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If the Shoe Fits, Buy It: Choosing the Right Shoes

Photo by hjl via Flickr

Photo by hjl via Flickr

Paula had gained 20 pounds since she moved to San Diego 6 months ago.  She knew that she had to change something or her weight would get out of control.  Convinced that running would do the trick, she grabbed a pair of walking shoes out of her closet and started running for 20 to 30 minutes every other day.  After a few weeks, her right knee started hurting.  Eventually, the pain got so bad that she had to stop running.

Paula’s intentions were good, but her shoe choice wasn’t.  Her injuries probably could have been avoided if she had worn the appropriate shoes.  Wearing the wrong shoes for an activity can cause injuries or aggravate existing problems.  Shin splints, heel pain, tendinitis and stress fractures are just a few examples of injuries you can develop if you wear the wrong shoes.

How are the different types of athletic shoes different?
Before you start an activity, get the right athletic shoes.  Not only will that enhance your performance, but it can also prevent injury.  Each type of athletic shoe is designed to protect the area of the foot that is placed under the most stress during a specific activity.  Here are 4 different types of athletic shoes and the differences between them:

  1. Running shoes: These are designed for forward motion and high impact.  Look for lightweight, durable shoes that have good traction, cushioning, flexibility and stability in the heel.
  2. Walking shoes: These should be lightweight, breathable, have good shock absorption, smooth tread and curved soles to facilitate the rocking motion of walking.
  3. Court shoes: These shoes are used for basketball, volleyball, tennis and other racket sports.  They are designed for side-side, forward and backward movements.  These shoes are heavier and stiffer than running and walking shoes and take much more abuse than other shoes.  A good pair will have very strong outer soles and reinforcement under the toes to support your feet during stop and go action and side to side movements.
  4. Cross trainers: If you engage in a variety of activities and can’t spend the money on multiple shoes, cross trainers may be the answer.  These shoes combine the characteristics of different types of athletic shoes, providing good cushioning and heel support for jogging and walking, and ankle support and added stability for court sports.  However, they aren’t as good as more specialized shoes are in their area of specialization.

What should I look for when buying shoes?
Choosing the proper shoes for an activity can be tricky because there are so many options.  Here are 7 tips to follow when choosing athletic shoes:

  1. Shop at the end of the day or after a workout: Feet swell when we are on them all day or after playing sports.  This is the best time to try on shoes because the shoes need to fit properly when your feet are at their biggest.  Otherwise, blisters and calluses may develop.
  2. Try shoes with the socks you will wear during the activity: This will give you a better idea of the true fit of the shoe.  Some socks are thicker than others and require more space.
  3. Wiggle your toes: You should be able to freely wiggle all your toes, while the heel remains snug.  The space between the longest toe and the edge of the shoe should be about the width of your thumb.  And avoid shoes where your heel slips as you walk or run.  That causes instability, blisters and other foot/ankle injuries.
  4. Don’t rely on shoe size: Fit depends on the brand and style, not just on the size.  You might be a size 7.5 in one shoe and an 8 in another.  Every brand fits differently.  So, try the shoe in the store and walk or run a few steps.  Pick shoes that fit comfortably.
  5. Shoes should be comfortable right away: No break in period should be needed.  If they aren’t comfortable the minute you put them on, they are not the right shoes.
  6. Know your feet: Shoes should support your walking pattern.  If you have low arches, you need a shoe that provides motion control and support.  If you have high arches, you need a shoe that provides a lot of cushion.  And if you have a neutral arch, you need a shoe that provides both cushioning and support.
  7. Seek professional help: If you are unsure what type of foot you have or what shoe to pick, ask a qualified shoe salesman to help you select the best shoe for your foot and the activity that you plan on participating in.

The bottom line:
Wearing the correct athletic shoes is very important for preventing injuries and improving your performance.  So, take the time to choose a properly fitting shoe.  It is well worth a little extra time.

Comments (4)

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Christopher Gaudette and Christopher Gaudette, Christopher Gaudette. Christopher Gaudette said: If the Shoe Fits: Buying the Right Shoes: Paula had gained 20 pounds since she moved to San Diego 6 months ag.. http://bit.ly/1eGacl […]

  2. I am so glad that I ran across your blog! I was just about to go shopping for some walking shoes and I was confused by all the various types of athletic footwear.

    Now I know what to look for! Thanks!

  3. Maria Isabel says:

    This is a great blog for me because I am always unsure about what shoes to buy. Now I know that it makes more sense to buy shoes at the end of the day or after exercising. Thanks

  4. […] 2008 ← If the Shoe Fits, Buy It: Choosing the Right Shoes Study: Coffee and Tea May Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes […]

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