The Footwear World
The footwear world is comprised of three categories of shoes: Neutral, Stability and Motion Control. Footwear distribution is like a bell curve, with relatively few customers that have extremely neutral high arches or extremely flat feet the majority of people require some level of support. The stability level of a shoe is measured by how much a shoe slows down the rate of pronation, or for the layman, how much a shoe stops the foot from flattening out.
Often neutral shoes are referred to as cushion shoes. We try to stay away from this term because it suggests that as shoes become more stable they lose cushioning which is not true. Motion control shoes can possess just as much cushioning as neutral shoes. Stability in shoes used to solely be supplied by EVA plugs of increased density on the medial or inside of the shoe. The market is changing quite a bit as more density leads to more weight. Of late, we are seeing the problem tackled with “cradling” the foot. Now you see manufacturers angling the foot position with lighter materials to provide the right amount and more gentle support.
Often customers will come in the store swearing by one brand or another. It is our job to remind them that all brands are good and the actual shoe within the brand is the most important. However, when pulling shoes for a customer we should take into account their brand allegiance but pull the right shoe from their preferred vendor. The shoe world is a matrix with the top brands making high quality shoes in all categories. Our job as a specialty retailer is to narrow the selection set for the customer. We must give the customer 3 or 4 pairs of shoes to choose from all of which will work. Your job at the beginning is to have your “go to” shoes in each category. Have 3 or 4 shoes that you know well in each category so after you assess a customer’s needs, you know the shoes that you can pull that will work for him or her.
Most customers that come in the store will be wearing the wrong size. We fit most customers a full size up from their everyday shoe size. There are a few reasons. The first is that the shoes seem to be a little smaller. Secondly, the foot expands about a full size while running and needs to be unencumbered as it swells. Lastly the shoe is built to be properly fit so the widest part of the shoe must match the widest part of the foot and there should be a full thumb nail between the longest toe and the end of the shoe. The proper fit for a shoe is a heel cup that secures the foot and prevents the heel from rising and falling, a mid-foot wrap that secures the foot without being tight and a forefoot that has plenty of room for the foot on all sides. The toes should be able to wiggle without touching any part of the shoe. This functions as a protective dome.
If a shoe is fit small, the arch will be in the wrong place, the metatarsals will land in front of the forefoot cushioning, and the shoe on will fit too narrow with the forefoot splaying over the midsole.
Customers will resist and all this room can be scary the first time. Some customers will insist on sizing down. It is important that you express what the proper size is but after you have said your piece fit them in whatever size they want. They are the customers. Do not let your pride get in the way. It is our obligation to tell them what is right and explain why, not to insist that they buy something that they do not want.
The Normal Foot
Most feet have a normal-sized arch and leave an imprint that has a flare but shows the forefoot and heel connected by a wide band.
- Foot Characteristics: Most feet land on the outside of the heel, and then rolls inward (pronates) slightly to absorb shock. Most runners who mildly pronate and are of average weight are usually considered biomechanically efficient and don’t require motion-control shoes.
- Best last: Semi-Curved
- Best Shoes: Stability shoes with moderate control
The Flat Foot
Flat feet have a low arch and leave a nearly complete imprint. This is the imprint that looks like the whole sole of the foot.
- Foot characteristics: This imprint usually indicates an overpronated foot that strikes on the outside of the heel and rolls inward (pronates) excessively. Over time, this can cause many different kinds of overuse injuries.
- Best Last: straight or semi-curved.
- Best shoes: Motion control shoes, or stability shoes with firm midsoles and control features that reduce the degree of pronation.
The High-Arched Foot
High-arched feet leave an imprint showing a very narrow band connecting the forefoot and heel.
- Foot characteristics: A curved, high-arched foot is generally termed a supinated or underpronated foot. This type of foot doesn’t pronate enough, so it’s not an effective shock absorber
- Best Last: Curved
- Best Shoes: Neutral Cushioned shoes with plenty of flexibility to encourage foot motion.
The ankle joint is a hinge type joint that participates in movement and is involved in lower leg stability. There are 2 types of motion that take place at the ankle joint: Dorsiflexion and Plantar Flexion
- Dorsiflexion involves bringing the top of the foot towards the front of the leg. Such movement is necessary in order to have the foot contact the ground heel first during the heel strike and to allow the foot to clear the ground during the swing phase of gait.
- Plantar flexion occurs when the toes are in contact with the ground and heel is raised off the ground (toe raises). This movement provides the propulsive force necessary to lever the limb off the ground and start it swinging forward during the toe off portion of gait. During midstance, when the lower leg supports the weight of the torso, the ankle is in its most stable configuration.
The foot plays an important role in supporting the weight of the entire body and in locomotion. The bones of the foot are arched longitudinally to help facilitate the support function. These movements help keep the sole (plantar surface) in contact with the ground despite the unevenness of the ground surface. They all work in together with the ankle joint to help propel the foot off the ground during the toe off portion of gain.
Segments of the foot
- Rearfoot – Heel
- Midfoot- Middle of the foot
- Forefoot – Toes
- Supination is a combination of forefoot inversion and adduction occurring at the transverse tarsal joints. Supination occurs when the 1st metatarsal bone (Inside of the foot) is elevate off the ground while the 5th metatarsal bone (outside of the foot) is in contact with the ground
- Pronation is a combination of forefoot inversion and abduction. The 5th metatarsal (outside of foot) is elevated while the 1st metatarsal (inside of foot) is in contact with the ground.
What does pronation mean and how can you tell if your customer needs a motion control shoe?
When running, everyone has a unique motion in their legs and feet as they approach impact, at impact, and during toe off…we call this the Running Gait.
Typically, the foot starts by turning outward and becoming rigid to prepare for impact. (That is why most people tend to land on the outside of the heel). At this point, the foot normally loosens up and rolls inward, and then becomes rigid again as the body weight is transferred over the ball of the foot, preparing for toe off.
The point at which the foot loosens and rolls inward is called pronation. Pronation is normal and is necessary for the foot to absorb shock and adapt to running surfaces.
Someone who exhibits excessive inward motion is considered to be an over-pronator. Over-pronators are best served by stability or motion control shoes, which assist in controlling the excessive inward motion of the foot. Conditions such as flat feet and a flexible arch will cause you to overprontate. Your foot rolls farther than what is necessary to absorb shock and adapt to different running surfaces. Approximately 50% of runners overpronate.
Someone who does not have enough inward motion is considered to be an under-pronator (supinator). Under pronators strike the ground as other runners do, but their foot does not complete the motion needed to absorb shock. Usually, under-pronation is associated with a rigid, high-arched foot. Because the foot is so rigid, it absorbs shock poorly and does not adapt to changes in running surfaces. Approximately 10 percent of runners under-pronate.
Those that are right in the middle are known as pronation-neutral. Approximately 40 percent of runners pronate normally. By looking at the stride motion of the foot and simply discussing pronation and overpronation, we have only looked at the first portion of your stride when the foot strikes the ground. After your foot has rolled forward past your arch your foot is ready to leave the ground but before it can your foot needs to roll in the opposite direction of pronation so that the loosened joint will tighten up again. This part of foot motion is called supination. It is necessary so that the foot becomes a more rigid lever to propel you forward.
If the foot is still in a pronated position because of over pronation, when you start moving toward toe-off, you will be propelling yourself against a foot that is not ready to receive the force. The foot is still in a flexible position.
Footwear Components and Construction
Basics of construction – shoes are built around a “last” that resembles the shape of a foot. The upper part of a shoe is sewn together and then secured to the last and attached to the sole of the shoe. The shape of a shoe is dependent on the last shape, the lasting process, and the materials from which it is made.
- Basic Components of a shoe – what makes up the quality of a product.
- Uppers – Function to position, support, and protect the foot. The primary influence on fit
- 4 Parts
- Heel and Heel Counter
- Midfoot Saddle
- Toe Box
- Tongue and lacing
- 4 Parts
- Outsoles – Function to provide protection, traction, and durability. Plays a role in flexibility, stability, and cushioning.
- Carbon and blown rubber
- Flex Grooves
- Sculpting of the midsole
- Midfoot reinforcement
- Insoles – Function is primarily for tactile comfort and cushioning, moisture control, support, and guidance. Like a sockliner – this is where the foot rests. Typically removable
- Thermal Plastic
- Foam Polymers
- Midsoles – provides cushioning, support, stability, and guidance. Located between the upper and the outsole of the shoe
- EVA - dual-density/medial post
- Lasts – this determines what shape and size the shoe will have in all dimensions. Related to the height of the arch. The type of lasts are:
- Straight – shoe has a straight medial side design, which adds stability, little torsional flexibility and medial support.
- Best for over pronators
- Under pronators, stability shoes, assist in fluidity of movement
- Curved – characterized by a banana shaped footprint design. This shape provides lots of torsional flexibility but offers little medial support
- Best for road racing
Running footwear styles and feature of each
- Lightweight, performance trainer
- Motion Control
- Low-Drop/Midfoot Running
Matching up your customer’s foot type, biomechanics and gait to the appropriate shoe
Recommend a few models – try 2-3 to start
- Why we recommend shoes by foot type and not by brand
New employees should try on each style of shoe
- Light weight, neutral, stability, motion control,
- Compare each style
- What do you feel? What do you like, dislike?
Putting shoes on customer’s feet
- Reading non-verbal cues from your customer
- Alternative lacing techniques for problem feet
The Fitting Process
- Say hello to a customer as soon as they walk in the door. If it appears they want help right away, ask how you can help them. If it appears that they want to browse just say hello and tell them you are available to help if they would like assistance. Make yourself busy on the floor and easy to grab if/when they decide they need help.
- Forecast. Explain to the customer every step of the process. Ask them if this all sounds good? Also mention that if after finding out more about them, you think something else in the store would benefit them you will bring it up.
- Building Background - Listen to what they need and ask three questions
- What are you doing in your shoes?
- Are you running or walking?
- What do you want to do in your shoes?
- Have you had a history of injury?
- Does anything hurt when you run?
- What are you doing in your shoes?
- After initial conversation have them take off their shoes and roll up their pants.
- Gait Analysis- Watch customer walk down red carpet, If a runner, watch them run down the carpet. Repeat a few times
- Look to see what the foot, lower leg, knees, and hips are doing
- Look at the shape of the foot
- How the foot is moving and the overall look of the lower body.
- Measure foot and ask what size they usually wear to get an idea of sizing
- Use the brannock device to measure the foot with and without weight first.
- A running shoe should always fit larger than casual/dress shoe.
- After they try on shoes always check the size inside the shoe to make sure there is enough space for swelling and toe splay.
- Check that the metatarsal heads line up with the flex grooves.
- Bring out three or four pairs of shoes
- Put them in one shoe, make sure sizing is correct
- Watch them walk/run on carpet again
- If they are comfortable on a treadmill have them walk/run on the treadmill and use the IPAD and Coaches Eye App for Video.
- Some people do run differently than they walk so this is a key part of the process.
- The treadmill allows us to slow down the footage frame by frame to make sure that the shoe is supporting properly.
- Customers love to be a part of this process. Share with them what you are analyzing and what you see.
- Don’t be afraid to adjust the fit of the shoe if you see something that you need to change
- For example, you have them in a neutral shoe and see they should be in stability.
- Have them try as many shoes as they need to figure out what is the best shoe
- Make sure you are interacting with the customer the entire time you are working with them…always be interested!
- Stay around the customer when you are done with the shoe fitting. If they are browsing make yourself busy on the floor. Do not rush them to the register. You are hurrying the customer out of the store.
IPad Coach’s Eye App
- Coach’s Eye is an App on the iPad. Once the app is opened the home screen will apparel. Hit the camera button to video tape.
- Once on the video screen hit the red button to record and again to stop recording.
- When you are done creating your video hit the little picture frame in the bottom right hand side of the screen
- This will bring you back to the home screen where you can pick your video’s to view.
- The newest video will be in the top left hand corner.
- Tap on the video you would like to analyze. Hit the analyze button. This will bring up your video
- To play – hit the play button. To slow down the video hit the slow button. To do frame by frame hold and move the orange bar on the bottom. There are drawing tools to the left that can be used to create lines, arrows, circles, etc.
- To view two videos side by side hit the picture of the two squares in the top right corner of the screen. A second frame will appear. Hit the Add button and then select your video.
- The second frame will show up side by side. You can then do all the same functions as above.
In this mentor session it is your responsibility to schedule a time with your store manager to go over the specifics of each brand. This will take multiple sessions and many shifts to complete. This mentor session is not complete until a meeting is set up with Brian Nasuta our footwear buyer.
Footwear Brands we carry
- New Balance
- Under Armour
Notes about Footwear
- In general the shoes we carry range from $120 - $180
- The brand is not as important as the shoe within the brand
- Each brand/shoe fits a little difference, it’s your job to learn the differences and help the customer through the fitting process.
- Find 3-4 shoes in each stability category you are comfortable with and pull those first until you are more confident in the other shoes.
- New Balance – are assembled in the USA. You will get that question
- Never speak bad about one brand or another; we carry these shoes/brands because we believe in their technology.
- Never tell a customer a price unless you are 100% sure, the price lists are posted in the backroom.
You are responsible for trying on all shoes that we carry. Try on each one and take notes about differences in stability, fit, and feel.