How to Get the Right Fit in Athletic Shoes

Athletic Shoes
Barry C – testing out Vibram Five Fingers at Caleb’s Run

Over the years selling athletic shoes, I have seen running shoes go through an evolution in construction materials and cushioning.  This has made an impact on how nicely they tend to fit now, especially the more anatomically a shoe will contour to the arches and shape of the foot.   Molded midsoles contribute largely to this.  Current midsole shapes are much more comfortable than the old slab of firm foam cut to a general foot outline like a preschooler would draw and glued to a stitched upper of nylon and suede.  (although, those designs are now really cool retro fashion shoes!)

With running shoes, one cannot just order the size his foot measures to on the traditional Brannock device used for most dress and casual shoes.  For whatever reason, the producing of specific lasts (shoe shapes) or outsource manufacturing has made for inconsistent size standards.  A model may end up being actually a little large per size number than the other models within a brand, or a little smaller.  Generally, all the athletic shoes fit smaller than the Brannock device measures a foot to be, creating the need to go up a half or whole size.

At Sport Seasons, our idea has been that a customer will want to stick to a size ‘number’ if the foot is measured, so in the past we generally haven’t offered to do it.  We can do so, but I like to explain that it is only a starting point, just like checking the size of the current shoe being worn.  We want to pick the size of each model that fits the foot, not just a number.  This can be difficult for some people who don’t like the idea that they might wear a larger size number, insinuating they have large feet! (Of course, some of us do!).

  • Generally, athletic shoes – running shoes especially – are made to fit properly with approximately a finger’s width, or a half inch of room in the shoe from the longest toe while standing. This helps prevent bruising, or toe trauma, and the loss of the bruised toe nail.
  • Most important, the arch should have correct placement, not too far forward or too far back.
  • The shoe should flex with the foot comfortably.
  • Note the fit at the ball of the foot, it shouldn’t feel uncomfortably tight or feel too loose, allowing the foot to slide sideways in the shoe and causing blisters.
  • It is okay if the heel slips up just a little. The heel will imprint the insole and seat into the shoe after some wear.
  • The customer may need to try a couple different comparable models to discern the best fit, or size, or shape of the shoe to the foot.

In the end, the fit/size decision is the customer’s, but we try to help them come to a reasonable conclusion by considering these points.  When buying running shoes, it helps to know if you have a neutral stride, or possibly over- or underpronate.  There are a few easy ways to determine which category you may fall into, and our staff can help.  You can also find some great online resources to help you analyze your stride.  With a little bit of patience you can get just the right fit in athletic shoes.

~Barry C. (Crazy Legs)

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