. Here's how to find the perfect running shoe fit.

Last updated: 4 January 2023
4 min read
How Should Running Shoes Fit?

Running shoes come in hundreds of styles and colours and are constructed from a range of materials. But when it comes to finding the right running shoe for you, you only need to focus on one thing: how it fits.

A July 2018 review in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research found that up to 72% of people aren't wearing shoes that fit properly, and this leads to foot pain and disorders. So if the shoe fits, wear it; but if it doesn't, try on another pair. And if you want to ensure a perfect fit, follow these tips.

Measure the Length of Your Feet

When was the last time you measured the width and length of your feet and compared your results against a footwear size chart? It's a good idea to double-check your actual size, especially if you're shopping online.

To measure the length of your feet, stand on a piece of paper with your full weight and trace your foot with a pencil. Use a tape measure to measure the length from the centre of the back of your foot to the tip of the longest toe. Use the chart below to determine your size.

How Should Running Shoes Fit?

Measure the Width of Your Feet

You should also pay attention to the width of your foot, which will impact the comfort of the running shoes you choose. Trace your foot and measure the widest part. Compare your results against the chart below.

How Should Running Shoes Fit?

Some brands may have size charts that vary from the norm, so be sure to check the website when shopping online. If one of your feet is longer or wider than the other, opt for the size that fits your larger foot. And if you have doubts about which size is right for you, order half a size up.

Take a Test Run

If you're going to a shop to try on running shoes, be sure to wear the same sweat-wicking running socks you'll wear for your workout, since the socks you wear will impact the fit of the shoe.

You should also shop later in the day, since your feet will swell as the day wears on. Head to the shop in the evening (when your feet are likely to be at their largest) to try on several different pairs.

But don't rely on the initial feel of the shoe—always take the shoes for a test run on a treadmill or the pavement outside the shop. You'll get a better sense of how comfortably the shoes fit if you take them for a jog.

Don't expect your running shoes to break in or stretch and become more comfortable. You should choose a pair that fits well from the moment you put them on.

Perform This 8-Point Inspection

In most cases, you'll be able to tell straight away if a shoe feels right. But if you're having trouble deciding between two pairs, pay attention to how each part of the shoe's anatomy interacts with your foot.

  1. Look for an upper in the same shape as your foot and make sure it doesn't rub or pull at your foot. The Nike Flyknit upper is designed to provide lightweight support while remaining soft and comfortable.
  2. To ensure the shoe fits in the toe box, try flexing your toes and spreading them apart inside the shoe. Make sure you have about 1¼ centimetres of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.
  3. Look for a saddle that holds your foot in place without feeling too tight around your arch or pulling at your foot as you step.
  4. Pay attention to the weight and firmness of the midsole. You need just the right amount of cushioning, and a shoe that doesn't feel too heavy when you run.
  5. Look at the shape of the outsole to make sure it matches your footprint as closely as possible. You want the outsole to be durable enough to provide traction and protection on your chosen running surface, but flexible enough to allow freedom of movement.
  6. The heel drop, or the distance in height between the heel and ball of the running shoe, is going to affect your stride. Opt for a shoe that doesn't put undue stress on any part of your foot.
  7. Make sure the sockliner feels good when you first step into the shoe, but don't rely on the first step to tell you if the shoe fits—always go for a test run.
  8. A poorly fitting shoe can cause blisters at the ankle collar. A good pair of running shoes shouldn't slip as you step or rub your Achilles.

Rotate Your Shoes

Alternating between different pairs of running shoes can decrease your risk of injury by 39%, according to a February 2015 study in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports.

Researchers suspect this has something to do with the way different shoes vary in terms of how the force of impact is distributed on your feet. Since running is a repetitive movement, it's good to switch up your shoes to change which parts of your feet bear the brunt of the impact.

Just make sure that both pairs of running shoes are a perfect fit for your feet!

Originally published: 15 November 2021

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