You don’t need to be a competitive runner to justify the purchase of a custom-fitted shoe. Being equipped with properly-fitted footwear works wonders for mall walkers and ultra-marathoners alike. In fact, it’s critical to your physical health that your shoes fit well and properly support your feet.

“Every time you put your foot down while you’re running, imagine that weight times three—that’s the amount of force you’re generating when you’re running no matter how fast or slow you’re going,” says Mary Arnold of JackRabbit Sports. “Without the proper footwear to help absorb your repeated exposure to that amount of force, that’s going to, over time, make it more likely that you would have an injury.”

>> Take the First Step

The first step in finding the right shoe is knowing what you’ll be doing with them, says Todd Whisnant, owner of Coastal Sole. Are you a jogger or a runner? Do you run 15 miles a week or 25? Do you run on trails, asphalt, or a treadmill? Are you training for a race? Your body type also plays a factor in shoe choice: A taller, heavier person needs a very different fitting shoe than someone small and light.

Whether you are training for a certain event, getting ready for summer activities, or working your way back from an injury, Coastal Sole can help.

>> Why Fit Matters

Inappropriate, ill-fitting, or worn out shoes can increase the chance of injury. Over time shoes also lose their stability and capacity to absorb shock, which can dramatically increase stress to your feet and legs. These added stresses can, lead to blisters and calluses as well as contribute to lower limb overuse injuries causing heel, arch, and shin pain.

The American Heart Association reports that quality of life is directly related to remaining active, with a long list of benefits from preventing heart disease to improving mental health. Properly fitted and functioning footwear is crucial to maintaining such an active lifestyle and preventing exercise related injury.

Consider the following:

Poor fitting footwear is a primary contributor to foot and ankle injury and can exacerbate many common health conditions.

Foot size, forefoot width, and arch type are essential measurements in a proper footwear fitting, but there’s more to know about ensuring an ideal fit.

Foot cramping and black toenails are often signs that your shoes are too small or too narrow.

For runners, the more distance you cover during individual runs or walks, the longer your shoe needs to be.

For cross training and moving laterally, you should choose a sturdy shoe with a snug fit that makes the foot feel as though it is taped within the shoe.

>> Rules to Remember

If you want to stay healthy, fit, and injury-free, consider following these tips from Runners World magazine and WebMD:

>> Don’t Skimp

It may feel like a luxury to spend up to $120 on a pair of running shoes, but the investment is well worth it. Consider this: Whatever your new shoes cost, it’s likely less than the money and time you’d spend seeing the doctor because you got hurt. A well-fitting pair of shoes will improve your performance and will last you so much longer that you’ll actually save money in the long run.

>> See the Experts

It’s best to go to a specialty shop (not a big-box or department store) where a salesperson can watch you run or walk and help you select a pair of shoes that offer your feet the support they need.

>> Size Matters

It’s best to have your feet measured each time you buy new shoes. Feet change as we age, says Julie Isphording, a former Olympic runner. “As adults,” she says, “we rarely have our foot measured because we just assume we know our size.” The shape of your foot can also change over time. You should have your feet measured later in the day, when they’re biggest. Many end up getting a running shoe that’s a half size larger than their street shoes—the extra room allows the foot to flex and toes to move forward with each stride.

>> Dress the Part

“Wear what you would wear to run,” Isphording advises, “especially wear the right sock. And, if you have special shoe inserts or orthotics, bring those along, too.” This way you can make a realistic evaluation of how well the new shoe will fit your feet.

>> Bring Your Old Shoes

When you’re shopping for a new pair of running shoes, bring your old ones along. Doing so can help the salesperson determine what kind of running shoes you need by looking at the pair you’ve been wearing. He can look at the way your old shoe is worn to confirm your running patterns.

>> Buck the Trend

Don’t be a trendsetter. There’s an amazing array of shoes to choose from, and it can be tempting to purchase shoes that feature your favorite color or make your feet look smaller. There’s no one best shoe for anyone—only one shoe will offer your feet the unique support and fit you need. Try on as many different models and pairs as possible. Don’t shop by price or by fashion.

>> Watch the Odometer

Keep up the rotation. Experts say shoes should be replaced every 300 to 500 miles. “Always date your shoes when you buy them,” suggests Isphording. Don’t keep them longer than six months or 500 miles. “Even if they still look pretty, throw them away,” she warns. “There’s a high risk of injury when running with worn out shoes.”

Coastal Sole is located at 2122 Trent Boulevard, New Bern, NC and is open Monday-Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and Sunday 12:00-7:00 p.m. For more information, visit or call (252) 631-5187. E-mail any questions you may have to

(Sources: Runners World; Health Department of Northwest Michigan; Podiatry Today; WebMD; American Heart Association; and Huffington Post.)