Thursday, July 17, 2003

Do some sole searching to discover best shoe

By Joy Kraft
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Long-distance runner Bob Roncker, 60, is fleet of foot to be sure, taking to the track at Elder as a sophomore and not stopping for long since. And he's right out front in another Cincinnati marathon - selling more than 1,000 pairs of athletic shoes a month at his Running Spot stores in Glendale and O'Bryonville.

Roncker's advice for finding the right shoes for walking:

Know why you want the shoe: For walking, you can get by with tennis, cross-training or most of the running shoes.

If running comes into the equation, he recommends running shoes for sure.

The difference? In running, you are momentarily airborne and land with about three times the force of the body weight. In walking, it's about 11/2 times, so you don't need quite as much cushioning. Walking shoes might have less of a difference in lift of the forefoot and heel, whereas a running shoe has more of a heel build-up.

Get to know your feet. We each have differently shaped feet, some high-arched, low-arched, etc. For that reason, one brand might be better for you than another. Knowing what has worked and not worked for you is important.

Get a good fit. Buy where there is a good selection and where people know how to fit shoes. Ideally, purchasing shoes is a collaborative effort. You talk about what you're going to do and what's worked in the past, and a salesperson has a good idea from that of what shoes will fit.

Have feet measured. Feet change, not dramatically, but constantly. Roncker said a customer came in recently, said he'd always worn a 101/2, but he left in a 12.

Try on shoes. Do this in the store and take your time. Try both on and walk around. Get an idea of how they feel, understanding they will be a little stiff initially.

Before you leave the store, check these benchmarks:

• There should be a finger-width space in front of the longest toe of the longest foot when standing up.

• Roughly parallel eyelets (if they spread into a V, the shoe is too tight. If they overlap, it's too lose).

• Look for a little pinch of material across the top in front so when the foot comes down it has room to spread; press on the widest part of the foot on the top and side to make sure the middle part of the foot is comfortably snug and secure.

• Make sure the heel is secure.

Price: You can get good walking shoes for $60-$100.

Shoe life: When you get beyond 500 miles, look at the shoe for wear on the sole and sides. The mid-sole is the area that breaks down that we sometimes don't see as easily. It loses some of its bounce and shock absorption isn't taking place.

A person might say they feel discomfort in their heel or their hips. That's when the shoes might not be giving the same protection as when they were newer.

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