“Wow, that’s impressive!” This is how the salesperson at Delaware Running Company reacts when he sees the wear pattern on my ancient Mizuno Wave Alchemy shoes. In fairness, I had warned him that they were “shot to hell” before handing them over. They had served me well in the year I had them, but it was time for a new pair of shoes. Alas, my beloved Wave Alchemy shoes have been discontinued, and the only reason I even knew about Mizuno in the first place was because of the Wendy Davis filibuster. It was clear I needed professional help if I was going to continue running safely, so I chose to get fitted.
A proper shoe fitting is key to choosing the best shoes for running and beyond, but many people aren’t aware of the process. In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) set forth guidelines for choosing shoes and recommends that you get sized every time you buy shoes, but the Institute for Preventive Foot Health (IPFH) reported in 2012 that only 18% of adults surveyed had their feet properly measured on their last shoe purchase, while only 7% had a gait analysis to check their walk for any issues. Getting fitted can be a daunting task, but there are some ways to have a successful experience.
I had originally planned to go to a specific brand retailer in the area that offers a shoe fitting service, but I didn’t want to limit myself to just one brand. This was my opportunity to explore the wonderful world of running kicks! Once I found the Delaware Running Company, I knew it was the right shop. They have great reviews on Yelp and offered brands I had never even heard of alongside more familiar names such as New Balance, Asics and, yes, Mizuno.
The store displayed an array of shoes, but I headed right to a professional and explained that I was looking for — a shoe that I would use only for running, unlike my previous shoes, which I used for pretty much everything. I also needed a shoe that would support my weak ankle, which is why I was a fan of the Wave Alchemy.
My salesperson was attentive and informative, taking time to assess my needs before carefully curating a selection of shoes for me to try on. After watching me walk, measuring my foot and thoroughly examining my “impressive” shoe soles, he explained that maybe I didn’t need quite as much support as the Wave Alchemy provided.
The ACSM does warn against picking a shoe based on gait analysis since feet can behave differently while running than while walking; but, in my case, this step was important in the fit process and helped the salesperson and me decide that a more neutral shoe would work for me. This is in line with the new ACSM recommendations for a safe running shoe, which says that extra stability in your shoe could actually be damaging. He did, however, understand how vital support was to me due to former injuries and brought me out some shoes that were similar to the Wave Alchemy while offering more flexibility.
Here comes the fun part: test driving your kicks! I often run outdoors, but this is the first time I’ve ever had the chance to really get a feel for how the shoe feels in motion while shopping. I tried on shoes including Mizuno’s Wave Inspire, and they were fine but not quite what I was looking for. Then, I met the Brooks Ravenna 5, which Brooks refers to as a “guidance” shoe, “providing just a touch of support for runners with mild pronation”. Bonus: they were also a gorgeous purple hue with green and pink accents. I sacrificed style in favor of support in the case of the Wave Alchemy, which a friend had called “old lady shoes”. After a quick tweak of the laces, I breezed through the street like a pro without pain or discomfort. I had found the ones.
I asked about lacing shoes for added support and learned a great technique for ensuring a snug heel fit: skip the second-to-last hole and thread your laces through the very top hole. The true test, however, was how I felt after a full running session. I’ve taken my Ravenna 5s on various surfaces, from a park dominated by tree roots and wet leaves to a smooth concrete path, and I’m happy to say that my body has felt better post-run than it has in ages.
Optimize your run and your health with a visit to your local specialty shop, and get moving!