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Shoe Buying Hints from the Pro

* This post was written by Paula Newby-Fraser, the "Queen of Kona."

Now that my spider bite has finally healed, I am making the come back to running. Since I'm no longer a full-time sponsored professional athlete with an unlimited shoe supply, I headed down to the sports store to check out some new running shoes. Until this point, I have been 'limited' to choosing from just one brand.

Wow, the number and array of available brands and features are mind boggling. The funny thing is that as a seasoned runner of over 20 years, I found myself making so many mistakes. I ended up coming home with shoes that I have worn once and then quickly realized that they simply would not work.

There is nothing like learning the hard way. Here are my newly learned strategies for buying the right pair of running shoes:

1. Shop for shoes near the end of the day. As the day progresses your feet become more swollen--similar to the way they would be toward the end of a run or workout.

2. Come prepared. Wear or bring along the same type of socks that you work out in; thin versus thick, padding versus no padding; these characteristics will affect fit.

3. Try on numerous pairs for comparison. Fit and comfort are the main criteria. Eliminate and keep trying. The correct shoes should feel comfortable in the store. Don't leave the store thinking that a marginal (economical) pair of shoes will break in - they may not. If allowed, take a test run around the block.

4. Lace up both shoes the way you would for a race or workout. Most people have slight variations in their foot size and it's important to ensure that both left and right fit comfortably.

5. Don't limit yourself to your usual size. Different models and manufacturers vary in their fit. Make sure you have room in the toe box. If you push your heel against the back of the shoe, you should have at least a thumb width between your big toe and the front of the shoe. Be sure and make these checks whilst you are standing. Typically an athletic shoe will be one-half to a full size larger than your street shoes.

6. Check the shoes over. Ensure that the heel seam is vertical and that there are no stitching or gluing defects. Uneven or bumpy seams may cause chafing. Also make sure the heel cup of the shoe is not to high that it hits your achilles tendon when you run - that is an injury waiting to happen.

7. If you use custom built orthotics, make sure the shoes have a removable insole, which most training shoes have.

8. When you find a style of shoe that feels just right - you may want to consider buying two (or three or four) pairs. That way you can alternate shoes letting each pair dry out thoroughly before you use them again - not to mention, the shoe companies are constantly changing their models. It seems that once you find a great model they discontinue or 'revamp' it.

9. Know the return policy. Some shops are more forgiving than others. At Road Runner Sports (they have a catalog), you can take the shoes out for a run and the return policy is great.

Oh, by the way, I did finally end up with a good pair-

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