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© 2013 Michelle Rebecca; all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without written permission.

Brooks, Adidas, and New Balance Running Shoes; photo courtesy Kelly Smith

When it comes to running, no gear is as important as a pair of well cushioned, comfortable, and supportive shoes. Unfortunately, many experienced runners don’t replace them often enough, don’t lace them properly, purchase the wrong size, or run with inadequate arch support.

Here’s how to evaluate whether or not it’s time for you to get a new pair of running shoes.

How to Buy Running Shoes

Seems obvious, right? But if you purchase footwear designed for activities such as tennis or hiking rather than running, then chances are you’re at a greater risk of injury and discomfort.

That means your energy and strength will far outlast your footwear, making runs shorter. The point is, know your activity and wear footwear designed for that purpose.

Many models that look like running shoes are actually designed for indoor gym classes. Popular group exercise classes such as Zumba and kickboxing feature side-to-side movements that require extra cushioning and support along the sides of the shoe, not the front and rear.

As a result, when you buy your next pair of shoes, don’t just choose the running shoe that looks like a running shoe—buy the shoe actually engineered for running. Visit your local specialty running shoe store for a gait analysis and a fitting.

Numb Feet

You’re running along fine. You’re not even tired, and you’re at the 3.5-mile mark. Unfortunately, it’s happened again: some areas of your feet, inexplicably, go numb. Is it some kind of nerve or joint problem? Check with a podiatrist to be sure, but while you’re waiting for your appointment, try loosening your laces.

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As you run, your feet expand in size. Therefore, next time you lace up your trainers, tie them very loosely and see if it helps. If not, purchase one half-size up. Not sure what to do? Ask for a professional fitting at your local sporting goods store—don't forget to mention your numb feet.

Another thing to consider is that even though the shoes are the correct size with respect to length, they may not flex in the proper place. Grab a shoe by the heel and toe. Bend the toe up and note where the sole flexes. This should match the ball of your foot.

Another issue is just that your shoes are too narrow. Not all manufacturers are good about offering different widths. For a better selection, look to brand names like New Balance and Brooks.

What About Orthotics?

Serious runners, especially those who have trouble with joints, gait, or fallen arches, often choose custom-fitted orthotics. Orthotics, which mold to the precise contours of the foot and are engineered to compensate for any individual physical irregularities, provide a level of comfort and support the average running shoe alone cannot.

Beware, however, before you spend a few hundred bucks on custom made running shoes; most runners don’t need them.

Don’t Forget Your Socks

The latest trend among runners in the know is specialty compression running socks that support the lower leg and improve circulation. It is the same concept that diabetics have known for a long time.

Although the jury is officially still out on the effectiveness of such products, many pros swear by the socks, which extend up the leg and over the calf to nearly the knee. They also provide an extra degree of warmth in the winter months.

In any event, don’t forget to buy new socks often—even if they won’t be the high-tech kind. Running with hole-filled socks (or no socks at all) not only increases discomfort during long runs, it also causes blisters and can make your shoes smellier.

Do you have any tips you would like to share? Please post them in the comment section below. Thanks!

About the Author:

Michelle is a blogger and freelancer. She's written about almost every topic under the sun, and loves constantly learning about new subjects and industries while she's writing. In her spare time she enjoys spending time outdoors with her dogs. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

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