How to Prepare for Sneakers From the Comfort of Your Home

If you have access to a treadmill, or live in an area where you can jog without worrying about too many people around, then you’ve probably considered adding jogging to your regular workout in the event of a pandemic . For some of us, this means dusting our old sneakers. For others, this may mean buying their first pair. And for every runner, getting the right shoe fit is paramount, but how do you get the right shoe when you can’t go to the store?

Finding the right shoes is an art, not a science.

As many running veterans can attest, finding the right pair of running shoes at the best of times is not easy and is more an art than a science. Poorly fitted shoes can cause a lot of problems. There is a lot of jargon involved – asking about your gait and arch type – all sound very scientific. Regardless, research shows that none of this matters much when it comes to choosing the right footwear .

Instead, the most important metric for the success of a pair of shoes is whether you can run comfortably in them, which you will only learn after running in them.

Over the years I have used Saucony trainers, which on paper are not suitable for my gait and arch type. But these were shoes that I could run comfortably in. Then Saucony changed the fit of their shoes and they didn’t work for me anymore, forcing me to look for other brands and models.

This is not unusual: many brands periodically change their shoe models, both small and large, which means that even if you find the right shoes, this could change in a few years.

My own unscientific assessment of whether a shoe will fit me is that the bridges and pads of my feet feel like support as I run. If the shoe feels too loose in this area, chances are good that my feet will improperly injure my foot after a long run. For others, the right footwear will vary based on their own unique biomechanics, which is difficult to predict.

Given how many variables are involved in all of this, is there a safe way to find the right shoe while maintaining proper physical distancing measures?

Schedule a virtual fitting

Live stores are starting to offer virtual meetings, which is a good way to support your local business. Many of these meetings run through Zoom, offering you the opportunity to speak in person with someone about what you need in a shoe. These are people who often know when a brand is modifying their shoes, or can suggest which shoes might be good for someone with a flat parka or high arches. Fleet Feet, which has several stores across the country, has a website that details what to expect during a virtual fitting , which will include the help of a locksmith who will keep an eye on how you walk as well discussing shoes that have worked for you in the past.

If you are unsure about your shoe size, Hoka One One has tips for measuring your foot . They recommend taking a long walk first; your feet expand after walking and you will want to measure their swelling. They also have tips on how to judge the width of your foot, which is especially helpful if you have a wide or narrow foot and are not entirely sure which one is right for you.

If possible, keep an old pair of sneakers on hand.

If you have a pair of running shoes that have worked well in the past, now is a good time to have them close at hand. Again, finding the right footwear is not easy; knowing what worked in the past can often be a good key to understanding what might work now. If the shoe has undergone a redesign since then, you can at least use it as a starting point to find a similar model.

If you haven’t run for a long time, or if you are a complete beginner, then now is the time to ask which shoes are best and indicate if your feet are wide or narrow. It is also helpful to discuss your specific fitness goals, as this can also affect which footwear is best for you.

Ask about their exchange policies

In Before Times, you could try on sneakers in the store and maybe even take a quick run to see what it feels like before handing over your credit card.

Now that you’re in physical distancing conditions, you won’t be able to try on shoes until you buy them. No matter how many questions you ask and how many educated guesses you can make, you will not know if a shoe is right for you until you put it on. For this reason, do not forget to inquire about the exchange rules at the stores where you make purchases.

If you buy shoes just to try them on and find they don’t fit, what are your options? Can you trade a pair for another? If so, how much time do you have before that? Will you be responsible for return shipping? This is a good reason to shop locally as it will make exchanges a little easier – just be sure to inquire about contactless shipping and exchange options.

Once you’ve got your shoes on, it’s time to start running, whether on a treadmill, in your backyard, or in an area where you can safely distance yourself from others. Remember, when in doubt, always go for the safer option.

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