Choosing the right athletic shoe.

By February 24, 2011Health Tips
Athletic ShoesThe choice of the best athletic shoe hinges on a number of factors, including the chosen activity, a person’s body structure, and cost. For a large percentage of regular exercisers, the activities engaged in will be walking, running, or court sports. As one would expect, shoe manufacturers have developed specific shoes for each of these activities. Obviously, you could walk in a running shoe or run in a shoe designed for walking. However, particular features among the various types of shoes may make one more appropriate than another.

Running Shoes Running shoes are designed with the idea that the user is moving forward with little side-to-side motion. As a result, they are generally inappropriate for sports that require lateral (side-to-side) motions. Since runners impact the ground with three times their body weight with each step, it is important that running shoes have adequate cushioning and shock absorbing qualities. Specific running shoe types include “motion control” (best for runners with “fallen arches”) and heavily cushioned shoes that are best for runners with a high arch, often associated with a relatively inflexible foot. Runners who strike with their heel or mid-foot should look for less built-up heels, while those who land on the ball of their foot need a more built-up heel.

Fitness Walking Shoes Proper fitness walking shoes have highly flexible soles designed to allow the foot to roll easily from heel to toe. Since there is not as much impact involved with walking as compared to running, the requirement for cushioning is less. Some walking shoe designs are designed for style, comfort, or workplace use rather than fitness walking. If unsure of the intended purpose of the shoe, buying a running shoe may be a better bet. If looking at running shoes, walkers should choose one with a lower heel, since walkers strike with their heels first.

Cross-Trainers These shoes are designed to meet the requirements of many activities including court sports, weightlifting, and aerobics. The soles of cross-training shoes are wide and stable to provide considerably more side-to-side support than walking or running shoes. They provide a moderate amount of cushioning, primarily at the heel and forefoot of the shoe, and the cushioning is dense, which enhances the shoe’s overall stability. The upper portion of most cross training shoes is taller in order to provide better ankle support. While they may be appropriate for fitness walking, cross-trainers are not recommended for those who primarily run for fitness, as they do not provide proper cushioning for repetitive impact.

Tips for Finding the Right Shoe

  1. If you’re going to participate in a particular sport on a regular basis (2-3 times a week or more), you should choose a sport-specific shoe.
  2. Consider going to an athletic shoe specialty store to get an expert opinion on the right shoe for the chosen activity and the best fit. This is particularly true if you are starting a new sport, coming back from an injury, or have had problems with your current shoes.
  3. Don’t be lured into buying athletic shoes based on the colors or style. With athletic shoes, form should follow function.
  4. Shop late in the day or following a workout when your feet are their largest.
  5. If you’re already a runner, bring your current running shoes with you to the store. The salesperson can look at the wear on the bottom of your running shoes to get some more insight into your running style.
  6. Bring the socks that you intend to wear when working out with you when buying new shoes. If you wear orthotics or custom-fit insoles, bring them with you also. You need running shoes that are roomy enough to accommodate these.
  7. Athletic ShoesHave the salesperson measure both feet with a Brannock device while you’re standing. This will provide measurements of the heel-to-toe length, the arch length (heel to ball of the foot) and the width. Sometimes overlooked, the heel-to-ball measurement is important in correctly aligning the arch of the foot with the arch of the shoe.
  8. Feet are rarely the same exact size, so you should buy for the larger foot.
  9. Properly fitted athletic shoes should be immediately comfortable without requiring a break-in period. Characteristics of a proper fit are that the shoe will grip firmly with no heel slip with walking or running. There should be approximately a thumbnail width of distance between the toes and end of the shoe.
Once you have the proper shoe, follow the advice of one of the largest athletic shoe manufacturers and “just do it”.

If you have any questions regarding athletic shoe choice, please log into your account and send us your question. We are glad to help.

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