running shoes

Have you ever been caught in a bear trap?

Kind of feels like that when you’re wearing the wrong pair of shoes.

I expect dress shoes to feel that way. But when it comes to running shoes, you can’t afford to feel like you’re wearing something that feels like it’s eating your foot with every step.

If you’re a runner, or even an avid walker, you need some guidance in choosing the ideal shoe for your activity level.

I’m not the right guy to point you in the right direction. I have a closet full of skeletal shoe remains that were purchased based on looks and trends (I have 2 pairs of Vibrams and a bunch of zero -drop, minimalist shoes, and I’m not sorry!).

So I called in expert help.

I asked Jess Mena; a friend, longtime Arena member, Physical Therapist and avid runner what questions MUST be asked when buying running shoes, and here was her take on the matter:

5 Questions to Ask Before Buying Your Running Shoes by Jessica Mena

Jessica Mena

Jessica Mena, PT, DPT, CSCA

Jessica is a California licensed physical therapist currently working on her Orthopedic specialty. She has been a runner for 16 years, and ran her first L.A. Marathon at age 13. She is very passionate about working with athletes, specifically runners, and dedicates her free time to consulting local high school cross-country teams.

Jess has launched her own website with the goals of trying to reach the running community and provide them with evidence-based exercises for injury prevention and general education on injuries. You can check her out online at


First, before we get into questions, I always highly recommend that you go to a running specialized store. The employees tend to be runners and are far more knowledgeable about shoe composition in comparison to your typical retail shoe department employee.

Another thing to remember is that the people assisting you are doing just that, assisting. They can only give recommendations and at the end of the day what you FEEL works best has to be taken into consideration.

1. Are these running shoes for long distance running or short distance/gym work outs?

Depending on the activity the type of shoe will change. For example, if you are going to train for a marathon, running in a very light and minimally supportive shoe like Nike Frees would not be such a great idea.

The longer the runs, the more cushion you may need, versus a lighter, supportive shoe for short runs or gym work outs.

2. Does the shoe provide mid-foot support?

For those individuals who know they pronate or have flat feet, you will need to look for a shoe that provides mid-foot support.

3. What shoes provide a bigger toe-box?

For individuals with wider feet, this is VERY important. There are certain brands that manufacture shoes with narrow toe-boxes, and others that manufacture wider toe-boxes.

Your toes should be able to move freely. They should not feel like they are being squished together.

Questions to ask yourself:

4. Do these shoes feel comfortable?

THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT! If it doesn’t feel good, don’t buy it. I don’t care if it’s the latest and greatest model, if your foot does not feel 100% comfortable it is the wrong shoe for you.

5. Am I buying new shoes to help with an injury?

If so, the shoes MAY be part of the problem. Most of the time mechanics, compensation, muscle imbalances, and speedy mile progressions are leading to your injuries.

As stated before, look for a shoe that is comfortable, run in the shoe at the store. At running specialized stores the workers tend to be versed in some running mechanics and can provide some information about your type of foot strike and if you pronate or not, which will help guide you to a particular type of shoe.

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Jonathan Aluzas is the Membership Director for Arena Fitness, a fitness center that offers group training in Northridge as well as personal training in Encino.