Historically, my biggest concern when sneaker shopping has been the color of my swoosh. But your priorities shift when you’re exercising frequently and don’t want to risk injury or discomfort. And lately I’ve been feeling a warning pull in my knee.The sneaker landscape seems vast and complex to a novice like me, so I headed to Encino, CA’s Fleet Feet store — famous for their attention to detail and mission to educate — to talk with owner Trey Barnes about finding the right sneakers for my particular feet (and yours!):As is often the case in LA, The Fleet Feet store is housed in an unassuming mini-mall. It’s 92 degrees in the city when I visit (a.k.a. over 100 in The Valley), so I find the shop inviting if only for the air-conditioning. But, truly, the store has been recently redone, so it’s quite nice. Previously, a famed sneaker store called Phidippides inhabited this spot. Then, Barnes took over, capitalized on the existing stock and reputation, but opened a Fleet Feet franchise and upgraded the services.Shoppers get rare personal attention here for no extra cost. Barnes, who is an ultra marathon runner himself, hosts informational sessions, invites experts to give seminars on topics like injury prevention and offers training programs. Customers come as often for help with tight hamstrings as they do for shoes. In fact, when I stroll in, some guy is on the floor with a salesperson, learning about the benefits of foam rollers.The salespeople here take customers through a comprehensive process that involves questions about weight loss and gain, pregnancy, exercise regimen, running surface, injuries, workout frequency and lifestyle. They watch you walk and run, examine your callous pattern and measure your feet (including toe length!) while sitting and standing. Their sports bra fitting is comprehensive too.
This guy is no Al Bundy. Trey Barnes is obsessed with finding the right gear for each person’s workout. Here are his top 7 tips for enhancing your sneaker experience:
1. Socks:When it comes to socks, apparently the issues extend way beyond tube vs. knee. Cotton socks absorb moisture, which can create irritation, “hot spots” and dry skin patches. Instead, choose a bamboo, wool, coconut or synthetic polyester version like the above Balega Hidden Comfort ($11) pair with mesh ventilation and heel tabs to protect from rubbing.
2. Massage Your Muscles:There’s a difference between a yoga class and a deep tissue massage. In a similar way, it’s great to stretch and even use your hands to kneed your muscles, but to really loosen your shins and calves, use something like The Stick Muscle Roller (from $27.50) or similar tools like Trigger Point’s performance/therapy kits (from $69.99). Above, Barnes demonstrates how to use The Stick. (Get your mind out of the gutter!)
3. Always Be Mindful:The way we regularly stand and sit can have a huge impact on our comfort while working out. For instance, when you’re holding a baby, make sure to regularly switch sides so you don’t overdevelop arm and leg muscles on one side of your body. Be conscious of how you’re hanging out.
4. Know Your Length/Width:Contrary to what one might expect, the foot actually gets longer and more narrow when you stand. If a shoe is just right sitting down, odds are it will be too short when you get up. Make sure to rise and walk around with your sneakers on before purchasing them.
5. Stability Needs:Without the help of an expert like Trey Barnes, you may not 100% be able to tell if you require a neutral, stable or motion-control shoe. (It’s dependent on the movement of your ankle etc.) You can always use “the print test,” though he’s not a huge believer of that. Either way, most people need a stable shoe, so make sure to at least ask your sneaker salesman about which shoes fit that bill.
VIDEO: What’s in a Step?6. Use Insoles:Take out the sneaker’s flimsy sock liner and slip in an insole, recommended by any podiatrist or decent shoe salesperson, which should allow you to flex your toes more effectively. Nothing should be hitting you mid-arch. The insoles absorb shock, so exercise is easier on your body. P.S. They now make insoles for high heels.
7. Lock Your Laces:Should you find your heel popping out of your shoe or even if you just want a tighter grip around your ankle, lock your laces. Here, Trey Barnes shows us how:I’m obviously now a true believer, as I walked out with the above Nike LunarGlide+ 3 ($100) sneakers and Superfeet Premium Insoles ($39.95) and having felt that nagging knee ache since (knock on wood!).And, that, my friends is how to wear your sneakers to the max.More about Fleet Feet Encino.–For daily fitness tips follow SELF on Facebook and Twitter.Get SELF on your iPad!