Did you know that the foot contains 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 tendons, muscles, and ligaments, and that one-fourth of all the bones in the human body are down in the feet? When these bones are out of alignment, so is the rest of the body.

Three out of four Americans experience serious foot problems in their lifetime. Feet are more subject to injury than any other part of the body. Selecting a proper fitting running shoe can be the key to decreasing your risk of injury. Members of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine recommend that individuals be fit by a reputable footwear retailer and contact a podiatrist for concerns of injury or footwear.

It can be extremely difficult to accurately recommend footwear without an expert assessing first hand an individual’s gait pattern, range of motion, biomechanical profile and foot type. Other factors such as past injury, body mass index, weekly miles or hours of training, training goals, training philosophy, and training surface are all important in selecting the right shoe.

When buying a running shoe, keep the following suggestions in mind:

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A good pair of running shoes is an investment.

A good pair of running shoes is an investment. Keep this in mind; whatever your new shoes cost, it is likely less than the money and time you’d spend seeing the doctor because you got hurt. Once you select a shoe based off an expert consultation, you can always shop around for the best price for that shoe from other discount retailers.

Get sized every time. Your feet change over time, and one shoe brand’s fit can be drastically different from another’s. You also want to have your feet measured later in the day, when they’re at their biggest. It is not uncommon to end up getting a running shoe that’s at least a half size larger than your street shoes. When you’re standing with both shoes on, make sure you have at least a thumbnail’s space between the tip of the shoe and the end of your longest toe.

Come prepared. Bring in your old shoes so a consultant can look at the wear patterns. It is also important to bring in your own running socks and any custom orthotics or insoles that you use.

Take them out for a spin. Try shoes on both feet and take them for a test run around the shop, on a treadmill, or on the sidewalk.

Try not to think of running shoes as a fashion statement. It is easy to get distracted by bright colors, flashy features, or the new technology. However, remember that it’s best to select a running shoe based off of your needs and not the latest trends.

Consult a physician before starting any kind of exercise program. When starting a new exercise regimen make sure to get the proper guidance to ensure proper form and safety.

Sources: American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, American Podiatric Medical Association, Fleet Feet Sports, Runner’s World Magazine, LifeWork Strategies and Washington and Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Centers. For additional information, consult your physician.