Buying running shoes (or any shoes for that matter) that actually fit can be a nightmare in India. It’s not that we don’t have enough options, but it is the complete ignorance of the salespeople that baffles me.

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Many friends and clients have told me, for instance, that they have been advised to buy basketball shoes when they specifically asked for running shoes. Until the big brands pull up their socks, your best way around the problem is to be better informed.

Price of a perfect fit

A study published last year in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that “cheap and moderately priced running shoes are just as good, if not better, than more expensive ones in terms of cushioning impact and overall comfort". It also pointed out that “comfort is a subjective sensation based on individual preferences and is not related to cost or cushioning". Interestingly, a 1989 study by Bernard Marti (a leading preventive medicine specialist from Switzerland) showed that “runners wearing top-of-the-line running shoes were 123% more likely to get injured than runners in cheaper running shoes".

So don’t count on cost certifying quality. A budget of Rs4,000-6,000 is what I advise, and discount hunting in sales. If you still feel the pinch, Kalenji shoes from Decathlon, a France-based sports company, are now in India. Their Rs1,200-4,000 range makes running affordable.

No brand fits ‘best’

Even regular runners sometimes want a particular shoe because it is popular with friends or a sports magazine rated it highly. Yet the top 10 brands have been around for a while, and are very close in quality. In alphabetic order, these are: Adidas*, Asics, Brooks, Kalenji (Decathlon)*, Pearl Izumi, Puma*, Mizuno, New Balance, Nike*, Reebok* and Saucony. *available in India

Should you go by gait?

You should know your gait. But going only by that yardstick is like getting married solely on the basis of horoscope matching. Sometimes, gait analysis can be a completely useless exercise.

Shun brand loyalty

It’s happened even to experienced runners: By the time they figure out which particular shoe from a particular brand works for them, the shoe company introduces a new and improved version. Surprisingly, this doesn’t suit the runner any more. So it’s back to the store shelves.

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Size matters not a jot

The good old days of telling mom or dad to get you a “Bata size 7 or 8" are just that—old. There is often no standardization even within the same company. At times, even in the same size, same model measurements differ across pairs. So never buy without trying (one big problem is people ordering through friends abroad, since online prices in the US, for instance, can be much cheaper. Bad idea).

Also Read The right shoe

Finding the right fit

Don’t run in the ‘right’ size

Formal shoes must fit you perfectly, but running shoes must be half a size or one size bigger. There needs to be at least a finger-width gap between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Width is crucial too. Your feet need space to breathe. It should feel as if you are not wearing anything.

Should you rotate your runners?

It’s a great idea to have two pairs and keep rotating them (and let one pair have 200km less on it, so you don’t wear both out at once). But stick to the same model.

When to change your shoes

You need to say goodbye after 500-800km of running together. Which means keeping a log. More important, though, is whether you land heavily or lightly on your feet. Check the soles: if they are worn flat, it’s time they were returned. Also, a shoe that has just 200km but was sitting for two years is not “young": Rubber loses cushioning properties as it ages. Use for one year and then shop for a new pair.

Characteristics to check

• They must be very flexible to put your feet in control.

• No point having extra weights tied to your legs. Almost all running shoes now are reasonably lightweight.

• Don’t fuss about looks. I suggest that you go with the adage: “If they feel good, they look good."

The author is a practitioner of musculoskeletal medicine and sports and exercise medicine. He is also CEO and medical director of Back 2 Fitness.

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