Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Perfect Fit

Shoe shopping is a right of passage for anyone who's decided to take up the sport of running. I couldn't count the number of times I've been asked what shoes I wear to run, or where I go to buy them. The answer isn't cookie cutter easy, but getting the answer that is best for you is pretty simple.

To start off, there are numerous brands and models of running shoes on the market. To speak from experience, I've run about half of my marathons in Nikes (I forget the model) and half in Brooks Ravennas. The Nike's I ran in had more support and were what I was used to when I first started out in my training. As a creature of habit, that is what I stuck with for several years. When I was ready to move on to a more neutral shoe (one with less support), the Brooks Ravenna model was a lightweight and comfortable option. Recently, however, I went to purchase a new pair of shoes to get ready for fall racing season. Brooks introduced the Ravenna 4 model, and I was ready to grab a size 9 and be out the door. The person in the store suggested I try them on because of changes to the sizing, and sure enough they were tighter in the toe box area. I ended up purchasing  a different brand of shoes that I tried on and thought fit much better.

This brings me to where I recommend to purchase running shoes. The new brand of shoes I purchased came from a reputable brand that makes quality products that many runners stand by. However, I got through about a month and a half of light training before my little toe started poking through ... on both shoes! When this happened, I was a week out from my first 10K and half marathon of the season at the Disneyland Half Marathon clear across the country. There's something to be said for my impeccable timing.

Fortunately, I had purchased these shoes from Varsity Sports on Magazine Street in Uptown New Orleans. I called them and explained what was going on with the shoes, my predicament with the upcoming race, and asked for their advice. I was told to bring them in and we would look to see what the best plan of action was. After talking to several reps in the store that same day and inspecting my shoes to look for a cause of the issue, it was decided that I should wear those shoes to race since I had already broken them in. The treads on the bottom of the shoes were still in very good condition and other than the sidewall issues, the shoes appeared to be structurally sound. New shoes at that point would have been painful for a 10K, much less that and a half marathon. They told me to come back to the store as soon as I returned from the race.

Upon returning to Varsity, it was agreed that I had a supination issue with my stride. In other words, my feet strike front first on the outside of the foot, causing my toe to push up against the side of the shoe. I then had a super helpful and knowledgeable store manager go through the process of trying on no less than 10 pairs of shoes of different brands, models and support levels to see what works best for me. I finally decided on a new pair of Nike Pegasus shoes, bringing me full circle back to the brand I started with. When I went to pay for the shoes, the store told me that I didn't owe anything for the exchange. They backed up their shoes and the fit. I was floored and impressed to see a store with such incredible customer service.

I have no affiliation with Varsity Sports, and am only giving my first hand account of how I was treated. This example is why I always insist on newbie runners going to a reputable running specialty store to buy their shoes. Sure, you can go to a big-box chain store and purchase running shoes to save a few bucks, but running stores employ fellow runners who have years of experience in the sport. They can give guidance on what to try and how to improve training with proper equipment. The shoes and their fit are the base for good training, so getting that right is extremely important. In addition to Varsity Sports, there are other local running stores in the New Orleans area that I'm sure would be just as happy to give you the same great service I was provided.


  1. So glad to hear Varsity was awesome about the exchange and I'm glad you're in shoes that work best for you. IDK what's going on with that other brand. I'm not a fan of my shoes right now either. I'm convinced they're giving me calf problems and I've heard it from a couple of others. Boo.

    1. And you're in such a precarious time with the NYC Marathon just around the corner. Will these shoes get you through the remainder of your training and the race?