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How Tight Should Running Shoes Be? Tying Up Loose Ends

Competitive runners and hobbyists alike rely on their shoes. They are critically important training tools. They protect the feet and legs from wear and tear, and are the physical platform on which our body’s performance is built. We are all so used to wearing shoes for everything we do that we might not think about how we wear our shoes. Lace them up and go, right?

In running especially, the fit of your shoes can impact their performance. And if it impacts the shoes’ performance, it can impact your performance, too.

How to properly size – and lace – shoes is not always something we think about. Runners like to think about stride pattern, cushioning, and style. But how can shoes with the right fit help you with your fitness goals?

Benefits of a Good Running Shoe With the Right Fit

A tightly fitting running shoe, no matter how well-made it might be, can cause severe pain and possible injury. This is why finding a good shoe with the proper tightness is important for anybody interested in taking up the sport.

Here are a few of the benefits of using a running shoe that you have been properly fitted for:

  • Performance Assistance

Modern shoes are often made and designed with features that assist runners with their posture and foot strike. These features work better if the running shoes fit right; otherwise, they are just added weight and cost.

  • No Blisters and Corns

A loose shoe can slip off while running and result in an accident, while a poor fit is more likely to cause corns or blisters. A tight shoe is even worse, as it can restrict the foot’s ability to flex and absorb impact, or even block the passage of blood.

  • Low Risk of Injury

Restating the obvious, a good shoe with the right fit helps reduce injuries often caused by shoes with a bad fit. This can range from knee injuries to muscle cramps, and it can be even worse if you continue to use poorly fitting shoes.

  • Optimum Comfort

Most shoes are designed with comfort as the first consideration, and wearing poorly fitting shoes is not giving your feet the comfort that they deserve, especially while you are subjecting them to strenuous activity such as running.

How Tight Should Running Shoes Be?

Running shoes need room to accommodate the different ways that your feet would bend and flex while you are running. They should be able to compress when your feet hit the ground and extend as you toe off. At the same time, though, shoes need to be tight enough to provide support and consistent traction. So how tight should running shoes be?

Here are some guidelines categorized by their place in a runner’s anatomy:

  • Toe

There should be plenty of room in the toe box, as the impact from running causes your foot to swell. This wiggle room should be about a thumb’s width worth of space in between the big toe and the edge of the shoe.

  • Mid-Sole

The mid-sole provides you the stability and support that your foot needs while walking or running. It is important that this section of the shoe be snug, even without laces. Be careful that you shoe is not too tight, though. It might not be able to accommodate your foot once it begins to swell during your run. Think of it as being breathable or adaptable.

  • Heel

A loose fit at the heel has caused blisters for many a runner. The heel should be snug at most, but still loose enough not to be constricting. This can be tested simply by walking around a bit. Too much movement and slipping, and your shoe is too large. If the shoe is difficult to get on or off over your heel, it’s too small.

  • All-Over

A good pair of running shoes should feel very comfortable the moment you put them on. Most modern running shoes invest in extra durable cushioning to ensure that they can withstand the distances that the user is planning to run.

Buying Into the Right Fit

While getting a pair of shoes that is eye candy is easy and highly dependent on personal taste and preference, finding a good-looking pair with the right fit should be based on actual data using real-time measurements. Here are some tips that can get the right fit for you anytime:

  • It’s In the Timing

Some say that the best time to buy shoes is in the afternoon. Your feet are a little more swollen than usual, and you get a better fit that way.

  • Have Your Feet Measured

Most shoe stores and specialty shops can fit you using a Brannock Device. This measures your feet – length and width – and is the standard to which most shoes are designed around. One thing to take note of: never assume that your last measurement is your ideal measurement. Your feet can swell or atrophy without you noticing, due to many reasons.

  • Width vs. Volume

Some people often confuse these two measurement terms. Many think that an ill-fitting shoe means that they just need to get a wider shoe, or size up, for a better fit. What they do not consider is that it might be the volume of the shoe that affects the fit. Wider shoes equate to a longer sole, which means that the heel section might end up being too loose for your feet and vice versa.

What’s Lace Got to Do With It?

No pair of shoes will be perfect for your feet. This is a reality that you need to accept. What you can do, however, is buy a pair that is slightly too large, if only by a bit, and use laces to modify the fit.

There are several ways that a runner can lace up their shoe. While there is no gold standard to how you should lace up your shoes, you can use lacing patterns to better customize fit.

A perfect fit and snug pair of running shoes should have at least two-finger widths distance between the eyes for the shoelaces. Any shoe on which this gap is wider than two fingers should be considered too tight. On the other hand, any shoe that generates a gap that is less than two fingers width might be too loose.

Final Words

A good pair of snug-fitting running shoes is the perfect tool for any exercise or training regimen. Ensuring that the fit is not too tight or too loose lets you capitalize on your shoes’ efficiency and features.

Like most tools, running shoes also get their fair share of wear and tear. It is recommended that you get a new pair as soon as you hit 500 miles with your current shoe. This would give your feet enough time to get used to the new pair as you alternate it with the older one, saving you further from injuries.

Christine Adorno
The Wired Runner