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Q. "What's the easiest way to test running shoes in the store?"
A. First, make sure your timing is right. "Your feet swell as you run, so it's best to shop for sneakers at the end of the day, when feet have naturally swollen to about a half shoe size larger than normal," says Darius Billings, director of retail brand marketing and merchandising for the Athlete's Foot. A good fit means that your longest toe is about a thumb's-width away from the tip of the shoe and you can wiggle your toes without feeling cramped. Jog slowly in the store to make sure your heel doesn't move around or slip out of the shoe. Then balance on one foot: If the shoe is too narrow, the ball of your foot will jut out over the sides of the sole.
Q. "I know I should replace my sneaks every 300 to 400 miles, but I lose track. Is there any other way to tell it's time for a new pair?"
A. "No need to wait for the soreness that accompanies your worn-down shoes," says running coach Jessica Anderson, owner of Fleet Feet Sports in Madison, Wisconsin. "Write the date in permanent marker inside the arch of your shoes when you buy them. If you run about 15 miles a week, plan on picking out a new pair in five months." Also, give your sneakers a once-over every now and then, says Pete Beauregard, product-training manager at City Sports in Boston. "Check for excessive wear on the outsole, wrinkly foam in the midsole, or collapsing or tearing in the upper," he says. "If any exist, it's time to swap 'em out."
Q. "How do I know if my cross-trainers fit me correctly?"
A. Start with a pair that feels snugger than your running shoes, Beauregard says. When you're running, your feet swell, so you need some wiggle room in your sneakers. Cross-trainers, on the other hand, are designed to accommodate side-to-side movement and quick starts and stops, as well as lower-impact light treadmill running or cardio-machine use. That means they should be very true to size -- without as much toe space as your other sneaks, but not overly tight or uncomfortable. To test: Jab your forefoot into the floor a few times and do some side lunges. "Your toes shouldn't mash up against the front of the shoe on the jabs, and your heel should stay planted, not slide, on the lunges," Beauregard says.
Q. "What kind of cleats should I have for Spinning?"
A. "Most clubs fit their Spinning bikes with mountain or touring clipless pedals," says Mark Ontiveros, co-owner of River City Bicycles in Portland, Oregon. So any "recessed sole" cleats -- ones that won't poke out of the bottom, usually found on mountain biking shoes -- like the Shimano SH-51 Lateral Release Cleat ($22, rei.com) should match. Got road shoes? Take them to class to see if the cleats are compatible.
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, May 2009.