Marathon season

By Caroline Ryder

Originally published on Advocate.com September 18 2009 1:10 PM ET

Katherine Petrecca has at least 20 pairs of running shoes in her closet. That’s hardly surprising, given her job as senior product manager, outdoor and walking, at New Balance. Since starting with the sneaker company eight years ago, Petrecca says she has seen the variety of athletic footwear “increase exponentially.” Now you can pick up super-lightweight shoes, motion-control shoes (for those with unusual gaits), and even amphibian water shoes like the New Balance 920. Launching this January, the 920 is a running shoe–sandal hybrid that has all the fit of a running shoe but drains water very easily. Could this mean an end to soggy sneakers? “We wanted to make a shoe you could use for fishing and boating and kayaking, and then keep on after you’re done,” she says. “So, yes.”

How to find the right shoe for you? First, don’t be tempted by bargain-basement offers. “There’s a good reason why some shoes cost $60 and some cost $120,” says Petrecca. “It’s to do with technology—technology that sometimes you can’t even see.”

If you’re an outdoorsy type, try a hiking shoe with great traction and a sturdy outsole like the ones made by sole specialist Vibram.

For indoor gym use, a good cross-training shoe or running shoe will do. But if you are lifting weights—especially free weights—the cushioning of your shoes will break down pretty quickly, says Petrecca. To avoid bottoming out your gym shoes, she advises keeping one pair for weights (a sturdy cross-training shoe with supported upper) and another pair for general exercising.

Most importantly, says Petrecca, don’t be shy about going old-school and getting a full-on sit-and-fit at a shoe store. Especially if you’re planning on spending $85 or more, it’s important to have your tootsies properly measured by a professional. “A lot of people are squeezing themselves into shoes that are too narrow,” sighs Petrecca. “Or they might be swimming in shoes that are too wide for them.” The consequences? “Blisters and pain.”