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3 Tricks to Make Your New Running Shoes ‘Just Right’

woman running in desert

Shopping for running shoes can make you feel like a modern-day Goldilocks. Some shoes are too tight, while others are too loose. Some have too much cushioning, some have arches that don’t align with yours, and others just feel … weird.

It’s okay if you don’t have the words to describe why a pair of shoes feels off, says John O’Neill of the Colorado Running Company: “No one’s foot is like your foot. No one can tell you what a shoe feels like on your foot. I’ve been fitting and selling shoes since 1983, and still have not mastered this.”

If you’ve tried on a pair of running shoes that feels close, but not quite perfect, simple modifications can be made to the shoe in an attempt to create your personal “just right.” Try these customization tricks and you’ll create your perfect running shoes faster than you can say “Goldilocks.”

1. Arch Support

Many runners are loyal to a particular brand or style of shoes. However, that devotion can be a downfall. Over time, our feet change, so the shoes that worked for you five years ago may not necessarily work for you today.

“One thing that is common with women’s feet is, generally their arches do drop a little after giving birth to a child,” says Louis Secreto of Napa Running Company. Age and weight gain, too, can contribute to the flattening of arches. Flatter arches are linked to several common running injuries, including plantar fasciitis.

One solution for flat arches is to utilize insoles with arch support in your running shoes. To choose the correct level of support, do the newspaper test: simply take a page from the Sunday paper and place it on the floor. Wet the bottom of your bare feet, then walk over the newspaper. The footprint you leave behind is indicative of what kind of arches you have, as indicated by this graphic:

Source: CurrexSole

Source: CurrexSole

There are several brands of insoles made for runners — my favorite is CurrexSole, because it provides support while remaining flexible and springy. Other runners may want something a bit firmer, like inserts from PowerStep.

insoles for runners

PowerStep insoles (left) are more rigid in the arch and heel than CurrexSole (right). Both are great insoles with varying levels of support!

2. Laces

If the tongue portion of your shoe feels suffocating, or if you are prone to foot swelling while you run, try elastic laces. These expand and contract with the movement of the foot, but not so much that they create an unstable shoe.

Some elastic laces, like Xtenex, are tied like traditional laces, while others are pre-tied, using a lock system to secure the laces in place. Lock Laces are popular with triathletes, because no shoe-tying means a faster transition between the bike and run disciplines in a race; however, elastic laces have become popular with runners in recent years as well, for comfort and ease of use.

3. Lacing Techniques

Sometimes, it’s not what kind of laces you use, but how you use them. Your local running shop can advise you on specific ways to lace up to address shoe concerns, but here are three common runner’s concerns and oft-used techniques for combating them:

Hot Spots: If there’s just one spot on top of the shoe where you encounter friction (also known as a “hot spot”), try alleviating the pressure by skipping the laces on that section. Lace up your shoes as you normally would, but when you reach the area of the hot spot, don’t create an “X” with the laces. Instead, loop through the hole directly above the spot, then return to normal lacing (see below).


Loose Heel: If the heel of your shoe feels loose, utilize the very top holes to keep them in place. Instead of just running your laces through those holes in the standard “X,” however, create a tighter fit by going directly up the sides, creating a set of anchors on the sides of the tongue. Double back in an “X” format, stringing the laces through the anchors before tying (see below).

AnkleBlack Toenails: A black toenail is thought to be a badge of honor by some runners, but it’s actually indicative of shoes that put too much pressure on your toes while you run. This could be from choosing a too-tight size, wearing socks that are too thick or sliding in your toebox. Some runners have been able to relieve this pressure by lacing up their shoes in a zigzag pattern instead of the standard X.

Start at the top of your shoe, going through the hole opposite your big toe, leaving only enough at the top of the shoe to tie your laces. Run the lace down and across the tongue, going through the hole closest to your big toe. Lace across, then diagonally, toward the top. Repeat until you get to the top hole, then tie as you normally would (see below).


How do you customize your running shoes to create your “just right” fit? —-Susan

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