How Should A Running Shoe Fit?

By Mr. Nikhil Choudhary

August 12, 2023


How a running shoe should fit

Few runners would deny that a perfect fit is all to get the best out of a running shoe. But barely anyone would realize that we still spend a ridiculous amount of time obsessing over ❝What I am going to look like in that running shoe?❞ Or ❝Which technology or foam the shoe embraces?

Maybe ’cause not much was said and written about the best ways to approach a running shoe’s fit. Or it is because assessing the fit is as apathetic as enthusiastic it was to discuss and debate the latest shoe types and features.

We’re insisting so much on getting the fit right because you can encounter stimulation in many different forms―apart from its significance on your running experience: which we’ve featured in a separate segment below.

The right fit, as I always said and still maintain, is an important concept in any shoe. But nowhere―That Perfect Fit―is more meaningful than on a running shoe. The subtleties of fit can be a matter of comfort and style in all shoes, but running shoes have more fit potential.

Fitting potentials that deserve an affectionate swirl; after all, it’s about assessing the fit of a propelling unit that makes us so much more than we are in a simple shoe. We’ll not cut down any attribute to make the fitting process look simple. But let’s first understand why it matters.

Why The Fit Matters?

The Essence Behind A Perfectly Fitted Running Shoe

how running shoes should fit

Why it’s crucial to get a running shoe’s fit right? With a broad prospectus of sizes and widths―broader than it’s ever been―it seems like the fit of an off-the-rack shoe can never go wrong. Any effort after aligning the numbers seems senseless, though.

But before I introduced you to the sliver details that make a proper fit, what we’ve learned about a right fit’s significance—through experts from giants like Nike, Brooks, Hoka, and Saucony—will make you see sense in this aspect of running shoe.


The Comfort

Proper Fit Evokes The ahhh Sensation
Your Soul Is Asking For

The pack of reasons to have a running shoe is led primarily by comfort. By a forgiving sensation that many of us conjure when someone tells us to think of running shoes. Over time, the Cushy department has become a major souvenir of the s̶o̶u̶l̶ sole.

Unlike other clothing or footwear, where comfort is subjective, much of what we consider comfortable in running shoes is traceable. 

Of course, running shoes have a personal, complex, and psychological touch to their comfort equation, but the freedom of movement is at its heart. 

Freedom of movement often comes not from the lack of any restriction but from restriction in the right places: something a good fit is a part of. A comforting sensation nurtures through a proper fit.

Best running shoes are designed to propel you forward and put less strain on your body, but may not be so effective if they don’t feel and fit right on your foot. 

The right fit is all about what feels good to YOU. And if it feels good to you: that’s comfort. Research by Exeter University has released data to back up those claims. 

In addition to physical discomfort, poorly fitting running shoes can also hurt you psychologically. If you feel self-conscious or uncomfortable in your pairs, you may be less confident and less likely to enjoy the social situations we usually run in.


The Performance

You’d not notice the impact that fit can have
on running performance: if it is perfect. 

We can run in just about anything, then what’s the point of having a running shoe? Well, no other footwear taps into the rhythm of consecutive motions quite like running shoes. 

From the discussions held over the last few years with shoe designers and makers, we’ve come to believe that the functions of typical running shoes are not limited to only the most refined midsole foam. Rather, they are defined by their Design.

The way running shoes are made―a thicker heel and a heel-to-toe drop to trigger the natural gait cycle of running. Ensuring a stable and cushioned transition through the forefoot and midfoot during the forward motion process: Adidas Switch FWD, for instance, is based on just this concept.

Apart from the notion that running shoes promote a forward movement, various studies have found their positive influence on running efficiency. Nike’s Vaporfly (any %) took these claims to the height of controversies. 

But ❝How a shoe fits❞ will eventually define To What Extent your running efficiency aligns with whatever standard your shoes set in running performance. After all, every shoe’s fitting qualities are based on models called The Last.   

To make the most out of a running shoe is like going as close as possible to a fit that a shoemaker assumes. Or to a last that carries all of the aesthetics and fitting qualities a shoemaker needs from the outset. 

Professionals have shoes tailor-made that perfectly fit their feet and running style. But mass customization hasn’t swept the running shoe business, so the old conflict between mass production and individuality persists. 

However, to avoid such fitting compromises, prominent running shoe manufacturers explicitly expanded their fit offerings, selling several different proportions in each size.


You’re Less Likely To Injure

At least… Not From Your Perfectly Fitted Shoe!

We are not saying that running shoes prevent injuries― well, many believe they do―it’s just that an ill-fitted one could cause many injuries. 

Being one of the highest impact and intense forms of physical activity, Running momentum generates a lot of force―up to 5 times our body weight. 

Though, our remote ancestors gave us an evolutionary edge. Over centuries: our feet, legs, and lungs are evolved enough to withstand such forces. 

But back then, it was Meat, not medals; survival, not sports watch; and more importantly, it was gentle grassy terrain, not brutal concrete. 

Yet, your health as a runner is up to you, not what you put on your feet. “The shoes got out of the way and just let me run,” says famed biomechanist Benno Nigg from the University of Calgary.

However, an ill-fitted running does come your way: something you’d either realize right from when you first wear ’em (Congratulation! Swap ’em with something better) or after running a 100 miles injury milestone. 

Finding the shoes that help you run with your best form is a start because doing so should mean how you absorb impact forces matches what your body is best suited for.

According to RunnersWorld, ❝The basic idea here is that runners should incur fewer injuries in shoes that feel like an extension of their bodies,❞ a sensation you’d very likely feel through a nicely fitted running shoe.

You have ventured to nail the fit perfectly: so it’s very likely that you mulled over the idea of having running shoes, Right? The decision feels thrilling and just right at first. But to ensure that emotions stay and nothing fades over time: do some reading on when it is worth having a running shoe. 

That’s a little pause for a moment to embark on whatever adventures a perfect fit promises. But on a topic that many writers would barely acknowledge, we might have gone too far to confirm you are giving ❝The Fitting Portion❞ a bit more than a passing thought in the running gear preparations

But we think it worth reading some perks that’ll probably enhance the integrity of this matter. So now that you are adequately profound about it, let us make sure that you gently wear the attributes of a perfect running shoe fit: an equation led by rightsizing you. 

First, Squeeze Into A Size!

Try to recognize yourself from a list of measurements.

Our correspondent uses shopping for running shoes as their kickoff example of too much choice. Choosing from twenty-plus sizes in four different widths forces to invest time, energy, and no small amount of self-doubt, anxiety, and dread.

Though Sizes are standardized. Feet aren’t. And before these options were available, a buyer like myself had to settle for an imperfect fit.

Of all styles of footwear, running shoes are the least reflective of a classic modern dilemma, a conflict between human heterogeneity and mass production.

Manufacturers and retailers make things even more confusing with their own proprietary sizing systems―to which we have dedicated reading below—there are too many variables to know exactly how the numbers will align.

So instead of translating it into, for instance, 42 EU or UK size 8, break your size into length and width with your socks on — and be sure to wear the type you’ll use for running.

Either Trace It On Paper

Running shoes are from those few occasions when a customer might feel justified in opting for the inconvenience of visiting a physical store over the perceived risk of shopping online.

Though, sometimes you have to do it in The pandemic style, letting your fingers do the shopping through the online inventories of The World’s leading running shoemakers who haven’t yet opened their first brick-and-mortar store in India―more on that later.

If we think apart from getting your feet measured by a pro-in-store, Tracing your foot on paper is a quick, easy, and relatively, more precise way.

You just have to stand or sit with one foot firmly planted on the paper and ask someone to trace it down with a pen or pencil pointed straight down.

Measure the tip of the big toe and the outermost part of the heel, which is the length. Measure the flat width across the ball of your foot (the widest point).

Repeat the process with the other foot. We’ve seen a full-size-worth of difference between a runner’s left and right feet. So don’t get overwhelmed by the contrasts of li̶f̶e̶ feet if the numbers aren’t matching.

For the most accurate measurement, it’s best to measure your feet at the end of the day. Feet tend to swell throughout the day and may have a slightly larger measurement in the evening than in the morning.

The more familiar you get with your own sizing, the easier it will become to navigate different brand size charts.

Or Align With The Insole

I wish I can reach through the screen right now, and give you such a big hug. I love that you have mustered the courage to go through the front of a glimmering shop window, sweating profusely in panic at the plethora of running shoes.

Sizing-wise, no need to acquire any personal details beforehand. They’ll measure your feet, and if you’ve headed to a specialist shop, advise you for a gait analysis. The staff will help you get the right size, after all, they want you to be happy enough to return.

But don’t just take their word for it – take the insole (or sock liner) out of the shoe and stand on it. The size and shape should match the size and shape of your foot. Your toes shouldn’t spill over the front or sides, and the tip should come to a point roughly where your toes narrow.

Is UK Size 8 (or 9,10…) Vary By Brand?

Well, Yes! We’ve seen width variations among a single brand’s different shoe models. Though, sizing differences between running shoe brands have largely leveled out. But they still exist.

We’ll give you some reason to believe ❝Why do those differences exist?❞ Further, we’ll explain ❝How you should deal with such variabilities?❞ Something we’ve learned after buying many things completely wrong.

Such variations are ’cause there are no universal size guidelines on one of the fundamental requirements of shoemaking: The Last. The last is a foot-like block that carries all of the aesthetics and fitting qualities a shoemaker needs from the outset.

As brands learn more about fit, each iteration of a popular shoe can have a slight change, too. Sizing is also inconsistent within a brand’s shoe collection because brands tend to use different lasts for certain models.

Some brands will use lasts with a slimmer, narrower fit on their competition shoes and lasts with a wider midfoot for their more cushioned trainers. Almost every American brand tends to be more generous. 

But why didn’t every brand use identical proportions? 

In a tough running shoe market, “better fit” has become the latest competitive weapon. Makers are simply tweaking the proportions of their standard sizes to include more people. 

Every deviation from the standard represented a potential market niche. Although individual brands still adhere to in-house size standards, competition killed national standards.

However, the material of which the shoe is made, specifically in the uppers, may give a shoe a slightly different feel. But greatness in fit don’t necessarily mean dealing with sizing discrepancies across brands. 

A shoe, which you’ve picked or recommended relying purely on the numbers, is a prototype. Even those with years of experience will share that the process to a perfect fit was not without a bit of refinement in big and small ways. 

A Snug Heel Fit

Just Get The Heel Out Of Here, And That’s Your Ticket To A Great Fit

“It can help to start at the back of the shoe because this is the part we tend to notice first as we slip our foot into a new piece of footwear,” Lily Canter notes at RunnerWorld.

The Heel fit is the crux of a running shoe, and a time-honored rule states that they should fit from the start – almost everything else loosens later with relative ease. You want military precision here, fellas.   

Then What The Ideal Heel Fit Is?

Statistics show 80 percent of people wear their running shoes too small. Most people don’t understand they need about a half size larger in a running shoe than a casual shoe.  

Feet have the potential to swell during running and walking. Ensure you have enough room with each step. However, The heel is a component where you don’t want extra room. It should feel snug. 

Much of the back fit relies on the heel counter, A plastic or fabric piece that fits around the Achilles tendon and provides side-to-side support. It can be internal or external, high or low, firm or soft, and sometimes include an integrated sock.

To check for heel fit, Timothy Woods, CCC, GMU, a fitness and nutrition specialist, lift your heel as you hold the back of the running shoe.

And What If The Heel Slips?

Any shifting then is annoying at best and causes blisters at worst. Fitness goes out the window when pain begins so you want to avoid skin rubbing at all costs.

The shoe might be too big, so your heel falls right out of the; or the heel counter is stiff, causing slight movement on your heels, but your feet are not really falling out of the shoes.

You would not imagine how many people we have fit that put on a pair of Running shoes, claiming heel slip and after telling them to tighten the laces, the shoes fit just fine.

So, knowing that, it would appear sometimes we need an extra opinion on heel slip, to understand which is acceptable and which is not.

Well, that’s simple! If you tighten up the running shoe all the way: You should never be able to pull them off without undoing them.

Be aware that if you have a wider forefoot and a narrow heel, which is particularly common for women, it may be tricky to find a shoe that fits properly at the back.

Another similarly tricky spot is that slight heel movement on one size while sizing down is just too small. If this is the case, try wearing a thicker pair of socks and see if this alleviates the problem.

Check whether you’ve used the extra hole at the top which has a heel lock mechanism to help secure your foot in the shoe.

Consider whether your heel is slipping or whether the counter presses into your heel too much. You need to find the right balance between the shoe feeling secure at the back but not so tight that it could cause blisters.

The Midfoot Fit

Should Feel Like A Delicate Cuddle That Soothes,
Not Harrowingly Rubs.

Who can resist the sensation of literally sinking into a plush foam midsole, surrounded by all that foam that’s comfy, cozy, and soft enough to make getting a good long run that much easier?

With much of our contemplation going into creating that ideal plush and firm sensation from the foam, the Role of a snug midfoot fit, which is so much involved in triggering that sensation, fades into the background.

What A Perfect Midfoot Fit Is?

It is basically the middle portion of the upper and how it wraps the foot. ❝A Midfoot Lockdown❞ is the industrial term defining a midfoot fit. 

The proper fit here is going to be comfortably snug to the point where your foot is not sliding front to back, side to side, or up and down. 

Even though the impacts of midfoot fit are huge, the adjustments to nail the perfect squeeze are subtle. That’s perfectly understandable, as such adjustments are generally as simple as levying or exhaling tension off the laces, the easiest thing to cross off your list.

Lace them tightly enough to lock the shoe over your navicular bone—the bony bump over the high point of your arch—or instep, but not so tightly that you constrict nerves and blood vessels. 

What Could Go Wrong? 

If your foot sits too low, the shoe is too deep for your feet. You’d see laces bunched up really tight and close together. The fabric of the upper oddly musters, disrupting the overall aesthetics of the shoe. 

Along with your feet, such musters won’t secure the shoe’s tongue as well; it keeps sliding to the side. If the shoe is too shallow for your foot, you’ll feel pressure on the top end. 

Any of such issues do affect the longevity of the shoe. Neither the uppers function the way they were designed for. Before sizing up or down, you can change the type of laces if you have a personal preference.

For example, runners with high foot arches may find elasticated laces work best. Ultimately it is only through trial and error that you will learn what is the best types of laces for your feet.

The Toe Box

75% of runners mess up the fit by leaving no space in the toe box.

Does the ongoing idea of “the snugger, the better” really still hold? Listen, there’s nothing wrong with a snugly fitted running shoe. But do you know what the keyword is there? Fit. That’s what your running shoe should do. 

And when it lands so tight that it pulls and bows the toe when you are a few miles up; when the forefront doesn’t so much hug your own as they do strangle them, well, your running shoe doesn’t fit.

In fairness, this can happen with any running shoe which is running out of space to accommodate your inflated feet during a long run―maybe ‘cuase you size them down too much.

So, just a friendly reminder: A running shoe’s perfect fit is as much defined by what things would be as by what things are. Your running shoe should fit your ❝Running You.❞ 

How Forgiving Should A Toe Box Be? 

First, stand up so your feet are equally weighted and check the feel and fit. The right pair of shoes will give you a bit of wiggle room in the toe box with some length leftover, without feeling sloshy.

But how much space is too much? You want about a thumbnail’s worth of width between your longest toe and the front of the shoe, that’s enough!

The longest toe may be the second metatarsal (the heads of the long toe bones) and not the big toe. Don’t feel offended, this is for those unfamiliar with some basic things. Not for you, gentlemen.

Not Confident? Take Out The Insole!

Length is one area where you should play it safe. Where opting for the inconvenience of visiting a physical store is justified―especially when you are not confident enough to articulate the numbers.

Take the sock liner out (another term for the insole) and place it on the floor to stand on it. We prefer it barefoot, but you can wear running socks either.

Taking out the sock liner (another term for the insole) allows you to see, rather than simply feel, how a shoe fits. Look at the length of the liner in comparison to your foot.

Check where your longest toes are and how far away from the end of the liner it is. There should be a finger-width distance between the end of the longest toe and the end of the liner.

The longer you run, the more your feet swell: causing your toes to become fatter. And if there is not enough room at the end of the liner, your toes could butt up against the end of the shoe, causing microtraumas.

Conversely, if your shoes are too long your feet will slide back and forth too much, creating blisters and bruised toes as your foot repeatedly bangs into the front of the shoe.

This way, you can check the width too. Your toes should not overhand the side of the liner. And if they do, this will cause them to become squashed whilst running again leading to blisters, bruised toenails, and in grown nails.

Does It Feel Good to YOU?

A perfect fit is framing adjustments until a combination
you find the most comforting.

To run is about making a choice to suffer, to feel hardship, sweat, ache, and get uncomfortable (Here’s why running is hard). All runners have a threshold for being uncomfortable. 

How high that threshold is varies from runner to runner. The higher your threshold, the more comfortable you are with being uncomfortable. 

Running shoes should fit comfortably, not like a test of endurance. The most important thing is to wear your shoe. Don’t let it wear you.

Some research even shows that when you choose a shoe simply because it’s comfortable, you may be less likely to get injured. 

There are as many types of shoes as there are types of people. “Comfortable running shoes” isn’t an exact type of shoe—a comfortable shoe for one runner may feel too firm or too soft for another.

What’s important is that the shoe you pick fits your foot shape properly and that you like the way it feels. Of course, break-in is a thing. 

Every shoe demands a little over a few miles to get familiar with your feet or the feet to get conscious of the shoe.

Your feet are super adaptable—but you have to give them time to adjust. But that convoke is limited to just a few miles. Anything through, and you’d become comfortable being uncomfortable. 

Is The Perfect Fit Virtually Achievable? 

Of Course, The Fit Would Be More Promising―If You Opt Visiting A Store.
But What If Web Is The Only Mode?

Because then you are not pulling yourself out of the fear of making a mistake using the rope of other people’s expertise. In-store, you can simplify the entire procedure of getting the fit right while feeling confident.

Thanks to a perfect storm of factors―faster and more convenient deliveries, simply more virtual doors, stores, webshops, IG accounts, and generous (and generally FREE) returns―changing the very essence of buying running shoes.

Who doesn’t love to do it the pandemic style? Letting our fingers do the shopping through the online inventories of the most prominent brands. With endless variables and numbers to input and weigh up: buying a shoe that fits like a second skin is a little more complicated virtually.

We haven’t reached the age of virtual fitting rooms for running shoes yet; Getting the fit right is a lot easier for someone who already has quite a few online-bought running shoes than it is for someone who is a web novice.

Then it’s hard to pick yourself from the Not-so-universally-unified list of sizes and to know if what you’re looking at on your phone bears any resemblance to what will actually arrive on your doorstep.

It might feel justified in opting for the inconvenience of visiting a physical store over the perceived risk of shopping online when the article in question is a running shoe.

But the exponential rise of digital literacy and awareness has made online shopping such an integral and inevitable part of our lifestyle that many running shoe brands in India have forgone brick-and-mortar presentations and instead used online stores and virtual showrooms to get their business vision across.

Even before the pandemic, we saw hints of how running shoemakers could exist purely on the internet. Though, easy and free return policies have made getting the right fit online a breeze.

Got your measurements sorted and cross-reference them with the information available on the retailer’s website, often filed away under its “size guide”. And hope for the best. 

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