How Do You Choose the Right Athletic Shoe?
The right pair of athletic shoes can be an important tool to prevent injuries and keep you comfortable. Unfortunately, athletic shoe shopping can be intimidating with a sea of shoe choices and everyone claiming to have the shoe for you.
Why It Is Important to Choose the Right Shoe
Wearing the right athletic shoe will no doubt enhance your performance and provide the comfort and support you need to enjoy staying active. It is also important to:
Avoid Developing Foot Problems
On average, walking brings a force equal to several hundred tons on your feet each day. It should come as no surprise, then, that when you wear shoes that do not fit properly or that are not made to handle the movement involved in the sports you play, you are likely to develop:
- ]]>Blisters]]>—fluid-filled bump on the skin
- ]]>Bunions]]>—swollen, sore bumps at the joint that connects your big toe to your foot
- Calluses—abnormal thickening of the top layer of skin
- ]]>Corns]]>—small, thickened area of skin that forms on the toes
- ]]>Hammertoes]]>—a toe that tends to remain bent at the middle joint in a claw-like position
Minimize Risk of Injury or Chronic Ailment
Your feet are subject to more injury than any other part of your body. Injuries that can result from failing to wear the right shoes include:
- ]]>Plantar fasciitis]]>—the plantar fascia, a supportive, fibrous band of tissue running from the heel to the ball of the foot, is injured, resulting in pain on the bottom of the foot
- Heel spurs—calcium deposits that form where the plantar fascia connects to your heel bone
- ]]>Stress fractures]]>—tiny cracks in your bones that develop when the repetitive impact of jogging or running overcomes the ability of the foot bones to withstand this stress
- Sesamoiditis—tenderness or inflammation at the sesamoid bones, accessory bones found beneath the large first metatarsal bone in the ball of the foot
What You Need to Consider in Making the Decision
Tracking down a pair of athletic shoes that is appropriate for you does not need to be an impossible task. Before you get to the store, ask yourself:
- Do you need new shoes? Cracks in the sole of the shoe or worn down heels are clear signs it is time to toss what you are wearing. If the shoe feels stiff and inflexible or if the upper shoe is deformed and overlapping the sole, these are signs of too much wear. Also, if you have noticed pain or soreness in your feet after a workout, it could mean you are due for new shoes.
- What types of activities do you usually participate in? Athletic shoes will vary in design and weight depending upon the activity for which they are intended. Your best bet is to buy shoes designed for your activity of choice.
What type of feet do you have? There are three basic categories of foot type:
- Pronators have a low or flat arch and tend to wear down the inner edges of their shoes. If you are a pronator, you should look for shoes that offer support for your midfoot area, which limits overuse of the inside edge of your feet.
- Supinators have a high arch and tend to wear down the outer edges of their shoes. Supinators require shoes with extra cushioning, particularly in the mid-arch area, to absorb shock and stabilize the heel.
- People with neutral feet have an average arch and tend to wear down the heels of shoes evenly. They can wear just about any type of shoe.
When Making Your Purchase
Once you get to the store, here is what to look for in sports specific shoes:
- Running—Runners and joggers should wear shoes that provide flexibility in the toe area and overall cushioning for impact (shock absorption). Such shoes should also have good heel control.
- Walking—Walkers should also look for shock absorption in the heel and especially under the ball of the foot. Walking shoes have more rigidity in the front than running shoes, so you can roll off your toes rather than bend through them.
- Aerobics—Shoes for aerobic conditioning should be lightweight to prevent foot fatigue and have extra shock absorption in the sole beneath the ball of the foot where the most stress occurs.
- Tennis—For tennis and other court sports, you will need shoes that provide stability on the inside and outside of the foot plus flexibility in the sole beneath the ball of the foot.
- Basketball—Basketball players should choose a shoe with a wider base and a thick, stiff sole to give extra stability on the court. A high-top shoe provides support when landing from a jump.
- Cross trainers—Cross-training shoes, or “cross trainers” combine several features so you can participate in more than one sport. A good pair should have the flexibility in the forefoot that you need for running combined with the lateral control necessary for aerobics or tennis. They are fine for a general athletic shoe, but if you regularly participate in a sport, you should get a sport-specific shoe.
- Field sports, hiking, and specialty sports—Cleats, studs, or spikes are appropriate for field sports like soccer, football, and baseball. Special hiking shoes are available for trail blazing. Likewise, for sports such as skating, hockey, golf, and bicycling, you may want to wear shoes made specifically for these activities.
Getting the Right Fit
A good fit is critical for your enjoyment and performance. Keep in mind that it is wise to go shopping after a workout or at the end of the day, when your feet will be at their largest. Also, you will want to wear the same type of sock that you will wear when you are exercising.
Next, you will want to try on several different pairs of shoes. Shoes fit properly when: There is a firm grip of the shoe to your heel. You can wiggle all of your toes. The shoes do not feel too tight or too loose.
Lastly, you should have both feet measured. Fit shoes to your larger foot. Lace your shoes beginning at the farthest eyelets; apply even pressure as you crisscross to the top of the shoe. Try on both shoes. Walk or run a few steps. The shoes should be comfortable as soon as you try them on. You do not need to break in athletic shoes.
American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine
American Podiatric Medical Association.
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Athletic shoes. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.orthoinfo.aaos.org/fact/thr_report.cfm?Thread_ID=32&topcategory=Foot. Updated July 2001. Accessed November 8, 2010.
American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Footwear Guide. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/fact/thr_report.cfm?Thread_ID=101&topcategory=Foot. Accessed July 17, 2003.
American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine. Selecting a running shoe. American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.aapsm.org/selectingshoes.html . Accessed July 17, 2003.
American Orthopedic Food & Ankle Society. Foot fitness for life. American Orthopedic Food & Ankle Society website. Available at: http://www.aofas.org/ . Accessed July 17, 2003.
American Podiatric Medical Association. Footwear. American Podiatric Medical Association website. Available at: http://www.apma.org/topics/footwear.htm/ . Accessed July 17, 2003.
Borom AH, Clanton TO. Sports shoes and orthoses. In: DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2003.
Last reviewed November 2010 by ]]>Brian Randall, MD]]>
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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