Wearing the appropriate athletic shoe for specific sports activities can improve comfort and performance, and most importantly, prevent injuries. Athletic shoe fitting is important before engaging is sports-related activities. Sports can place tremendous pressure on the feet, ankles, and legs. Running and jumping, for example, generate an impact force through the legs that is three-to-five times a person’s body weight.
Today’s athletic shoes are designed with specific activities in mind. If you participate in a single sport more than two times a week, you should purchase a shoe specifically designed for that sport — a running shoe, court shoe, cleats, or hiking shoe. If you are active in many different forms of exercise each week, a cross training shoe may be the best choice.
Try on both the right and the left shoes to make sure that they fit. Also, inspect the shoes on a level surface to ensure that they are straight, even, and without defects.
Make sure that the shoes have not been sitting on the shelf for an extended period of time. While the materials of an athletic shoe are designed to accommodate a lot of stress, the cushioning may become less effective over time, even without use.
Much of the recent research in athletic shoes has focused on the development and improvement of running shoes. Running shoes are grouped into three categories:
The best way to determine if you are a supinator or pronator runner is to have a professional evaluate your foot. To determine your foot type on your own, view your footprint when you step out of the pool or shower. If you leave a wide, flat footprint you have a pronated foot. If the footprint is missing the inside of the foot, where your arch did not touch the ground, you have a supinated foot type.
While knowing what type of foot you have is a first step toward buying the correct shoe, the pronation/supination component may be magnified during running. A professional can perform a gait analysis to definitely determine how your foot functions while you are running.
Running shoes need to be replaced on a regular basis. The EVA starts to show structural damage after 120 miles. At 500 miles, the shoe has lost 45% of its initial shock absorption capabilities. A general rule of thumb is to take 75,000 and divide it by your weight to determine the number of miles that you can run before you need a new shoe. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, your shoes should be replaced every 500 miles.
Running without shoes, or “barefoot running,” is growing in popularity. A professional trainer can tell you if this type of running is a good choice for you, and if so, provide you with tips and exercises to help you safely and slowly transition from running in shoes to running barefoot. You can purchase shoes specifically designed for barefoot running that offer no support or cushion, but do provide some protection from sharp objects and uncomfortable surfaces.
A cross training shoe is designed to take you from sport to sport with one pair of shoes. This type of shoe is not appropriate for someone who plans on running more than four to five miles a day. A cross trainer is usually made of a combination of mesh materials and strips of leather in the fabric. If the shoe has a “running” tread on the sole, it may be difficult to wear the shoe on a court for an exercise class or game.
Walking shoes provide stability through the arch, good shock absorption, and a smooth tread. Walking involves a heel-toe gait pattern, so you want to make sure that the shoe, and particularly the counter, is stable. If you have arthritis or pain in the arch of your foot, you may benefit from a rocker sole that encourages a natural roll of the foot while walking.
Court shoes include those designed for basketball, tennis, and volleyball. Court shoes have a solid tread and typically are made of soft leathers. They are designed to provide stability in all directions. They may have the traditional low upper cut below the ankle, or a high cut. The higher upper is commonly found on basketball shoes to offer increased stability to the ankle during jumping and landing.
Many sports, such as soccer, lacrosse, football and baseball, require the athlete to wear a cleat shoe. Shoes with cleats (also called “spikes” or “studs”) have multiple protrusions made of steel or hard plastic that provide additional traction on grass or soft turf.
There are different types of cleats for different sports, so it is important to consult with a coach or professional before purchasing a new cleat shoe. Cleats tend to run narrow so if you wear an orthotic (a shoe insertion to provide added support), or plan on putting an extra insole in the cleat, you may want to purchase a brand that is known to have a wider cut.
A hiking shoe needs to provide stability as you walk across uneven surfaces, as well as comfort and cushion in the insole to absorb the shock from various impacts. Hiking shoes also should have a good tread on the sole to keep your foot firmly planted on the surfaces that you encounter. Most hiking shoes have a higher upper, providing added ankle stability.
There are shoes designed for virtually every sport, including golf, ballet, skating, hockey, cycling, and skiing. As always, a professional can help you to purchase the shoe that is best for you and the sport you enjoy.
Skates and ski boots can be custom molded to fit your feet, providing extra stability. Golf shoes need to provide stability in the arch of the shoe as the game requires players to walk long distances on changing surfaces. If possible, it is best to purchase a golf shoe with a removable insole so that you can add an orthotic if necessary.
Cycling shoes are fit snuggly, without additional room for inserts. A cycling shoe with some cushion under the ball of the foot will help reduce any compression while you repetitively push the foot as it is securely attached to the pedal.