Training Tip: Get the Right Sneakers

When you’re training for a race, any old gym shoes aren’t gonna cut it. Here’s how to choose the best sneakers for running or walking.

By Alyssa Shaffer
pile of sneakers image

Plan developed by Mindy Solkin, owner and head coach of The Running Center in New York City.

With every mile that you walk or run, you’ll take about 1,800-2,000 steps. So it’s no wonder that one of the most important things you can do when starting your training is to make sure your feet are comfortable. "Proper footwear is an absolute must," warns Solkin. "The wrong shoes can set you up for injury, blisters, and misery."

The shape of your foot and the way you walk will determine the type of shoe you need. No clue where you stand? Try the paper bag test: Wet your feet, then step on a brown paper bag for about 30-40 seconds, then trace the outlines.

>If your print looks like a blob (there’s no real curve to speak of), you probably have flat feet, which often means you overpronate, or excessively roll inward when you land. Look for a shoe that offers some motion control.

>If you have high arches (your print curves significantly, so the middle part of your foot looks very skinny) you may underpronate (sometimes called supinate), or roll slightly outward when you land. If so, you’ll want a more flexible footwear choice.

>Finally, if you have a classic inward curve (not over or under) you likely have a normal foot, and can wear neutral shoes.

Just remember that these aren’t hard-and-fast rules, and the best way to determine your footwear type is to try a specialty running store, where a salesperson can watch the way you walk or run to determine your foot type and gait. Walkers who are doing some running should definitely invest in running shoes, advises Solkin, since you will need the extra cushioning. Finally, you don’t have to spend a small fortune on your feet: Although some running shoes can approach the $200 price tag, you can find great models for less than half of that cost. It may help to buy two pairs at the same time, and switch off every other run — this will help them last longer, and allow one to dry while the other is fresh.

Next Training Tip: Dress Smart

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Originally published on, January 2009.

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