The Importance of Having Your Athletic Sneakers Fitted

The Importance of Having Your Athletic Sneakers Fitted

Woman in front of retail shoe wall.

I may be almost halfway through my pregnancy, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still exercising! I try to work out five to six days a week and practice a combination of weightlifting and cardio. Cardio includes everything from running, high intensity interval training (“HIIT”), steady state cardio - like walking, and plyometric workouts. Even before I was pregnant, I always felt my feet were a little off during certain activities. Whether it was my left ankle turning inward during a run, a pain in one of my shins during a hilly sprint, or feeling dangerously off balance after box jumps, I knew my sneakers weren’t quite right for my activities.

Lucky for us Grand Rapidians, we have a place in our area to help us find a solution. Before visiting the Grand Rapids Gazelle Sports store (they have many stores throughout Michigan, which I’ll list at the bottom of this blog post), I had heard some of my runner friends say that they got their sneakers fitted. Sneakers fitted? As in getting sized for a shoe that is specifically made for you?

"I knew my sneakers weren’t quite right for my activities."

Yes, that’s exactly what that means. I had always assumed that simply walking into a shoe store and picking out a sneaker I liked based on its color and design was sufficient. Well, it turns out that isn’t the case. For example, when I met John, one of the friendly sneaker associates at Gazelle Sports the day I came in, he told me that just because a shoe is a best seller doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. He explained that we all have different gaits, arches, and stability needs. Below are some of the reasons I learned why sneaker-fitting is important for everyone!

Shoe fittingMan fitting shoes

Important Reasons to Get Your Sneakers Fitted

1) Injury Prevention

From shin splints to hamstring pulls to ankle pain and other injuries, ill-fitting shoes can cause a whole slew of issues. I remember once – back in my purely run-only days – I swapped a pair of older running shoes for brand new ones and couldn’t wait to hit the pavement. At first, I thought I just needed time to break in the shoes, so I dealt with the blisters on the backs of my heels and continued to limp through my next few runs. A few runs in, I only added insult to injury when I got some nasty shin splints. At this point, I had been running pretty competitively for almost six years, so not to sound pompous, but I knew it wasn’t me. It was the way my shoe was affecting my natural stride. Had I taken the time to get my brand new sneakers fitted (which yes, I picked out because they were white and hot pink Nikes), I would have never had that problem. Instead, I put my pretty shoes in the back of my closet and wore them out for fun. Being on a college students’ budget, I then continued to wear my old sneakers for my runs. (See tip below on when it’s time to retire old sneakers). I won’t make that mistake again!

Shoe Fitting

2) Avoid the Dreaded Runners' Toe

Maybe this hasn’t happened to you… yet. Have you ever had a gym or running pal frantically show you their hideous black toenail wondering what in the world is going on with their toe? I’ll be honest, it’s happened to me – and it is not pleasant. Not only is it
heinous to look at (thank goodness for pedicures), but it’s painful too. What causes it? Too small of a shoe! If you aren’t wearing the correct size (see my tip below about going up a half size), your toes – typically your big toe – end up repeatedly hitting up against your sneaker causing bruising and a collection of blood leading to the dreaded runners’ toe. Avoid this by getting properly sized!

3) Your Feet Change Throughout Your Life

Ha! Do I know this to be true now more than ever. I swear, since becoming pregnant, in addition to EVERTYHING else growing, my feet have grown too. Another reason I am so glad I got my sneakers fitted at Gazelle Sports. I went in with an affirmative “9 is my size, John.” He smiled and said he’d bring me a size 9 to try, but that I’ll likely have to go up a half size. John was right. I put on the 9 and thought it fit just fine. I did some jogging and walking lunges and told him I was good. He handed me the 9.5 sneakers and I put them on. BIG difference. Not in size, like I thought, but in comfort. Not only do your feet swell during workouts (alas, requiring more room), but a half size up allows for much more mobility in your various movements. I immediately felt like I could lunge deeper and take longer strides due to the small increment change. What I didn’t feel? Like I was wearing clown or bowling shoes. (I’m just being honest. That was a fear. LOL!).

"I can focus more on my workouts than what my feet are doing."

4) Improved Performance

Like I stated above, once I got the right pair of shoes, I felt an improvement in my stance immediately. If the shoes felt this way in the store, I couldn’t wait to test them out in the gym. I can happily say that I’ve never been more confident in my box jumps. Prior to my shoe fitting, I always felt like my ankles gave out during plyometric workouts – specifically during box jumps, squat jumps, and jump lunges. I knew I had the leg power and lung capacity to do more, but the more I teetered and wobbled, the less confident I felt. (And let’s be honest, box jumps are already scary as hell). Having the right pair of sneakers for ME was an immediate improvement in all those activities, in addition to the ones I was already comfortable with (running and sprinting). Everything feels more stable and I can focus more on my workouts than what my feet are doing.

5) Different Brands, Different Styles = Different Sizes

This was also big news to me. Just because you are a size 8 in Nike, doesn’t mean you are going to be a size 8 in New Balance and vice versa. And just because you are a size 8.5 in a Nike cross-trainer from 2018, doesn’t mean the 2019 version is going to be the same.

Retail shoes in boxes

6) Different Brands, Different Styles = Different Sizes

Another big whopper for some of y’all. If you like to mix up your workouts like I do –weightlifting, kickboxing, HIIT, CrossFit, etc. – different shoes are going to be required for different activities. I have had a separate pair of weightlifting shoes for years (they are much flatter and bulkier than a running shoe), and you should as well. You’d be better off squatting barefoot than wearing a pair of running sneakers under the bar because you’ll never be able to squat deep enough while maintaining good form, which will lead to injuries. Same goes for lunges, deadlifts, good mornings, hip thrusters, and other leg exercises using weights. Running, HIIT, and plyometric workouts can all be done in the same type of shoe.

A few other important sneaker-fitting tips

  • Get your shoes fitted at the END of the day
    • Your feet at the end of the day are going to most closely resemble your feet during a workout. This will make your shoe fitting all the more accurate.
  • Size up a half size
    • Like I suggested above, in general, always size up half a size to make sure you have enough room in your shoe for peak performance and to prevent injuries.
  • Replace your sneakers after ever 300-500 miles (these are not just running miles, they include wearing miles)
    • So important, people! Pay attention to how many miles you are clocking each week (from actually running to running errands) because they all count towards that mile marker. If you go over 300-500 miles (depending on what you are using the shoes for), your shoes inevitably deteriorate (they aren’t made to last for years) and injury and discomfort are right around the corner.
      • Bonus Tip: Buy two pairs at once and rotate between the two of them to make each pair last longer.
  • On that note, do not wear your athletic sneakers for errands or casual outings – make them last longer by wearing them only during training sessions.
  • I love this tip from Gazelle Sports! Your training shoes should be used to train in – not while running errands or leisurely trips out. They’ll last that much longer if you use them for the purpose you purchased them for.

Have you had your sneakers fitted before? If not, I definitely encourage you to check out Gazelle Sports and get a pair that are fitted just for your feet, activities, and needs. Gazelle Sports has locations throughout lower Michigan including Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids DowntownKalamazoo, Holland, Birmingham, and Northville. They sell sneakers designed for running (these shoes also work for HIIT and plyometrics), walking, and soccer.

Woman trying on shoes

Thank you, Gazelle Sports, for sponsoring this post! It means so much to me to work with brands that align with my values. Follow Marisa on Instagram: @bliss_by_ris

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