How Greats Footwear Puts Its Best Foot Forward

by John Doe

Greats is not your father's footwear startup, but chances are Dad will dig its shoes, just like you do. The company's approach to timeless classics like high-tops, slip-ons and chukkas is both stubbornly traditional and refreshingly modern, translating to products perfectly suited for stylish, sophisticated gents of all ages.

"The name of our company is very relevant to our design concept," says Greats co-founder and CEO Ryan Babenzien. "We said, 'Let's pick the greatest silhouettes in men's sneakers and footwear, and design our DNA into them.'"

That DNA splicing is what sets Greats apart. Its old-school sensibilities are rendered in distinctly contemporary materials and colors. For example, last year the company produced limited-edition versions of its popular Royale sneakers in silver and gold leather, the latter attracting the attention of NBA star Kevin Durant, who donned a pair in the hours leading up to a key playoff game.

"There's something familiar about our styles, but unique," says Babenzien, a former marketing exec at sneaker manufacturers Puma and K-Swiss who launched Brooklyn-based Greats in 2013 with Jon Buscemi, a veteran of DC Shoes and his own Gourmet Footwear. "Gold and silver leather is not subtle. But the style itself is very traditional."

Greats' approach to shoe retail is decidedly more unconventional. Its business model most closely resembles the Warby Parker formula for eyewear sales, eschewing wholesale partnerships in favor of marketing directly to consumers online. That enables Greats to sell high-quality footwear at a fraction of the cost associated with its established competitors; Babenzien says his company can offer an Italian leather shoe like the Royale at $159, while the same shoe would retail at a high-end department store for about $500.

Greats is also exploiting inefficiencies in the manufacturing chain. According to Babenzien, most shoe designers' wholesale partnerships require them to begin developing new products at least 12 months ahead of retail release—meaning they're making long-range bets on which styles, patterns and colors will be in vogue by the time the shoes hit stores.

"You're taking a leap of faith that the color you selected back in December is still meaningful next December," Babenzien says. "We don't have to do that. We can stay right on top of trends and design a shoe and have it for sale within five months."

Greats kicks off the design process by identifying the kind of shoe it wants to create and the unique twist it can supply; for instance, adding a running outsole to a traditional chukka silhouette, essentially merging two classic themes to forge something new. From there, the team embarks on extensive wear testing to guarantee that its shoes feel as good as they look.

"Functionality in footwear is some- thing that can either be seen or felt, or seen and felt," says design director Salehe Bembury. "We feel strongly that when you put on our footwear you should definitely feel how lightweight it is, or how sturdy and durable it is."

Greats releases shoes virtually every week. Some are entirely new styles, while others are new spins on signature designs, like another recent variant on the Royale, this one developed in collaboration with Manhattan-based streetwear brand Only NY. A joint effort with the Orley family of designers (Matthew, Alex and Samantha) yielded pastel-hued suede sneakers, ushering Greats' entry into women's footwear.

Greats had sales of $1.2 million during the second half of 2014, and Babenzien says the company is on pace to generate $5 million to $7 million in 2015. In July 2014, Greats closed a $4 million Series A funding round led by Resolute Ventures.
Babenzien believes continued success is a shoo-in. "If you look at any runway show over the last few years, they've all featured sneakers. The brown-shoe business that dominated over the last 10 years has waned, and we're moving into more casual footwear," he says. "Everything in the fashion business has a life cycle, but there are some staples that are pretty constant, sneakers being one. It's very unlikely that sneakers are going to evaporate off the planet and out of everybody's closet."

By Jason Ankeny


Brand to Know: Simple Architectural Heels, Made in Italy

by John Doe

Before putting pencil to paper — and nappa-leather uppers to outsoles — the designer Silvia Avanzi spent two years developing and fine-tuning the concept behind her shoe line. "I asked myself, 'What do women want today, and what do we need, really?' We feel everything has been done and redone," she recalls, "and I'm not the type of person who simply wants women to spend money. I want her to be happy with her purchases." Using "a marketing-trained brain," the fashion branding and advertising vet noticed a gap: avant-garde heels. From there, Gray Matters — her line of sleek glove shoes, mules and flatforms that launched in stores last month — began to take shape.

Fittingly, she has created each style heel first. She uses a company in the eastern Italian region of Le Marche that counts Fendi, Missoni and Dior as clients — and which has made concrete coating, matte lacquer, brushed metal plates and, most recently, a wooden egg for Gray Matters's spring/summer 2017 collection. "I wanted to speak about confidence — a woman who's so strong and powerful, and who can balance atop the most delicate thing you can think of," Avanzi says, mentioning her apprehensions about the heel seeming too gimmicky.

The rest of the shoe comes together in the Italian region of Veneto, known for its high-end shoemaking and leatherwork, not far from where Avanzi, now based in New York, grew up. (Still, "finding a team of expert artisans in Italy willing to develop a comprehensive collection for an up-and-coming brand has been very time-consuming," she says.) The footwear-world-famous Italoforme constructs custom shoe lasts for Gray Matters ("the more commercial brands take existing ones and adapt them as needed," Avanzi points out); she describes her pattern maker, a Louis Vuitton alum, as the "technical brain of her brand," who "has tremendous knowledge of how to translate any design into a wearable 'dress' for our feet." The Mafer factory, responsible for the final construction, is practiced in "sacchetto," a technique that uses a minimum number of seams, and frequented by Bottega Veneta and Chanel for their flats — a testament to the comfort of Gray Matters's heels. Even the bags and boxes (carefully thought out by Avanzi) are made by facilities employed by labels like Céline and Mansur Gavriel.

Of the brand's title, Avanzi embraces a scientific meaning. "I've heard many times that people associate 'gray matter' with something smart, which I don't mind," she says. "I think my shoes are very intelligent."


​Monk straps are the hottest trend in men's shoes

by John Doe


The name is hard to get a handle on, being at once both monastic yet deeply cool. While the origin is hard to pinpoint, one thing that won't be is your sense of style when you step out in a pair of monk strap shoes.
The shoe is defined by its strap and buckle, or two straps and two buckles in the case of the charmingly named 'double monk', which replaces laces.

Worn with a sharp suit, it's about a suave a look as you can get, says William Church, joint managing director of esteemed English shoemaker Joseph Cheaney & Sons.

Graduation style

"We're definitely seeing a lot more now than we were two years ago, because it just became a fashion within a fashion," he says.
Church sees it as a 'graduation' style; that is, something men make the step up to when they're already fielding a pair of traditional Oxfords or brogues in the wardrobe.
"The double buckle monk offers that opportunity to just have a shoe that is still classic, but just a bit different from the run-of-the-mill look for a Goodyear-welted shoe," he says. For a pair in the classic English style, Cheaney's Holyrood double monks in bronzed espresso are undoubtedly a timeless classic.

Supply and demand

While the monk strap has always been a popular shoe, the huge spike in recent popularity can be put down to one retailer: Suitsupply.
In recent years, the Dutch company – which manufactures its own suits in China – has taken the menswear world by storm. And, like any successful business, a key part of its success has been its marketing.
A key pitch for any clothing brand is its imagery, and Suitsupply's are among the most influential in global menswear. Suitsupply models are regularly photographed wearing monk straps, and particularly double monks, typically from revered Italian shoemaker Antonio Maurizi.

Name of the game
Best known as quite a formal shoe, the monk strap's popularity has spurred some Italian labels to create more relaxed and eclectic versions, says Anthony Barbieri, the co-owner of Melbourne's 124 Shoes.
"Some of the Italian shoe makers such as Officine Creative and Lagoa are pushing the envelope with their left-field interpretations of a monk strap," Barbieri says.
"With Officine Creative, these include two-tone and buckle-less varieties, and Lagoa even make a stylish double monk espadrille, which has been very popular in this summer in the northern hemisphere."
If you're after a new pair of shoes, ask yourself if you really need another pair of Oxfords or Derbies. It might be time to leave them aside and go for the shoe with the best name in the game.
Scroll through the gallery above to see some of the best monk straps shoes around.

By Jeremy Loadman


How to have the best shoes in the room

by John Doe

"The right shoe speaks volumes about how you view yourself and your approach to dressing," says Adam Derrick, the founder of men's shoe brand To Boot New York.

Derrick is passionate (and right, of course) about shoes. More and more, he argues, men are now getting dressed from their feet up.

"A great shoe will elevate a blah casual look - and will be the right accent to the most curated outfit," he says.

Derrick started his footwear empire in New York City's Upper West Side as a cowboy boot outpost in 1979 and has since quietly built one of the best-selling footwear collections in better men's stores, such as Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue.

His secret is satisfied, loyal customers who spread the To Boot gospel, rather than celebrity endorsements and overpriced advertising campaigns.

We turned to Derrick for advice on how to maintain a great leather shoe-and how to build a collection of impressive, memorable pairs.

Shop for quality over quantity (and shop Italian)

According to Derrick, the average American man owns somewhere close to 12 pairs of shoes. But he doesn't necessarily think most men need that many if they are being smart about their purchases.

"I may be biased, but I think it's a mistake for men to not buy quality footwear," Derrick says. "Unlike with a shirt or a jacket, your shoes have a big job to do. They have to regularly support your entire body weight while being comfortable and encouraging you to stay active and stand tall, and look great all at the same time."

Derrick suggests two things: First, look for a stitched sole. A stitched sole is sturdier and more practical than a glued or bonded sole. Also, he suggests buying footwear made in Italy, period. "In general, footwear made in Italy denotes a production level that is of the highest quality, with more time and attention to the details of construction and comfort."

He notes that most Italian footwear will prominently display the country of origin on the label because it's an immense, notable measure of quality.

"Unfortunately, quality isn't always something you can tell straight away by looking at a new shoe, but the difference will definitely be noticeable to the consumer in six months to a year," he says.

Maintenance is key

Wipe, then wear. Derrick suggests wiping down your shoes with a soft cloth or paper towel before putting them on. "Dust can collect in the creases and will act as sandpaper on the leather as you walk," he says. You could also try an all-natural product such as Shoe Rescue to keep your kicks extra refreshed.

Spray suede. "Lightly mist, not saturate, your suede shoes with a water- and stain-protector spray," Derrick says. "And when they're dirty, brush up the nap with a suede brush."

Protect the colour. "A good neutral cream polish will suffice for cleaning and moisturising white leather," he says. "Only if you scuff the leather should you match the colour." For polishing a burnished leather - think a shoe that has two tones rather than just being solid - he suggests using the colour of the "body" of the shoe, rather than the darker burnished toe.

Always use a cedar shoe tree. "The shoe tree irons out creases and maintains the original contours," Derrick says. "The unfinished cedar wood absorbs moisture and adds a fresh smell."

Rotate. "Don't wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row if you can help it," Derrick advises. He says shoes should be rotated to let them completely dry out between wearings. "This more than anything prolongs the life of your shoes," he says. "Another benefit to having a wardrobe of shoes."

Modernise your options

"Even though there are more options than ever - which is great - I think it has become a lot more challenging for men to dress well today," Derrick says. "The casualisation of the workplace has got men thinking, 'How can I still look pulled together and successful when casual Friday has become the new everyday uniform'?"

Derrick suggests getting creative with bolder choices, like a streamlined sneaker, as well as circling back and modernising the classics.

"The classic tassel loafer is having a bit of a moment again," says Derrick. "But today's tassel loafer has a higher vamp - the front and centre part of a shoe that covers the top of the foot - so when you're trying on a pair of loafers, look down at your feet. If you see a lot of sock showing, your vamp is too short."

To try out the sneaker trend during your 9-to-5 shift, Derrick suggests a clean, polished calf sneaker or trainer. "Suede sneakers speak more to weekend wear," he says.

But he stresses, "Know your audience, too. For instance, a trial lawyer appearing in court in a suit and tie does not need to be experimenting with a clean sneaker. Instead, wear a classic, straight-tip cap toe or wingtip and look the part."

By Nic Screws


Got Big Feet? These Shoe Shopping Tips Might Just Change Your Life

by John Doe

If you were "blessed" with big feet then you know just how real the struggle to find shoes you actually like (and are even remotely trendy) really is.

Hi my name is Raleigh Burgan and I wear a size 10 shoe. My mom wears a size 11 and, after eavesdropping on a conversation at work, I found out a colleague of mine has size 12s. If you were wondering where the idea for this article came from, there you have it. And if you're like us and are in need for advice on navigating shoe shopping, keep reading. The below problems and solutions might just change your life. Seriously.

Problem #1: It's seemingly difficult to find great looking shoes—even remotely on trend—in a big size.

Solution #1: If they're not already sold out, you can find some real gems (up to a size 12) on, and They're usually true to size, which means no matter the style they'll fit the same way across the board, and even though you might find yourself spending a pretty penny on them, you know they were made well and therefore will last you many, many wears.

Problem #2: Most of the time, stores (and online stores) have a limited selection for big-footed women. On top of that, once you find one you like it's likely they're already sold out. Who has the hookups?

Solution #2: Speak to the retailer (either in person, on the phone, via email, etc.) and ask them what day of the week new items get delivered. Also ask them when their older items get replenished, if ever. That information is gold.

Problem #3: We generally pay a lot more for our shoes because they're so rare. Dropping $200 on a pair of flats isn't unrealistic.

Solution #3: Find a brand you love and sign up for their email notifications. You'll be one of the first to know about sales and special events, which in the long run will save you some major dough.

Problem #4: Boots like Dr. Martens are so cute on anyone a size seven, but once you go anywhere over a nine you're looking at a brand new pair of clown shoes.

Solution #4: This one also has a lot to do with finding a go-to brand and sticking with them. Insider secret: I've found that Sam Edelman sandals and all Nike shoes make my feet look smaller than they really are. Docs might never be a great fit, but you'll definitely be able to find similar styles that work better for you.

Problem #5: Our sizes are never available when you walk in to normal stores, so by default you become your best friend's honorary shoe shopping boyfriend.

Solution #5: Outside of Target, Payless (they have up to size 13s) and Nordstrom, I don't know any stores that carry bigger sizes. In that case, it gives you a chance to work on your Snapchat game and take to social media about how you just paid next to nothing for a new pair of shoes. Meanwhile, your friend just dropped a ton on hers. Now you can go to a nice dinner afterwards, but she can't. Foot karma?

Problem #6: Finding the perfect shoe is hard. Big feet have many various personalities—and just because your feet are bigger, doesn't necessarily mean they're wider.

Solution #6: Again, find your brand. It's all about trial and error and knowing what fits you well. More and more companies are starting to jump on the bandwagon of bigger sizes, but until then it's about taking that time to really know a retailer.

Problem #7: Do you find you're always settling for basic styles because of their price? This is me always.

Solution #7: Invest your money in the classics you know will last and go for the cheaper brands when you're looking to buy something trendy. If you find crazy-cute sandals at Target for $25, go for it. You'll most likely trash them after the summer anyways.

By Raleigh Burgan


What's in store for those aging feet? Bigger shoes

by John Doe

ONE thing that doesn't shrink when people get older are feet: They enlarge. More specifically, they flatten.

The feet's tendons and ligaments lose some of their elasticity and don't hold the bones and joints together as tidily. When combined with other aging-related changes, the feet can encounter limits to how much use — or abuse — they can take.

Dr. Steven Pribut, a podiatrist at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., estimates that some people over the age of 40 can gain half a shoe size every 10 years.

"The changes that take place in the foot are like those that take place in the rest of our body as we age," adds Dr. Jim Christina, director of scientific affairs at the American Podiatric Medical Assn. in Bethesda, Md.

With time, tissues weaken and muscle mass declines and our bodies lose that youthful bounce and vigor. "But putting weight on our feet makes them unique," he says.

Gravity gradually overwhelms the older, less resilient ligaments in the weight-bearing feet but not in the free-floating hands. It also squeezes fluid from leaky veins in the lower extremities, contributing to swelling.

Looser tendons and ligaments mean more than the need for bigger shoes. As the front of the foot widens and the arch lowers, the foot becomes not only longer but more flexible and flatter, letting the ankle roll inward and increasing the chance for sprains, says Dr. Kendrick Whitney, an assistant professor at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia.

Then there's the constant force of bearing weight that causes the fat pads cushioning the bottom of the feet to thin out. "Even if you get fatter and heavier, the fat pads still get thinner," says Dr. Mark Caselli, an adjunct professor at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine in New York City. When this happens, they can absorb less shock, which can make feet sore and painful after time.

The loss of padding can also cause corns and calluses on your balls and heels, Caselli says, "which for athletes can cause problems when performing activities."

Whitney adds: "It feels like you're walking directly on your bones."

As the foot becomes wider, longer and less padded, the plantar fascia tendon that runs along the length of the sole and forms the arch becomes stretched, contributing to the lowering of the arch. A lower arch contributes to bunions, sometimes painful, bony prominences sticking out from the big toe.

Foot flattening has the added disadvantage of pulling the big toe up. This can cause pain in its own right, but if a big toe is sticking up and in a too-tight shoe, it can rub against the top of the shoe, thickening the toenail and possibly damaging it.

"When the toenails turn black a few times, people start paying attention," Pribut says.

Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis can pester joints and bones of the feet as well, especially in the big toe, already hampered by tendons and ligaments pulling it up. These conditions can cause damage to bones and joints, and thin bones are more prone to stress fractures.

These changes in foot structure affect balance and gait. In a study soon to be published in the journal Gait and Posture, a group of researchers, including Hylton Menz of La Trobe University in Bundoora, Australia, found that healthy people in their 80s put less force under parts of the foot that are important for balance than did people in their 20s. They also found, in two other studies in 2006, that these and other changes are associated with an increased risk of falls.

For example, older people who had weaker, less flexible ankles as well as other problems such as bunions or reduced sensation on the bottoms of their feet were more likely to fall during the course of the study than less problem-ridden volunteers.

The most obvious age-related change, however, can be overlooked by many people. A 2006 study looked at the footwear choices of 440 patients at a U.S. veterans' affairs hospital — most of whom were men, averaging about 67 years — and found that only 25% of them were wearing the right size shoe.

"Over the years, people tend to remember their Social Security number and their shoe size, but they're remembering their shoe size from when they were 25 years old," Caselli says.

When too-tight shoes are combined with declining circulation — which means less sensitive feet — the skin of the feet can suffer undue friction. This friction causes hard bumps of skin — calluses and corns — that can also be painful. There's plenty of help for aging feet, though. The right size shoes — properly fitted, with good support and cushioning — are key. Even so, experts say older feet won't have the same stamina that they did in their youth.

Shoes should have good cushioning in the heel to make up for the loss of natural padding, and the widest part of the foot — usually the front — should fit the widest part of the shoe. "Some people think, 'Just get a bigger shoe size,' " Caselli says, "but if the shoes are too long, they will pinch the toes."

Many experts recommend keeping the leg muscles in good shape. Out-of-shape calf muscles can torment the plantar fascia and Achilles tendons. Basic stretching and weight-bearing exercises help prevent muscle and bone loss and improve circulation.

Dr. Arthur Helfand, a podiatrist, retired researcher and author in Narberth, Penn., says to take your feet into your own hands in the doctor's office, where feet are often neglected.

"Don't wait to be asked when you go in for your checkup. Take your shoes and socks off," he says. Often, physicians will observe a person's gait but not look at the overall shape and fitness of the feet, such as areas of increased friction.

Caselli says there's no need for people to retire from an athletic life. "You shouldn't cut activities out. Just decrease how much you do, to compensate for the wear and tear on your body," he says.

Pribut agrees that the older athlete needs to slow down a tad. He recently told a 70-year-old sprinter who needed to qualify for a big race what many athletes don't want to hear: Just do well enough to qualify. "I convinced him it's important to get to the big game and not hurt himself in the process."

By Mary Beckman


Kid's feet and shoes

by John Doe

We get a lot of parents coming into the stores and asking "is my child walking normally?" So here's some information on how feet grow and what to do about shoes.

How feet develop

At birth the bones in our feet are only partially developed. Over the years up to age fourteen, many of the bones fuse together to form the 26 bones found in the adult foot. Following the bones becoming their final shape they continue to grow up to age 18.

It's worth remembering that a 16 year old can be 100kg and 190cm tall, far bigger than Mum or Dad - yet their feet are still growing and just as much in a state of change as those of a six year old! So we are not just talking about little people here.

While following fairly predictable patterns of growth, each child develops in an individual way. In-toeing, flatfeet, bowlegs, and knock-knees are very common development phases for children. Each phase serves a purpose - standing flatfooted and bowlegged is a very stable position and makes walking easier, for example.

Why fitting kids' shoes correctly is so important

Long Term: If you get the footwear right in the first 18 years, a lot of adult problems are avoided.
Short Term:: Good shoes that fit correctly will protect the growing foot, help minimise injuries and improve athletic performance.
The aim of good shoe fitting for kids is to facilitate the foot developing correctly and growing strong.

Dangers of the wrong shoe in childhood

Wearing a shoe that is too strong will make the foot weak and reliant on footwear. If shoes are too big they will bend in the wrong places and stress growing joints. Very cheap shoes in mass discount stores are just that: very cheap shoes. The midsole of the shoe is actually hollow inside, which is not good.

Shoes will affect your child's athletic performance

All parents on the side of the soccer field, netball court or athletics track dream their child will be going to a world champs or the Olympics. However, it is extremely hard for the child to be a champion in bad or poorly fitting shoes. So the child protégée ends up compromised and the parents are shattered.

Kids really do need good shoes

If any group of people doing exercise need good shoes, it is those between 10 and 17 years old. My boy is 12 years old and very active. In his group of mates 6 of the 12 boys have suffered pain in their feet and legs. They were dropping like flies! And this is not surprising. The bones in the feet are growing and consolidating. The heel bone is very susceptible to injury (severs disease) in this age group. The heel bone and tibia shin bone can also get very inflamed between the growth plates as the kids grow and are very active.

When the bones consolidate these injures disappear. However, if they're going to enjoy themselves while growing, they need good shoes with good arch support and cushioned heels.

If any group needs technically fitted shoes, it's active kids!!!!!

Understandably, many parents are wary of spending too much on kids' shoes, since they know full well that it only takes one growth spurt to consign that expensive footwear to the bin. However, you don't need to spend a lot to get good footwear.

Kids fitting at SHOE SCIENCE

We measure all kid's feet and use our video fit system to check their walking/running gait all in a really relaxed way designed to make them enjoy the experience. Plus which, we know how brand conscious kids are, so we make sure we stock the right shoes. Kids enjoy coming to us because we have all the brands they like.

We are careful to get the fit right, provide a shoe that flexes in the same place as your child's foot and avoid shoes that are over supportive.

We have children's shoes for 5 year olds through to full adult sizes, in a wide range of categories.


Rotating your running or walking shoes

by John Doe

We recommend rotating your running or walking shoes because so many people tell us it works for them.

Everyone has a theory and reason for this practice, as people do. However, before we get into performance and injury prevention there is one aspect to this practice I personal like. Using two pairs of shoes and rotating them is a lot cleaner and hygienic. It just feels nice to put on shoes that are dry. Forcing my feet into shoes that are soaked from the previous day in a big Auckland down pour is just an ugly way to start a run.

Beyond dry feet there is the idea that the midsole needs 48 hours for the EVA cells to recover.

"With 5,000 foot strikes on a 10km run the EVA gets a pounding. Letting it recover improves its shock attenuation properties."

This idea was debunked by a 1985 study by Stephen Cook, Marcus Kester, and Michael Brunet at Tulane University. They showed that even after a 24 or 48-hour "rest period", the cushioning of a shoe showed no evidence of recovery.

Ok so that idea does not really stand up from a science point of view.

So why do our staff and customers keep telling us this practice works and their legs and feet feel better for rotating shoes. A study by Malisoux in Luxembourg followed 264 recreational runners and found that runners who practiced "parallel use of different running shoes" incurred injuries at rate 40% less than the whole group.

"If it's not cushioning, how could shoe rotation prevent injury?"

Changing up the stresses on your body is probably the answer.

  • By changing up the forces on your body even slightly by wearing a different pair of shoes, you give a stressed part of your feet or legs a chance to rest.
  • This is especially true if you rotate between two different models of shoe.

Complimenting shoe rotation is changing terrain.

How about challenging yourself to explore Auckland's magnificent road and trail landscape to find a different path that will again just change up the stresses on feet, legs, muscles and tendons.


How running shoes change your feet

by John Doe

Humans might have been born to run, but we definitely weren't born to run on concrete. To cushion the blow from jogging on such hard surfaces, running shoes provide a barrier of springy foam between the road and our sensitive feet. But even as shoes have grown more advanced, the rate of running injuries hasn't dipped for the last 40 years. That makes some researchers—and runners—suspect that the shoes might be doing more harm than good. Now, a new study tests that claim.

When running, bare feet act like springs, absorbing the shock of striking the road, which they then use as energy to push off into the next stride. Shoe-doubters have claimed that overly bouncy running shoes interfere with that process, encouraging foot muscles to relax and eventually weaken. So scientists had 16 participants run, both barefoot and shod, on a treadmill outfitted with force sensors, while thin wires threaded under the skin of their feet tracked muscle activation.

The running shoes did, in fact, interfere with the foot's ability to act like a spring, decreasing how much the foot's arch was able to compress when it hit the ground—whereas bare feet would have flattened out like a pancake, shod arches only got 75% of the way there. But in response, the foot didn't relax, as many had suspected. Running shoes actually made those muscles work harder to keep the arch stable, the researchers report today in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface. So the evidence is in: Wearing shoes does change the physiology of running. Just not in the way scientists expected.

By Lizzie Wade


6 Tips for Buying the Right Running Shoe

by John Doe

Ask any experienced runners and they'll tell you, the most important piece of fitness equipment in their run is the pair of shoes on their feet. Unfortunately, buying the wrong pair of shoes is easier than you think. That's why we've got some tips to ensure your next run ends in glory, not pain.

Buy Your Shoes When You Run

Your feet begin to swell in the morning and don't stop until around four or five in the evening. It's nothing to worry about unless you buy your shoes in the morning, when your feet are their smallest, and run in the evening, when your feet are their largest, or vice versa. The best way to account for your foot's transformation from an eight at eight to a nine at five is to simply try on and buy your sneakers when you will use them most. If you change up your running times a lot, do as the next tip says and "go big."

Go Big

Naturally, your feet move around quite a bit when you run. They swell up, too. Aim for a half to a full thumbnail length between your biggest toe and the end of the shoe. If the fit is too tight, your toes can develop blisters or worse, the dreaded black toenail.

Know Your Gait and Foot Type

You're unique and so are your feet. Having your gait and foot type analyzed at a local running shoe store, or if you're lazy, using something like this, will help ensure you get the feel, fit, cushion, and support you need, and nothing else. In general, the three foot types are flat, neutral, and high arched, all of which determine the level of pronation. Flat-footed runners are prone to overpronation (an inward-rolling motion), and are suited best in a high-stability shoe. Neutral feet are, biomechanically speaking, the best type of feet and can fit well in many types of shoes, but most people with neutral feet like a moderate-stability sneaker. People with high arches are susceptible to underpronation (a outward-rolling motion), and a cushioned shoe with midsole padding and flexibility works best.

Your Old Shoes Tell a Story

If you're going to a running-shoe store, bring in your old sneakers. If it's a reputable running-shoe store with a good staff (you shouldn't go anywhere else, anyway), they can take a look at your old shoes to get a better understanding of your gait, foot strike, and foot type. Wear patterns on the tread and overstretching on the sides of the shoes can tell them where you land and how your foot moves when you run.

Think Substance, Not Style

It sounds obvious, but choosing a running shoe because of its looks instead of its fit will oftentimes lead you right back to the shoe store a few days later with your shoes, the receipt, and some new blisters. On the other hand, find a shoe with the right fit and maybe you'll be going so fast people won't even be able to see your shoes. Okay, okay, but you get the point.

Don't Be Cheap

As my father used to say, "you only get two feet in this life, take care of them." Don't go with one pair of shoes over another simply because of price. We're not just talking about buying shoes, either. Once you rack up 300 to 400 miles on your sneakers, or once the treads and cushioning seem to be fading, buy another pair. You will prevent injury from the wear and tear on your muscles and joints, and ultimately, save money by preventing a trip to the doctor.

By Samuel Blackstone