The Perfect Shoe pt. 1

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In my opinion, there are 2 major things that people don’t invest enough in: Mattresses and shoes.

Mattresses we will talk about on another day but for today, we’re focusing on shoes. Now I don’t mean buying shoes that are aesthetically pleasing. I know people that have like 400 pairs of shoes and none of them are actually good for their feet. Nor do they wear half of them. The shoes just sit in their closet and serve absolutely no purpose. But I digress, let’s talk about getting good quality shoes that your joints will thank you for later.

For this blog, I was given the opportunity to interview Todd (check out the interview here), a shoe specialist and owner of Coastal Sole in New Bern, North Carolina. Todd has been selling shoes for athletic performance for over 30 years and I personally have been buying shoes from him for over 5 years.

Todd began his journey when he was 15. His father made him a deal: He’d buy Todd a truck and the rest of the financial responsibility was on Todd, so he immediately threw on a tie and hopped on his bike and rode to the local strip mall and began putting in applications at all the little shops. When he arrived at The Athlete’s Foot, the manager happened to be on duty, so the manager asked Todd if he knew the difference between a football cleat and a soccer cleat. Todd did not know the answer, but he began pointing out the difference he was seeing in the shoe. Impressed at Todd’s willing to learn, he told him the differences between the two and hired Todd. From there Todd climbed the company. He worked corporate side in Virginia for several years through high school and college, accumulating nearly 4 millions dollars at that store, making it the #1 volume store in the company while he was there. He then moved to North Carolina and franchised, opening two The Athlete’s Foot, with intentions of opening more, though her never got that far. In recent years, The Athlete’s Foot began to change is focus towards the urban consumer, so Todd left the company and opened his very own performance footwear shop: Coastal Sole.

Growing up, Todd was an athlete in team sports, and though he never really competed in track and cross country, he always ran and enjoyed it, so being with The Athlete’s Foot allowed him to get into the technical aspect of shoes and became known as “The Show Guy” or “The Shoe Geek”. He was able to identify all of the differences in all of the shoes and how they were made and what shoe fit what shoe type and so on. He knows how to put your foot in the perfect shoe.

So on to the actual shoe advice!

When you go to a shoe place, a brand is going to make shoes for those specific places. So when you go to a big box store like Walmart or Target, brands are making shoes just for those discount stores, just like they’ll make a performance shoe for a performance shoe distributor like Coastal Sole. So when you go to buy a shoe from Shoe Carnival, you are buying a “weekend shoe”. These are basic shoes to put on your foot to go stand around at a barbecue. They are not made to go for a run or even to lift weights in. The big differences are going to be found in the mid-sole, or the guts of the shoe.

Many of those big box shoes are not going to have proper cushioning, internal shank or width options. If you have a wider foot, the shoe you get at a big box retailers are only going to provide you with more fabric, rather than actually making a wider sole for the shoe. The shoe will also likely not include an internal shank which allows the shoe to give you a proper flex point. A proper flex point will allow the shoe to bend much like your foot, as opposed to the shoe bending in the middle, which you can visualize what that might be doing to your foot and ankles when you go for a run.

When you are looking at an athletic shoe, think of the shoe like a burger. The upper of the shoe and the out-sole are the bun, but the meat of the shoe is in the mid-sole. Many companies have various different strategies to crafting the mid-sole, though Todd says any one isn’t necessarily better than the other, it’s just what you prefer. Some brands use gel in the mid-sole for cushioning, but other brands opt for foam instead, because it is lighter. The difference is Coke to Pepsi. It’s just what you prefer.

When we begin comparing price points, that is when the differences begin to show. A $90 shoe versus a $150 shoe are going to be very different. Your $90 shoes are the base pairs. They are good shoes, but as you climb the price tier, you begin to add more bells and whistles. You might have a foot shape which would require you to climb the price tier a bit. Every brand has a shoe at the $120 price point, and this is where brand are matching foot shapes. Whether you have a really high arch, or a flat foot, buying a shoe that matches your foot shape is likely the most important thing to do when you are shoe shopping.

For the actual bells and whistles you are adding as you climb the price pole, when you start at the $90 price point, the cushion system is going to be mostly concentrated in the heel. When you climb to $120, now you have more cushion in the heel AND the ball. Climb even further and you have cushion throughout the shoe. It is important to note that you might not actually need all that cushion. Maybe you have a neutral foot that does not over pronate. You might be perfectly fine with a $90 shoe. The important thing is to try them on and see what fits your foot best.

Now one of the biggest differences between the $90 and $120 range is that you begin to see an internal shank being built into the shoe. This aids with the flex point that we referenced earlier. They also begin crafting more shoe shapes at the $120 price point, meaning that if you are someone that has a high arch or a flat foot, it might be necessary for you to good a shoe at that point in order to get the support you need. At $150, you are getting more shock absorption via more cushion or gel, as well as more material in the upper of the shoe, such as a tongue that will not slide off to the side, and they will be more seamless, so if you are someone that has issues with your feet rubbing the seams, that might be something you’d want to consider. Todd tells people all the time that he personally can easily feel the difference in the $90-$120 shoes, but he has a bit more difficulty noticing the difference in the $120-$150 dollars shoes. Only as he ages is he able to tell any differences. Once again, it is important for you to try the shoes on and just see if you can feel a difference.

Many people assume that if you spend more on a shoe that it will be more durable and last longer. It is important to discard that assumption. You are not paying for a shoe to last longer, you are paying for the shoe to be more supportive and have higher quality materials. A shoe’s life span is still going to be 8 months or 500 miles, whatever comes first.

I personally wondered if I could just add a new insole into a shoe to extend its life, and you might breathe a bit of life back into the shoe, it is important to note that is it not so much the insole that breaks down in a shoe, it’s the midsole, or “the meat” of the shoe. Many companies likely put less money into the insole than they do the shoe. The reasoning behind this is that many people use orthotics and medical inserts, so it does not make a lot of sense to put money into the insole and have to charge more for it when most people are just going to pull that insole out and put their own in the shoe anyway. Some companies will make the insole feel really nice so out of the box the shoe feels softer which in turn will help the shoe sell, but all things considered the insoles are not all that important when looking for the perfect shoe. Todd feels like harder insoles actually provide more support, so he sells harder insoles as opposed to the softer ones.

This concludes part one of this interview! You can check out part 2 here! If you learned anything from this blog, share it in the place that you share things, check out the podcast for the interview here! Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @lifeandfitnesswithdbanks, as well as giving my Facebook page a like.

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  1. […] This is part 2 of “The Perfect Shoe” where I interview shoe expert and owner of Coastal Sole on shoes and finding the best shoe for YOUR feet! If you haven’t read part one yet, you can find that here! […]

  2. […] you have not checked those out yet, definitely check out The Perfect Shoe 2 part series (podcast / blog) as well as my Interview with Jordan (podcast / blog). There is some excellent content in each of […]

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