Orthopedic Specialists

Finding the Right Athletic Shoes

January 27, 2021

With walking and running being the most natural and popular forms of exercise, it is of the utmost importance with these forms or any exercise to have the proper footwear.  The wrong shoes can cause all kinds of problems with your joints. First of all, go to a specialty shoe or sport store to search for athletic shoes.  Both of these types of stores will have knowledgeable staff to guide you relative to your sport, specific shoe size and needs, etc.  Here are some tips you can do ahead of time to help yourself find the best shoe for you:

1.    Don’t buy shoes to multitask.   Walking shoes are different than running shoes, tennis shoes, or shoes for basketball.  Buy a pair of shoes for each sport. 
2.    Know your feet.  Do a “wet test”, wet your foot and step on a piece of brown paper and trace your footprint.  Here is what that will tell you: 
a.    If the print shows the entire sole of your foot with little to no curve to the inside, you have low arches or flat feet and tend toward over pronation, meaning your feet roll inward. You will want a shoe with a motion-control feature and maximum support.
b.    If the footprint shows only a portion of your forefoot and heel with a narrow connection between the two, you have high arches and tend to under pronate (supinate) meaning your feet roll outward. You want a cushioned shoe with a soft midsole. 
c.    If your footprint has a distinct curve along the inside, you have a neutral arch. Look for a stability shoe, one with the right mix of cushioning and support. 
3.    Measure your feet frequently.  Yes, your feet can change size as you age.  You also may need to size up or size down, depending on the brand of shoe. 
4.    Shop toward the end of the day.  Feet expand when you walk or run and tend to swell over the course of a day.  You want shoes to fit your feet when they are at their largest. 
5.    Bring your own socks and/or orthotics.  You want your shoes to fit with the orthotic and/or the socks you wear when you are walking or running. 
6.    Don’t believe in “break in”. Walking and running shoes should feel comfortable right away.  Walk around the store for a bit with both shoes on to see how they feel with action, in motion. ‘
7.    Use the rule of thumb.  There should be about 3/8 to ½ inch between the front of the shoe and your big toe and the end of the shoe, about a thumb’s width.  The heel should fit relatively tight, should not slip out when you walk.  The upper part of the shoe which goes over your foot, should feel snug and secure and not too tight. You should be able to freely wiggle all of your toes when the shoe is on.  
8.    Understand the bells and whistles.  Some models of athletic shoes have lots of features; some of those actually serve a purpose.  Clear inserts filled with gel, Freon, or air are used for extra shock absorption, as do those springy-looking things.  These features are especially good for people who tend to get heel pain but not so good for people whose ankles twist easily as shoes with extra cushioning tend to provide less traction. 
9.    Don’t over or under pay.  Good quality shoes are fairly priced and usually worth it.  You can pay a premium for super fashionable or “celebrity” shoes but they won’t be any better for your feet.
10.    Know when to replace them.  The average pair or running shoes should be replaced after about 350-400 miles of use, roughly 45 to 60 hours of basketball, aerobic dance, etc.   Better yet, go by how your shoes look and feel. Once the back of the sole is worn out or the shoe feels less supportive or uncomfortable, it is time to get a new pair. 

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